IF it’s the difference between Liverpool retaining the Premier League or not, then Mohamed Salah should continue to go to ground easily and not care about being labelled a 'diver'.
Salah was criticised for the way he theatrically fell after been challenged by West Ham United’s Arthur Masuaku which earned his side a penalty in their 2-1 victory over the Hammers at Anfield last weekend.
There is a difference between diving and going to ground easily. It would be different had the Egyptian fell to the floor without being touched but there was clearly contact made by Masuaku. Yes, it was minimum, but it was enough for Salah to feel he could go to ground and earned his side a crucial penalty - which the Liverpool player converted.
We have seen players in the past manoeuvre their bodies in a way that they try and instigated a foul. How many times have we seen a player knock the ball past a goalkeeper and more or less jump into the keeper to win a penalty?
However, Salah didn’t need to do much to draw the foul from Masuaku, it was a clumsy challenge.
Of course, in the past being labelled a diver meant referees would be less likely to give a player a decision in the future but VAR will help players like Salah, players who go to ground under the slightest contact. VAR will show that there is contact and referees will have to give free-kicks or penalties even if the player could have stayed on his feet.
Jürgen Klopp has rightfully come out and defended Salah. Encouraging a player to stay on his feet when there has been any sort of contact, especially in the penalty area, is something a manager shouldn’t do.
Managers and players should want to win at all costs and shouldn’t care about upsetting other teams or ex-professionals, who always seem to be giving out about how the game has changed because players can’t make proper challenges anymore.
What Salah did - by going to ground easily - isn’t cheating but unsportsmanlike. Klopp should keep encouraging his players to go to ground no matter how minimum the contact. At the end of the day, Liverpool want to win the Premier League not the Fair Play League.
Some people might not share my point of view but for me it’s all about winning and it doesn’t matter how you do that. If Liverpool, go on to win the league again this season, no one is going to remember in years to come that they did so because their players won penalties by falling over.
Records will only show that Liverpool were champions.
Liverpool should be using all the tricks they can this weekend because victory over Manchester City would put Klopp’s side in pole position to win back-to-back titles. There are only two sides capable of winning the title, Liverpool and City, victory for the champions would leave them eight points ahead of their rivals, albeit City would have a game in hand.
That would give Liverpool a huge physiological advantage, especially if they could win the game without the absent Virgil van Dijk.
No matter how good van Dijk is, Liverpool are not a one-man team but you’d think they were the way people have written off Klopp’s side since the Dutch international suffered a season-ending injury against Everton last month. Obviously, they would prefer van Dijk to be fit and playing, but winning the title without the former Celtic player would mean so much more because people believe the Reds are over-reliant on the defender.
Victory against City would send out a big statement to pretenders like Tottenham and Leicester, that Liverpool aren’t going anywhere.
One-man Liverpool fans will be hoping can fill the void left by van Dijk is Nathan Phillips.
Phillips was applauded for his display against West Ham but Liverpool fans shouldn’t get carried away over one performance. There’s a difference between defending against West Ham and City. Phillips needs more games against weaker teams that aren’t going to ask too many questions of him defensively, which will allow him to build up his confidence.
With a few more games under his belt, then Klopp could trust him in the big games. Phillips wasn’t included in Liverpool’s Champions League squad which indicates that Klopp doesn’t think he is ready yet and I’d be surprised if he started against City if Liverpool have Joel Matip available.