With Sadio Mane out of form in a big way, Jurgen Klopp can do little more than wait and hope he returns to his influential best.
During the 2016/17 campaign, January was where it all unraveled. Liverpool won only one of their games, which happened to be against Plymouth in the FA Cup and all hope of a title challenge faded.
Nothing hurt Jurgen Klopp’s men during that time more than the absence of Sadio Mane. Ironically, this season, there’s probably no player troubling the manager more than the Senegalese winger.
Thirteen goals and eight assists saw the former Southampton player finish just behind Coutinho in the scoring charts for Liverpool last season. That was despite missing such a large part of the season through injury.
Naturally, with a fellow speed merchant in Salah arriving, many expected this campaign to be special for the 25-year-old and early performances against the likes of Watford, Arsenal and Crystal Palace suggested it could be.
Recent weeks have seen a different story though. A combination of injury, suspension and rotation seemed to affect the player and in our last few games, he’s looked well off the pace.
Basic control has seemed to allude Mane at times, with some even suggesting that his powers have been taken away similar to the Space Jam movie. The Everton miss has long been and gone, so that theory has passed.
Whilst it’s not going well for the Senegalese attacker right now, there are still positives to look at. Mane does have nine goals and seven assists to his name already this season which make him our fourth-highest scorer.
A change to his position has potentially had an effect, but no-one is going to dislodge Mo Salah from the right side or Roberto Firmino up top, so any positional change discussion is fruitless.
Additionally, Mane is still getting into dangerous positions and having chances. Three times he was played in against Huddersfield and whilst his heading and control were wayward, the movements themselves would have pleased Klopp.
Even against Manchester City and Swansea, it’s been his control that’s failed him at the final hurdle rather than a static frame. Mane ensures the opposition defenders remain on their toes and eases the burden on the other two main attackers.
With no attacking additions during the January window, Klopp has little option but to play Mane anyway. Each league game is massive in the context of the Champions League spots, which is another competition round the corner too.
The Ox now appears an established midfielder, yet the likes of Solanke and Ings are options. However, without a goal between them, you fancy they’ll be used to allow others a rest at times. Klopp will continue to give Mane a starting berth, he’ll just be hoping he finds form and quickly.