Sadio Mane was a creative force against Burnley. Unfortunately, none of his teammates could keep up with his performance.
Liverpool embarrassed themselves on Thursday – there’s little argument there. They hosted a poor Burnley side but did next to nothing for 90 minutes.
So that’s now four games without a goal, five without a win. Not exactly title form, is it?
There was a positive, however. One star appeared to find his form once again – it’s just that no one else kept up.
Against a team like Burnley, you need someone to be a spark. They excel at putting out any fires you create. They suffocate that air out of your team by squezing the space.
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Then they quickly throw cold water on any flames you get going by hoofing the ball clear and forcing you to start again. They made 52 clearances at Anfield, for some perspective.
What you need, then, is a spark. Someone who can consistently fan the flames and make things uncomfortable for Burnley. Eventually, they’ll fail to put the fire out.
It’s difficult to do it all on your own, though. You light the fire for someone else and go from there. That could be a pass that cuts through Burnley’s lines. It could be creating a clear shot for a teammate.
We thought that spark would be Thiago. Instead, Sadio Mane was the one who kept forcing Burnley into action.
While everyone else struggled to create at Anfield, Mane was a force. He set up a remarkable nine chances for teammates. That was, unsurprisingly, the most in the game. It was as many as the next three most combined.
For some real perspective on how many nine is, consider this. Only seven Liverpool players, other than Mane, have created nine chances all season – total. His one-game figure would have him joint-8th with Thiago.
Mane was the only one to consistently dribble the ball, too. Burnley are set up to specifically stop that, with players facing up against multiple defenders at all times.
Liverpool only completed seven as a team – Mane was four of those. Twice as many as the next most.
The real problem, then, was that no one approached Mane’s level. No one finished the chances he created. Worse, no one really created for him.
Mane only had three shots in the game. They weren’t good chances, either – two of them were blocked. That tells you these aren’t clear shots on goal.
Mane recaptured his form on Thursday. He was the only one, really – certainly going forward. No one kept up with him, no one matched him.
That’s a real shame but this is the only real positive from the game. Mane played like an elite forward once again. Hopefully, he can maintain that form while the rest play catch-up.