“We’ve got Salah, oh Mane Mane, And Bobby Fir-mi-noooo and we’ve sold Coutinho”. So the chant went at the beginning of 2018. Liverpool’s Fab Three were electric at the time. They played with the swagger of a band that had been together for years rather than six months. This was a new, exciting, Exocet Liverpool created by Jurgen Klopp.
During the incredible run to Kiev, the trio accounted for 16 of the 18 goals scored against Porto, Manchester City, Roma and Real. It was mind-blowing stuff.
Liverpool front three have adapted from heavy metal football
The thrill-a-minute football passed into history at the beginning of the 2018 season as the Reds became serious about winning the title. There was still the relentless work ethic, However, the key was to utilise their attacking arsenal when the moment was ripe.
The football was a little more sanitised. Solidity at the back added to winning combat in midfield was central to backing up their lethal brew upfront. The electricity has been replaced by a steadier circuit. Age is now the enemy to the current front three. Mane, Salah and Firmino are all in the last two years of their deals.
History is against Salah, Mane and Firmino
All are now 29. Salah is the one that keeps on giving. But where’s the contract? Firmino’s goal drop-off has been well-documented over the last few years. Mane struggled visibly to look anything like his old self last season as the Reds suffered a nightmare run from Christmas onwards.
The hope that the Salah, Mane and Firmino show might just get back on the road for one last hurrah before 30 is a tempting one. After all, even Gary Neville said every great team is allowed a bad season. However, looking at the history of the Premier League does suggest there is a time limit on great attacking partnerships.
The crucial difference going into 2020/21 is Diogo Jota’s fitness. His fast start dipped and was decimated by injury. There is also the Africa Cup of nations to factor in. This will see Salah and Mane taken out in early 2021 when titles can slip away. Look how Liverpool suffered back in 2017’s tournament when they were heavily reliant on the Senagalese.
The pressure cooker at the top of the Premier League will be ferociously hot. Chelsea will have the strut of European champions. Jadon Sancho will kickstart Manchester United memories of Sir Alex Ferguson football at full throttle. Pep Guardiola will ensure City’s attacking tools are sharpened with the exit of Sergio Aguero.
Liverpool don’t want to rely on old times. FSG are not going to pay premium dollar to renew deals of those beyond their peak. The hope is that Salah, Mane and Firmino can relight a fire that will supercharge another tilt at number 20.