IF ever a debut goal exemplified exactly what Liverpool had been lacking in attack, it was their fourth at the Emirates.
In one performance, Sadio Mane quelled any suggestion that his new club had overpaid for a player from the South Coast, again.
Where it seemed like his maiden goal for Liverpool might serve only to decorate a second half assault in North London, in reality it defined the result. What a fitting climax it was to a 15 minute blitz, where the Reds were irrepressible. Where they were so incisive in their disintegration of Arsenal’s defence.
And Mane was at the centre of it, aggressively driving his side forward with speed and such purpose, while stretching our opponents to allow space for the others.
This was 15 minutes very much in the image of Jürgen Klopp, but Mane’s goal was the kind we’d not seen scored under the German. Suddenly, there’s a new dimension to an attack that already possessed all of the ingenuity but lacked genuine pace last season.
What’s intriguing is that, although the signing of Mane is the second most expensive in our history, it was viewed only by some as sensible, but by most as underwhelming following a failed pursuit of World Cup winner Mario Gotze.
Fans’ infatuation with signing a marquee player can cloud and twist the realities of what a squad actually requires, as we clamour for a name of prestige over practicality too often.
Had we recruited Mane from Schalke or Sevilla rather than Southampton, with his record of scoring 10 in each of his previous two seasons – including a hat trick against Man City – then the transfer would have been met with much more enthusiasm.
Instead the majority would almost certainly have chosen Gotze, whom it seemed would rather have sat on the periphery of Bayern’s squad, where his career had gone stagnant, than make the move to Merseyside.
Mane however jumped at the opportunity to work under Klopp, and stylistically he’s the kind of attacker we’ve been crying out for, while Gotze bears semblance to the style of Roberto Firmino.
Not only is he as quick and direct in charging forward as I can recall of a player wearing red, he demonstrated outstanding game intelligence in slowing the match down and preserving possession in the final ten minutes, with the score at 4-3.
Arguably most impressive, was the diligence demonstrated in conducting his defensive duties as he made the most tackles (6/6) and most ball recoveries (6/6) of any player on the pitch.
At the Emirates, the Senegalese international announced his arrival by illustrating a full spectrum of what he can offer Liverpool and, while his consistency has been questioned in the past, it seems we may have struck lucky in securing everyone’s second choice transfer target.
In doing so, let’s hope that football has made fools of us fans once again.
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