Jurgen Klopp likened Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane’s mindset to that of basketball legend Kobe Bryant as he assured his players will keep attempting to respond to adversity.
Salah netted against Newcastle United in December as he equalled Jamie Vardy’s Premier League record of scoring and assisting in 15 consecutive games, but followed that up with blanks against Tottenham and Leicester City in the league.
Liverpool were held 2-2 by Antonio Conte’s side before a 1-0 loss to Leicester, in which Salah missed his first penalty in 16 top-flight attempts and headed the subsequent rebound onto the crossbar with the goal gaping.
In the same game at the King Power Stadium, Mane wastefully blasted over a glorious chance with the scores still level, with that miss coming back to haunt Liverpool when Ademola Lookman struck later.
But Reds manager Klopp insisted that neither Salah, nor Mane, will rest on their laurels and feel sorry for themselves as he pinpointed their persistent attitude as a key to their success.
“We don’t have a lot of experience of Mo dealing with crisis or whatever, because he doesn’t usually have to,” Klopp told reporters.
“Missing a penalty is tough, especially after the rebound going against the crossbar, that was unlucky there’s no doubt about that.
“But that’s it pretty much, they are top-class players who deal constantly with failure. That’s how our lives work, even in some of the best games the boys play many situations don’t work out.
“And then you deal with it in the game, and that’s what you learn as a footballer pretty quickly. Whoever you are, no matter how good you are, often you will constantly fail in a decisive moment.
“None of us have ever succeeded in all difficult situations. It is what it is, I’m not sure but I think Kobe Bryant is still the one player with the most missed situations in the NBA history.
“He is one of the greatest players ever, you have to try it and you have to come in these situations; if you fail, no problem just go again and everything will be fine – that’s pretty much the mindset Mo, and Sadio, is in.”
24 – Most Premier League goals in 2021:
24 Mohamed Salah
18 Harry Kane
15 Ilkay Gündogan
14 Michail Antonio, Son Heung-Min, Diogo Jota, Kelechi Iheanacho
13 Ollie Watkins, Bruno Fernandes, Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 31, 2021
Salah has been in fine form this league campaign, recording 15 goals and nine assists in 19 appearances, but the same cannot be said of his frontline partner Mane.
The Senegal international started the 2021-22 term brightly, netting seven times in his opening 12 top-flight outings, but has since struggled – failing to find the net in each of his last seven games.
He is also the worst-performing Liverpool forward in terms of finishing. Mane has underperformed his expected goals (xG) tally of 8.88, which is perhaps best explained by the fact he has only converted 11.86 per cent of chances – Diogo Jota the second-lowest among the same group with (19.23), followed by Salah (19.74).
However, Klopp highlighted the importance of Mane’s all-round influence on his Liverpool side as the most important aspect of the forward’s work, despite a lean run of form in front of goal.
“Sadio has no problem with confidence, but of course the momentum is not there finishing wise at the moment,” he added.
“He has been playing really well, actually my analyst made a video to show Sadio how much he contributes to our game, how good he is in certain moments and situations.
“Obviously, the intention was to show that he should not be worried about the finishing not being there and that he is still an incredibly important player for us.
“As a striker, pretty much of all of them go through these kinds of things – it’s happened to Sadio before and I’m positive that he will have some good chances to score again on Sunday.
“He is too important for us to just think about these kinds of things, you have to take these situations from time to time and then after he will be good again – we work on it football-wise, but there’s no point talking about it and making it bigger than it needs to be.”
Liverpool sit 12 points behind league leaders Manchester City, who edged past Arsenal 2-1 on Saturday, heading into their visit with fellow title contenders Chelsea on Sunday.