With Senegal having been knocked out of the African Cup of Nations last week via a penalty shootout with Cameroon, Sadio Mané is back on Merseyside. Jack Hallows analyses the stats to find out just how much Liverpool have missed their speedster.
I don’t think even the most optimistic of Liverpool fans guessed that forward Sadio Mané would be quite this influential during our 2016/17 Premier League campaign. Since the Senegalese speedster disappeared off to AFCON after the Sunderland draw, the Reds seem to have lost a large amount of their momentum, threat and fluidity. So just how much are they missing Sadio Mané?
Before Mané had left for the AFCON, the Reds had played 24 games this season and won 17 of those. Ironically, of those 24 fixtures, the only two games they’d lost had been with him missing the entirety of the Burnley match while they were leading 3-1 until he was hooked against Bournemouth – a game they eventually lost 4-3. These could just be outlying coincidences, of course, but it’s fairly telling that the Reds have played seven games since his international departure and won just once, failing to beat Southampton, Plymouth and Swansea in that time. This translates to a 71% win percentage pre-AFCON and a 14% win percentage since it began.
While Mané’s presence doesn’t have an earth shattering effect on Liverpool’s defensive game, their clean sheet record is certainly better with him in the side. However, the issue with looking too far into this is that whenever Mané seems to have missed games, his absence has coincided with the absence of Jöel Matip – the Red’s best defender. While Mané obviously has an impact positively on the Reds pressing game it would be foolish to suggest clean sheets are solely down to him. His influence on their attacking output, however, is a different story entirely.
With Mané in the starting XI, Liverpool have averaged an incredible 2.6 goals per game, highlighting their attacking brilliance with him blasting up and down the right wing. Without him in the side, however, they’ve averaged a paltry one goal a game, blanking on four occasions due to a lack of a direct threat in their front three. Furthermore, in Daniel Sturridge’s last 10 games for Liverpool he’s netted only twice, while Divock Origi has found the net with just a single strike in his last 10. Mane meanwhile has struck five times in his last 10.
Impressively Mane has also converted a third of his chances in the Premier League this season, netting nine goals from 28 goalscoring opportunities. For comparison, Roberto Firmino has converted just 16% for his eight goals.
Of course, statistics are only part of the issue. Liverpool just don’t have another player of Mane’s ilk in their squad right now. The Senegalese international possesses an utterly deadly mix of pace, direct running, fitness, goalscoring ability and creativity while being just as dedicated to his defensive work rate.
Klopp has trialled Firmino, Lallana and Sturridge in this role and none have been able to provide anywhere near the same devastation as the winger. I’m not a man who likes to see our players get knocked out of international tournaments but I am very happy he’s back now.