Has this £36 million star been Liverpool’s best player this season?

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Sadio Mane of Liverpool celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on December 19, 2016 in Liverpool, England.
All rights reserved by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Jack Hallows looks at Liverpool’s performances so far from a team perspective and highlights Liverpool’s ‘Mane’ man so far this season. 

Liverpool’s season has been summed up by the word ‘team’ so far in 2016/17. The team sits in second place on the league table behind only Chelsea and Jurgen Klopp’s ability to get his players performing as a cohesive unit rather than as an XI of individuals has seen positive results come pouring in. However, for me, one man has stood out as pivotal for the Reds so far this season.

Roberto Firmino is integral to the Reds press – especially playing up front – Adam Lallana is their midfield maestro, Philippe Coutinho is the magician, Joel Matip is the defensive general but while their impacts have all been of utmost importance, you just can’t look past Sadio Mane.

The former Southampton man has been loving life on Merseyside so far, scoring eight Premier League goals and laying on a further five for his team mates – alongside winning a penalty against Sunderland and assisting twice in the League Cup. Not only has his form been superb but his attitude exemplary. Whenever asked about his contributions to the team, Mane responds with nothing but a smile and a redirection to the topic of how good the entire team has been.

While he may be an incredibly humble footballer and not want to talk himself up, I’m more than happy to do that. The Senegalese forward is a genuine match winner and is something the Reds have been missing in their attack since Luis Suarez left. He’s searingly quick, direct and his no-nonsense style of attacking has caused Premier League defences all across the country huge problems.

From Arsenal, where he brushed past three defenders to hammer into the top left corner, to Sunderland where his pace was too much for the Black Cats’ centre backs and won himself a penalty, to Middlesbrough where they just couldn’t pin him down, resulting in fouling him in the build-up to two of the three goals, Mane has a great habit of being at the centre of things.

Mane is also impressively ruthless in front of goal. The winger had a reputation for being ‘patchy’ at Southampton but has a record of one in two for the Reds and hasn’t gone more than two games without netting this season. He’s also able to score in a multitude of different ways. From intelligent positioning leading to tap-ins – Everton and Watford – to delightful chips over the keeper – Leicester – to blistering solo runs – Arsenal – and even a header against Watford. He just keeps finding ways to bang them in.

He’s also delightfully creative. Four of his five league assists this season – and both of his League Cup assists – have come with no Philippe Coutinho on the field, showcasing his willingness to stand up when required and be a creative force for his team as well as a goal scorer. To take it one step further, go back and watch Liverpool’s goals so far this season and you’ll find that even when he’s not directly scoring or assisting, Mane is heavily involved in the build up for many of the Reds’ strikes.

Then there’s the defensive side to his game. He’s not a natural at the pressing game in the way that players like Adam Lallana or Roberto Firmino are but his willingness to rush the opposition – especially with his pace – and get stuck in is a refreshing sight. He may not always win his tackles but in recent games, his knowledge and understanding of the pressing game and ability to implement it have both improved drastically.

So there you have it. For me, Sadio Mane has been Liverpool’s main man this season, popping up time and again with match-winning goals, assists and general performances. Even when he doesn’t look to be having the best of games, the Senegalese winger is capable of turning a game on it’s head with one quick, direct run at the opposition back four and his ability to take on a match-winning role with ease has been a huge help to the Reds throughout the season.

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