With Salah off to AFCON, Luis Diaz must rise to the occasion

Luis Diaz needs to raise his level in the absence of Mo Salah.
Burnley FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League
Burnley FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League / Jan Kruger/GettyImages

Well, the time has finally arrived. Mohamed Salah has departed to represent Egypt at the 2024 African Cup of Nations.

This was a day that we all knew was coming, but like children ignoring the end of the holidays, we chose to be merry as Mo continued his goal scoring exploits this season.

With each goal contribution from the Egyptian superstar, the impact of him being away until potentially February is a big blow.

His loss will be amplified with Darwin Nunez in a prolonged scoring slump, although he is still playing well enough to be fair, Diogo Jota just returning from injury and Cody Gakpo showing flashes but not yet stringing together elite level performances.

This brings us to Luis Diaz. "Lucho", as he is affectionately called, has been a regular in the Starting XI this season when he has been available.

This article is by no means meant to be a slight against Diaz, but more so an acknowledgement of where his game is at the moment.

To date, he has made 24 appearances in all competitions for the Reds this season, scoring 5 times with 2 further assists.

His seven total goal contributions trails the much maligned Darwin Nunez by NINE. He is behind Cody Gakpo by FOUR having played only one fewer match than the Dutchman.

Diogo Jota has 11 goal contributions in five LESS appearances than Luis Diaz. It's time for the Colombian to earn his keep in the Starting XI. Salah will leave a big hole in the attack and Lucho needs to jump in feet first.

A player with his talent on the ball and his determination and passion on the pitch cannot be 5th on the goal contribution chart among forwards and expect his place in the starting lineup to be unquestioned.

We have all seen him make an impact with goals and assists before. He hit the ground running in his first six months at Anfield and hasn't looked back.

He began this season scoring in the first two Premier League matches before he scored against LASK in the Europa League on September 21st.

Since then, he has only scored twice with one assist for Liverpool. That is 103 days for a top level winger that plays relatively regularly to only have two goals and one assist during that stretch.

He still flashes his dangerous ability as he did once again in the 4-2 win over Newcastle where his dribbling and quick feet saw him beat multiple defenders and he got away some half-dangerous shots.

However, as we project forward, with Salah absent, Diaz needs to turn those skillful moments into more tangible numbers. Jurgen Klopp will be exploring with his front three and if Lucho wants to stay entrenched he needs to step up his game.

The club will be better off if Diaz can put in some match-winning performances of his own and it would lift a huge weight that is currently hovering over the club.

Again, Luis Diaz is clearly a talented footballer. Yet, it seems like he has almost gotten a pass this season despite a lack of elite level production. With Liverpool losing their talisman to the African Cup of Nations, it's time for Lucho to carry the mantle.

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