Matthew Johnson weighs up Jurgen Klopp’s options to provide cover for Sadio Mane when he goes to the African Cup of Nations.
11 games in. Five goals and four assists. Sadio Mane has certainly made an impact at Liverpool Football Club since his arrival from Southampton in the summer. Not just his goals, Mane’s pace and physical traits have added something different to the squad – the likes of Lallana, Firmino and Coutinho are very similar players but not blessed with huge pace, which Sadio Mane adds which helps them create chances.
However, Liverpool will lose Sadio Mane in January when he heads off to the AFCON with his country Senegal – which means manager Jurgen Klopp will need someone to replace him for that period, whether it will be a player in the club or a new signing is yet to be seen.
New signing Georginio Wijnaldum has being playing in a three-man midfield since his arrival in the summer, where his technical ability, calmness on the ball and flair has very much made a successful impact so far at Liverpool. Also, Wijnaldum is a very versatile player who can play in a more advanced role having scored 56 goals for PSV and became Premier League proven in front of goal where the Dutch man scored 11 goals and assisted five in a poor Newcastle United team.
There are other attacking-minded players at the club who could be considered to play in Sadio’s role. Academy rising star Sheyi Ojo is a pacey and direct winger (similar to Mane), however, the 19-year-old is still on his way back to fitness after suffering a back injury and fans may also question his lack of experience.
Belgium international Divock Origi is another young sensation at the club, however, it is unlikely he would take the role of Mane as he often plays a central role, and it seems unlikely Jurgen Klopp will move in-form Brazilian Roberto Firmino into the wide position. Daniel Sturridge is also in the same category as Divock Origi who doesn’t necessarily fit the wider role and it is speculated whether Danny even fits into the Liverpool team. So, it could be a case of Jurgen Klopp jumping into the transfer market to find someone who can be best deployed in Sadio Mane’s position.
Christian Pulisic of Borussia Dortmund (yes, Jurgen Klopp’s old team). The young 18-year-old winger has been linked with Liverpool ever since the summer window. It was reported that the club attempted to sign the American in the summer but missed out on him. Could Klopp go back in for the teenager in January? Liverpool will need to spend big as Pulisic has recently become an important player for the German outfit, where only Gotze, Dembele and Aubameyang have played more minutes than him.
It is speculated that Liverpool are also monitoring Marseille teenager Maxime Lopez, however, it was only last week he made his first start for the French club where he impressed a lot (Liverpool scouts reportedly in attendance). It would seem more sensible that Sheyi Ojo would be a better option, having played more senior games (also in the Premier League) and promoting English youngsters should be more of a priority.
It is important Liverpool are careful in terms of picking a good replacement who can link with Firmino and Coutinho and can also provide the same kind of service Sadio Mane has being doing so far this season. Whether Jurgen Klopp opts to remain calm and believe in players in the club already or chooses to bring in someone from another club is yet to be decided. Nonetheless, Liverpool fans will be hoping Senegal won’t be in the AFCON for too long so they can have their exciting trio of himself, Firmino and Coutinho back in no time!