Sadio Mane had a difficult game against Newcastle United on Saturday. It’s one that asks big questions of the Liverpool forward.
Liverpool didn’t get the result they wanted against Newcastle United. They really should have, though.
The Reds dominated the game and created more chances than they managed in the entirety of January – February (at least, it felt that way). The forwards just couldn’t put them away.
Well, Mohamed Salah managed it inside three minutes but we’ve come to expect that. The bigger problem was that no one else did it.
That’s despite Liverpool having 22 shots in the game. They were in decent positions, too, but no one could finish.
Unfortunately, Sadio Mane is the player you question the most coming out of the Newcastle game.
Mane struggles vs Newcastle
Mane had more shots than anyone on the pitch at Anfield, with six. That’s as many as Salah and Roberto Firmino managed together.
But whereas his strike partners hit the target with five of their six, Mane only managed to test the goalkeeper once. He just couldn’t get it right.
And really, it’s slightly worse than that. Mane’s efforts on goal don’t count the times he was offside, nor when Salah put him through one-on-one and he failed to get a shot off.
It wasn’t Mane’s day in front of goal. Usually, we’d leave it at that but it’s the latest in a long period of poor form for the player.
He did score against Leeds United, of course, but we’d argue that a tap-in into an open goal isn’t a sign of being in-form. In fact, that was Mane’s first Premier League foal since scoring against Tottenham Hotspur on January 28th.
Together, those are his only league goals of 2021.
Liverpool desperately need more goals to cover for their weak defence. Mane can’t deliver them, though, and that will certainly be in peoples’ minds when they tackle the transfer window this summer.
He’s just turned 29, after all. Could Mane be in decline?
Mane has played almost constantly since arriving at Liverpool for £34m in 2016. Last season, in particular, he was part of a team that played an incredible number of high-pressure games.
Then came next to no rest after the season. That’s going to have an effect.
So when Liverpool look to rejuvenate their attack, it could be easy to replace Mane. He’s not delivering and Diogo Jota is right there to take over the left-flank.
Room for optimism
On the plus side, there were some signs of encouragement on Saturday. Those six shots may have gone awry but they do suggest Mane was consistently getting in good positions.
He’s only beaten that figure once in 2021, in fact, and it was that game against Spurs in which he scored. There’s no doubt he was involved, then, and more than he has been in recent months.
Mane also created three chances. That’s only the third time he’s managed that in the league this season.
The first time came against Leeds United on opening day. The other was when he registered an absurd nine against Burnley.
So Mane was more of a threat against Newcastle than he has been for some time. Perhaps this is a turn for him, then, even if nothing came off.
That brings about more questions. Is this just a run of poor, tired form in a struggling team? If so, do Liverpool back him again next season?
We’ll lean towards yes. A few more games like this, even if he can’t hit the target, and we’re ready to believe Mane is firing again. The real worries come when he’s just not involved.
The next five games are going to be interesting, then. If Mane really has turned a corner and it about to fire Liverpool towards the Champions League, there’s nothing to worry about.
If he returns to his worst, then there certainly is.
Either way, Liverpool should get their answers.