Mo Salah has remained on Liverpool’s penalty duty, but Jurgen Klopp has hinted at who could be his long-term replacement
Jurgen Klopp’s decision to stick with Mo Salah has paid off.
Some questioned whether the Liverpool forward should keep his spot-kick duty after he missed his second straight in a 2-2 draw against Arsenal and blazing wide in the meek 1-0 loss to Bournemouth.
Salah’s record now stands at 24 successful attempts from 29 attempts, equating to an 82.76% success rate. However, after missing successive penalties, the scrutiny began. Jurgen Klopp stated after Arsenal that he would speak with the Egypt international about whether he would continue to be in charge. Those discussions were held, and the conclusion was that nothing would change.
What’s changed is that Salah has regained his touch. He casually sent a shot down the middle in Liverpool’s 4-3 win over Tottenham before repeating the feat to score the game’s only goal against Fulham earlier this week.
“We had a conversation, and he wanted to stay the penalty taker,” Klopp said after the Fulham game. We had a normal discussion about it. I replied, ‘OK, yeah, you are.’ You don’t feel great at the time, he said: “I don’t feel right at the time because the pressure obviously increases with the penalties you miss.”
“Then Fab, or Trent, or whoever is two and three, give them the ball, but now he’s smashed the jigsaw, or whatever, the destiny again, and turned it around.” Today was a super penalty, in my opinion – that much is obvious. So, with all of Mo’s goals, I don’t think we can just look at two missed opportunities and dismiss it. That’s what I meant when I said we’d discuss it. I know you understand when I say we’ll talk about it [that] I tell him, ‘You are off.’ However, it was a conversation between two mature men.”
As a result, Salah will continue to be the undisputed first choice. But what stood out in Klopp’s comments was the current penalty pecking order if Salah is not on the field – and what the future holds.
When Salah has been on the field, James Milner has served as his deputy. Before Salah arrived, and even in his first season after joining from AS Roma, Milner was the go-to man. The vice-captain has been deadly from 12 yards out, missing only twice in 19 attempts. Milner’s game time at Anfield is limited, and he is set to leave in the summer, so he can’t be in the plans.
Fabinho has demonstrated his penalty prowess despite not being a prolific goalscorer in the past. He scored three goals for Liverpool last season, as well as in shootout victories over Chelsea in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup finals.
But Fabinho is approaching 30, and it’s unclear how long he’ll be at Anfield after his contract expires in 2026.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is likely to be Salah’s heir apparent. According to Klopp, he is already third-choice for spot-kicks based on his comments. Alexander-Arnold, 24, is seven years Salah’s junior and five years Fabinho’s junior. As a boyhood Red, he has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher and become a one-club man in his career.
There may not be a better ball striker in Liverpool – or the Premier League. This is a key requirement for penalty-taking. Alexander-Arnold has never taken a regular penalty in his senior career, but he has converted in the FA Cup, Carabao Cup, and UEFA Super Cup triumphs over Chelsea. Meanwhile, in his youth in England, he sent four home.
Phil Neal is Liverpool’s most decorated player in history, and he was a deadly marksman from 12 yards, scoring in the 1977 European Cup final against Club Brugge and in the 1984 shootout against Roma. Neal used to play right back. That is encouraging news for Alexander-Arnold.