Jack Hallows takes a look at Sadio Mane’s fine start to life on Merseyside.
When Mane was signed for £36 million in the summer, I – like many other fans – was hesitant. The general consensus was that the pacy winger was just “another player from Southampton,” with supposed attitude problems – he’d had a rumoured falling out with ex-boss Ronald Koeman last season – and consistency issues. The raw materials were certainly all there though and it seems ridiculous now looking back on it to think that there were those of us with our doubts over whether he’d be a good fit.
Mane arrived at Liverpool boasting an impressive 22 goals and 13 assists from his previous two seasons in the Premier League along with the record for fastest ever Premier League hat-trick which he’d netted against Aston Villa in just over 2 minutes. He’d also hit a hat-trick in the 2015/16 season against City and showcased against us just how deadly he can be, entering the match at Saint Mary’s in the second half and immediately leading the Saints fightback by scoring twice and laying one on for Graziano Pelle to score the winner. He came with a reputation for goals and assists but it was a widespread concern that he still hadn’t lived up to his potential and was frustratingly patchy for Saints.
So far so good for the Reds, though. The quick-footed forward is scoring at a rate of just better than one in two for the Reds in the Premier League – he has 6 in 10 – and has also managed to lay on a further two goals for team-mates. Klopp has so far successfully taken Mane’s raw materials that were obvious in his time at Southampton and honed them into a refined skill set that while still far from the finished article, has seen him evolve into a fully fledged weapon on the Reds right-hand side.
Such is his goal scoring ability it’s almost like having a striker playing from the right-hand side at times and his ability to find the net in a number of ways is pleasing. A super solo goal at the Emirates, a dink over Kasper Schmeichel, a caressed volley past Ben Foster and a wonderful glanced header against Watford highlight the winger’s goal scoring versatility and it’s wonderful to see just how many dimensions he has to his game.
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Work Rate & Attitude
Something that’s impressed me massively about Mane is his attitude both in general and in particular, towards the defensive side of the game. He’s a tireless runner and is always looking to win the ball back whether it be in our half or the opposition’s. It’s very rare that a side boasts a front line full of players who are equally as willing to track back and make tackles as they are to hound opposition back lines and win the ball back high up the field but Klopp has been lucky enough to forge one. Mane’s eagerness to get in the faces of his opponents does at times see him give away silly fouls but his willingness to do the dirty and defensive parts of the game are really pleasing to see.
Any issues he had with Ronald Koeman at Southampton must surely have been largely down to a personality clash between manager and player as there’s been no evidence to suggest anything other than Mane being a hard working, fantastic player at Liverpool so far. He’s also gelling superbly with his cohorts up top and his ability to link up beautifully with Firmino and Coutinho is frankly a joy to watch. As is their seemingly ever growing bond and friendship both on and off the pitch.