EPL TALK: Salah's brilliance adds intrigue to Liverpool contract talks

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Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring his goal against Watford.
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring his goal against Watford. (PHOTO: Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge)

SINGAPORE — How have your favourite English Premier League (EPL) teams performed over the past week? Yahoo News Singapore looks at the key talking points surrounding the league in this weekly review:

Should Mohamed Salah be considered as the current world's best footballer?

WHAT HAPPENED: Cynical fans may say that he is playing for a bigger bargaining power in his contract extension talks. Long-time Liverpool supporters, however, know all along that Mohamed Salah is capable of hitting the jaw-dropping peaks of recent weeks if he keeps on being the humble and determined player who burst into public consciousness back in 2017.

So far, signs have pointed to the Egyptian remaining grounded and focused on trying to bring more honours to the Reds. And in his fifth season with the Merseyside club, Salah's continuing brilliance - as shown by his two wonder goals, against Manchester City before the international break and Watford on Saturday (16 October) - has finally inserted him into the never-ending debate on who the best footballer in the world currently is.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the two players who had dominated the debate for the past decade, are arguably past their peaks, and have not been firing on all cylinders following their shock transfers this season. 

Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe and Juventus' Federico Chiesa are exhilarating upstarts, but have yet to impose themselves even in the middle-tier European leagues they play in.

The only player who could currently match Salah's consistent brilliance is Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski, who continues plunder goals at an astonishing rate at age 33, with 15 goals in 11 games this season.

Salah, 29, is perhaps more versatile than the Polish star in that he can create goals too, as seen by his stunning pass to set up Sadio Mane's opener against Watford. This season, he has been providing either a goal or an assist every 65 minutes, propelling Liverpool into contention for the EPL title with big-spending Chelsea and Manchester City.

The intriguing background to Salah's spellbinding form is undoubtedly his ongoing negotiations with Liverpool to extend his contract beyond 2023. If Liverpool are anywhere as financially strong as either Chelsea or Man City, this would have been a no-brainer - they would pay Salah to become EPL's top earner.

But the Reds had built their recent successes on frugal and astute spending, and while both club and Salah are eager to extend their successful relationship, they have yet to reach an agreement on wages.

Should Liverpool break the bank - and their rigid wage structure - for Salah? Fans definitely think so. And after such a scintillating start to this season for the Egyptian, it would seem unthinkable that his form will not be amply rewarded with a big contract.

In all fairness, there is no pressure yet to complete the deal, and negotiations are part and parcel of such extension talks. But the longer this drags on - and the longer Salah maintains this current peak form - then Liverpool would be under more intense scrutiny to splash the cash amid public clamour. 

And for a club whose manager Jurgen Klopp once declared that he wants Liverpool to be a "final destination" for elite footballers, and not a "stepping stone" for stars to move on to bigger clubs, keeping a willing and able Salah will be the biggest affirmation that the Reds are a major destination of the world's best footballers.

WHAT'S NEXT: Following a tough mid-week Champions League away tie against Spanish champions Atletico Madrid, it will be one of the marquee ties of the league next Sunday - Liverpool travelling to Old Trafford to face arch rivals Man United. Will Salah make a difference again?

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during the Premier League match against Leicester City.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during the Premier League match against Leicester City. (PHOTO: Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Solskjaer's lack of tactical acumen shows in Man U defeat

WHAT HAPPENED: With each embarrassing defeat, such as Saturday's 2-4 capitulation against Leicester City, the doubts grow as to whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the right manager to lead Manchester United to winning trophies.

The consensus among the United fan base is that the Norwegian has done a great job in getting the Red Devils out of the toxic atmosphere under previous manager Jose Mourinho. Not only has he revived struggling players, but he has also restored United's traditional identity of playing positive football. It is a sound testament of his superb man-management skills.

Motivational skills aside, the fierce debate among these fans ensues: Does Solskjaer also have the tactical acumen to take his well-motivated squad to the next step - that of winning major trophies? 

It is getting harder and harder to make a case for him amid this current poor run of results, which has seen United winning just two out of their last seven games in all competitions. In each of their four defeats amid this run, United were either overrun in midfield or lacking in defence - sure signs that there was little tactical guidance from the coaching staff on the finer details of containing opponents.

It does not look good for Solskjaer when United resemble a haphazard collection of players who could win matches on sheer talent, rather than a tactically-cohesive unit with clear ideas on how to dominate opponents. It only takes a rival manager with tactical astuteness to shackle United's formidable forwards and poke holes through their flimsy midfield.

This, after being in charge for nearly three years at Old Trafford? No wonder a sizeable portion of United supporters are having second thoughts on this former fan favourite. Solskjaer may be great for stabilising the ship, but he seems overmatched when it comes to guiding the ship past tricky obstacles.

It is good that he is still receiving full backing from the United board, giving him time to turn things around. But the longer this current form goes on, the dissenting voices will get even louder.

WHAT'S NEXT: The quickest way for Solskjaer to change the fans' pessimism is to beat Liverpool next week. In the past few years, the Norwegian has always managed to get his team on a winning run after a particularly poor performance. Can they do it against a Reds side still unbeaten in the league and riding high on Salah's brilliance? 

Fans of Newcastle United dressed in Arabian gear at the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur.
Fans of Newcastle United dressed in Arabian gear at the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur. (PHOTO: James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)

Amid controversial takeover, Newcastle need realism to beat the drop

WHAT HAPPENED: The recent takeover of relegation-threatened Newcastle United has deeply divided the EPL fan base, to say the least. 

Supporters of the club hailed the end of the highly-unpopular Mike Ashley era and voiced optimism under the new ownership of the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund to lift them to title-winning standards. However, a sizeable opposition has heavily criticised the Arab nation's lingering human rights issues, and has accused the takeover as using EPL's global appeal to "sportswash" the country's reputation.

On Sunday, Newcastle hosted Tottenham amid surreal scenes of fans dressing up in Arabian gear and in full song mode on their new owners; and of a billboard with the hashtag #justiceforjamal - in protest of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consolate in Istanbul in 2018 - being driven in front of St James' Park before kick-off.

But the brutal reality came on the pitch. Despite taking an early lead through Callum Wilson, Newcastle crashed back down to earth as Spurs dominated and scored three goals without reply via Tanguy Ndombele, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. Only a bizarre own goal a minute from the end made the scoreline somewhat respectable for the beleaguered Magpies.

They are now second from bottom in the league table, without a win in eight matches, and looked far from being able to contend for major trophies in the short term. Manager Steve Bruce may have stayed on for his 1,000th career game in charge, but he appears doomed for the chop once the Saudi owners find a suitable candidate.

While fans - and probably the new owners - are dreaming of the glamour of big-name signings strutting their talents on the St James' Park pitch, that will not happen if the Magpies are playing in the second-tier Championship next season. 

Can Newcastle's new riches save them from the dreaded drop? Amid the heady optimism and lingering controversy, the most important commodity that the Saudi ownership needs to invest in is realism. Stars will not help in the relegation dogfight; they need no-nonsense leadership on the pitch right now.

WHAT'S NEXT: An away tie against Crystal Palace - who are gradually rebuilding under new manager Patrick Vieira - will be important for Newcastle to finally kick-start their season. Will Bruce continue to be in charge?

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