Liverpool began the season with two wins out of two with a front three of Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane.
In the third game, Diogo Jota dropped out for Roberto Firmino and the Reds drew 1-1 with ten-man Chelsea at Anfield.
However, Firmino did have to go off injured after 43 minutes to be replaced by the Portuguese forward.
Reece James’ red card a few minutes later changed the whole complexion of the game. While it was a relatively open first half, Thomas Tuchel’s men were camped at the edge of the box for the majority of the second.
As has so often been the case recently, Liverpool were simply not able to break down the low block.
One of the biggest take-aways from the game was the fact that Mane put in yet another poor performance.
Three shots, two of which were blocked and one of which was off target, is not excellent reading. Zero successful crosses from four attempts, zero successful dribbles and six dispossessions gives even more grim details.
It, unfortunately, has been this way since around last January.
A player that we, for a few months at least, were convinced was one of the absolute best in the world a little over a year ago now looks a shell of himself.
We thought that a summer off and a good pre-season may recover his best, but it has not proven to do so thus far.
Jota must start – but at the expense of Firmino or Mane?
Mane is getting on lots of ball. His 75 touches against Chelsea was well above his averages of around 50 per 90 in his Liverpool career up to recently.
For us, it just looks like he is trying too hard. His confidence is down and he keeps trying to pull off spectacular moves to get it back up.
But they are not working. Chelsea was a good example. The Senegalese star received a lot of ball but seemed to be falling over himself and running down dead-ends at every attempt to do something with it.
So it may be time for a spell on the sidelines.
Jota simply has to start. He seems to score every time he is on the pitch and is the future of Liverpool’s attack.
We always thought that he would be forcing Firmino out of the side.
Yet the Reds’ three most in-form forwards seem to be Jota, Salah and the Brazilian.
Bobby finished last season in great form. He scored three goals and got two assists in the last five league games.
He also scored off the bench on the opening day and bagged a brace in his only game of pre-season.
The 29-year-old’s underlying numbers were still phenomenal last season, he just couldn’t finish. If he has managed to rediscover the finishing touch, then he deserves to start.
We here at RTK would not mind seeing a Salah – Firmino – Jota front three for a few games whenever Firmino recovers from his injury.
Even if it is not successful, it could give Sadio Mane to kick he needs to up his performances once more.