Liverpool have big Mo Salah concern ahead of AFCON and the decisions Jurgen Klopp will rue

The main talking points from the Reds’ 1-0 loss at Leicester City.

<p>Mohamed Salah applauds the fans after Liverpool’s loss at Leicester. Picture: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images</p>

Mohamed Salah applauds the fans after Liverpool’s loss at Leicester. Picture: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Liverpool brought an end to 2021 with a 1-0 defeat at Leicester City.

The loss leaves Jurgen Klopp’s side six points behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

Here are the main talking points from the game.

Failure to step up

Penalty misses just happen. Even the best fail to convert from 12 yards now and again.

So when Salah saw his spot-kick saved, there were few pointing the finger. Having scored 22 goals already this season, he can hardly be lambasted. The Egyptian's already contributed more than enough.

And after another subdued evening overall for Salah, his team-mates failed to take on the mantle.

Against a depleted Leicester side, far too many in red lacked the spark or cutting edge that was required.

The fact that Joel Matip's marauding runs from centre-back were the only thing that really threatened laid bare Liverpool's shortcomings.

Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota failed to sparkle. Trent Alexander-Arnold couldn't dictate like he so often can.

Jordan Henderson also didn't make things tick as he had done against Newcastle.

Hopefully, this defeat will just be an off night. A blip.

But with Salah soon to be absent for a period when he jets off to the African Cup of Nations, someone needs to step up.

Otherwise, Liverpool’s slim hopes of challenging for the title could be gone by the time he reports back for duty.

Mane’s concerning dip

Sadio Mane blazes over the bar. Picture: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Mane must have thought he was abouthis barren streak when set through by Jota in the 55th minute.

With just Kasper Schmeichel to beat, the Senegal international could scarcely have asked for a better opportunity.

Yet the entire King Power Stadium was in utter disbelief when he blazed over the crossbar.

Mane lacked the composure required to find the back of the net - and it proved as costly a miss as Salah's penalty did.

That's now nine games without a goal for the former Southampton winger.

Not only that but Mane had scant attacking impact throughout the 90 minutes. There were few times when he looked like he would trouble the Leicester rearguard with the ball at his feet.

It's concerning form Mane currently finds himself in and it was a surprise he wasn't substituted.

An impressive return

There were few players who could take any sort of credit in the Liverpool team.

One of those was Fabinho on his return to the starting line-up.

After missing the past three games after contracting Covid, the Brazilian was restored to Klopp's team.

How Liverpool have missed him screening the defence.

Fabinho swiftly found his rhythm once again despite his absence.

In the first half especially, he intelligently read the play to win the ball back and launch counter-attacks.

It was somewhat of a surprise when he was withdrawn for Naby Keita in the 56th minute. Up to that point, he'd been the Reds' best midfielder.

The risk of a fifth booking, which would have led to a one-match suspension, was Klopp's reasoning.

That's understandable to an extent but Liverpool's engine room never was as balanced without him.

Substandard Ox

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was disappointing for Liverpool. Picture: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

On the subject of central midfield, it was a disappointing evening for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

In truth, he was one of Liverpool's poorest performers.

After scoring against Leicester in the Carabao Cup only six days earlier, you'd have thought his confidence would have been riding high.

Yet Oxlade-Chamberlain could scarcely get involved. There was none of the thrust he can offer nor the goalscoring threat from distance.

To be frank, attacking threat from the ex-Arsenal man was non-existent.

It was a selection decision that failed to pay off for Klopp.

Oxlade-Chamberlain's place in the starting XI is now at severe risk ahead of the trip to Chelsea.

If Thiago Alcantara is available again, he'll surely be back in the middle of the park.

Klopp’s regrets

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

And during the coach journey back to Merseyside, Klopp might well be reflecting on what he got wrong at Leicester.

Granted, on chances created overall, Liverpool were the better side. Leicester's goal was their only shot on target they conjured.

But, even still, the Reds were well short of their peak.

The decision to start Oxlade-Chamberlain and withdrawing Fabinho are two things the German might change if he could go back in time.

Bringing someone more creative such as Curtis Jones rather than James Milner could be another.

Even introducing Roberto Firmino to play in the number-10 role proved futile. He had just 11 touches and struggled to get involved.

There have been seldom occasions when Klopp's got so many decisions in a game so wrong. This was one of them.