Liverpool have their Sadio Mane replacement already and after recent displays, it might be time for long-term change. The winger just isn’t playing well.
Liverpool signed a clear replacement for Sadio Mane last season in Diogo Jota. But he wasn’t supposed to jump straight into the team.
Jota simply didn’t have the record to justify upsetting the status quo at Liverpool. Not to mention that Mane was a Champions League and Premier League-winning forward.
Fast forward to now, though, and it might be time for a long-term change.
Mane just isn’t playing well. He hasn’t been appalling by any means but he certainly isn’t at his peak.
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The defeat against Real Madrid was an example of that. Play regularly broke down when he got the ball and Mane just couldn’t get anything going.
We’ve seen that all too often this season, particularly since the New Year. It’s perhaps best shown with his poor touch.
Mane’s first-touch let him down eight times against Real Madrid. That tally was five against Arsenal, seven against Wolves and six against RB Leipzig.
That’s 26 bad touches in four games – and average of over six per game. That’s twice as bad as anyone else in the squad.
And how do you fix that? It’s a technical issue, rather than an easy-to-fix problem. The only real suggestion is to keep playing him and hope he finds it.
But Liverpool have been trying that for months now, with little to show for it. Mane has one Premier League goal in 2021, for instance.
It makes you wonder if Liverpool should make the big change and make Jota their first-choice left-winger. He’s having a sensational season and, stylistically, is a safe replacement for Mane.
Liverpool wouldn’t need to change up their style or worry about him not gelling. That’s not the situation with using Jota as a striker, though.
Jota plays very differently to Roberto Firmino and Liverpool become a more direct team. Mane and Salah find themselves dropping deeper and running in behind far less as Jota doesn’t vacate the space.
That works against some teams but not against others. It’s not the style Liverpool built their success on, certainly.
But as the Reds look to find consistency in attack, taking out the struggling Mane for Jota could help. They can keep their reliable system, while improving on a struggling role.
It’s a big decision, though. With Mane approaching 30, he may not ever get the position back. We may be truly be looking at the end of the formidable three.