For a few minutes of Liverpool’s Premier League win over Burnley on Sunday I kept my eyes trained solely on Mohamed Salah. In that brief spell he must have lost the ball four or five times.
In the previous game at Everton, Salah wasted a couple of one-one-one chances against Jordan Pickford in which he didn’t seem to be able get the ball out of his feet.
Last season those were going in. Last season, whenever he cut back onto his left foot, he would find the top corner. Lately this season he looks hesitant, lacking in sharpness, confidence and fluidity.
Have opponents worked Salah out a bit? And is that unsettling him? Whatever the explanation, he is searching hard for the form he had last year and at times earlier in this campaign.
It was always going to be difficult to replicate his epic, 44-goal debut season with Liverpool. Suddenly he was put in a bracket with the very best players in the world and perhaps he wasn’t ready for it.
And this hasn’t been a bad season for the Egyptian forward – he has scored 20 times already – but he has just one in his last eight games and he will be acutely aware that he’s being judged on his goal tally.
The malaise is not restricted to Salah; although both netted twice against Burnley, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino haven’t been at their sharpest in recent months.
Liverpool just aren’t putting moves together as they have in the past and looked jittery on Sunday. There was relief around Anfield when the final whistle blew.
They have been chased down by Premier League title rivals Manchester City, having led by seven points in January, and maybe that slump has affected Salah as much as he has affected it.
A lot of people don’t seem to want Liverpool to win the league – I don’t know why – but that can create a feeling of isolation. Wednesday’s trip to Bayern Munich is an ideal moment to show everyone they are winners.
I think it’s time for the players to come out and say that they want to win the Premier League and Champions League. Don’t duck the question or be embarrassed. You have to be bold to win these titles.
Bayern will have been delighted to get a 0-0 draw on Merseyside in the first leg of this tie and I make them slight favourites to progress to the quarter-finals.
The German giants are a different proposition to the stuttering team of three months ago. They have found their mojo, are brimming with the confidence that comes from winning and can beat anybody.
But it might be a game that plays into Liverpool’s hands. In Munich, the hosts will expect to dominate possession and that should allow Jurgen Klopp’s side to play on the counter-attack.
Liverpool can hurt any team on the break, and also at set-pieces. In that respect and many others, the return of Virgil van Dijk is a big plus for the visitors.
This is when the Champions League really gets exciting and I’m expecting a great match. Teams start to believe they can go all the way once they make the last eight. Liverpool, though, should believe that already.