When Liverpool initially confirmed the signing of Southampton’s Sadio Mane in a deal worth £30m, eyebrows were raised over the fee. While he had an impressive season in 2015/16, it seemed a rather inflated price for his services. However, simply put, the Senegalese international has silenced the sceptics.
It’s been a long time since Liverpool made a summer signing that had such an immediate impact as Sadio Mane. The 24 year old has created a huge buzz amongst fans in his opening four competitive games for the Reds and is set to play a huge role this Premier League season.
In such a short space of time, Mane has already displayed the traits that attracted Jurgen Klopp into acquiring his services in the summer window. With him, he brings a star quality to the Liverpool attack, providing an extra dimension that will take them to the next level and result in more goals throughout the side.
Breaking Through Tight Defences
Within the Premier League it is becoming more common place for the smaller clubs to ‘park the bus’ and retain possession in the hope of frustrating their opponents and nicking a chance from a set play. In recent times, Liverpool have struggled against such teams, finding it hard to break them down and create space between the lines.
Take the Burnley game for example, in which they were prepared to let Liverpool dictate possession and retain their shape, cut off the space and invite the side to try and break them down. At Turf Moor, the team looked worryingly unable to carve open the defence and muster up a telling chance on goal. When Coutinho, Lallana and Firmino struggle to make runs that stretch the opposition defence, we look lost for ideas.
That’s where Mane comes in –his pace and trickery makes him a nightmare for defenders. Mark him too tight and you risk opening up space in behind, but, mark him too closely and you risk chasing shadows. Liverpool now have a much greater threat on the counter attack – something that was hugely apparent against Arsenal on the opening day of the season in which the Senegalese midfielder scored his first goal for the club.
Mane picked the ball up on the right wing before gliding past two Arsenal players, cutting inside on his supposed weaker foot to unleash an unstoppable shot into the left hand corner. His goal stands as an illustration of the level of ability he will bring to the Liverpool attack.
Finally, A Wide Man
Many forget the impact Raheem Sterling had at Liverpool given he left for Manchester City, but the young winger’s pace and trickery added an unpredictable nature to the Reds attack. The club failed to adequately replace Sterling, with Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho amongst those who have been fielded on the flank following his departure. However, the position has failed to bring out the best in either player, with Liverpool becoming more and more narrow in attack.
A year down the line, Liverpool finally have a renewed threat out wide. Adding energy and pace to a usually slow and methodical build up, Mane is a real menace to any opposition. Having registered 11 goals and 4 assists last season, his quality from the wide areas plugs a weakness in the side and gives them a welcome boost in their quest for a top four finish.
Restraining The Opposition
Mane’s contribution to the defensive aspect of the team is equally as important as his attacking attributes. The 24 year old played a crucial role on Liverpool’s right hand side against Tottenham, limiting Danny Rose from venturing forward in support of the attack. The Spurs defender knew that Mane had the pace to exploit any gaps left in the back line, thus making him think twice about going forward.
Last season, the ex-Southampton midfielder made 35 interceptions in the Premier League, more than Adam Lallana (20), Philippe Coutinho (17) and Roberto Firmino (18), illustrating how he works for the team as well as being a considerable attacking threat. Consequently, Mane fits the bill in terms of what Jurgen Klopp searches for in his players and seems the perfect fit at Anfield.
In a window in which Yannick Bolasie joined Everton for a fee of £28million, Mane represents a good deal for Liverpool. The Senegalese international has already displayed traits that could take Liverpool’s attack to the next level. Long may it continue.