SADIO Mane is crap.
That was it. That was the conclusion. We’d been drinking together on a stag do in Hamburg for three days and were now sitting in the darkest pub in the middle of the city, half watching Liverpool beat Southampton.
We’d spent about 10 minutes discussing how poor Mane had been this season, along with our various wild theories as to why that was the case, and we concluded that he was just crap. That was it. No need to debate it any further.
As my mate said it to me, we both just laughed in agreement and moved onto the next wild topic of conversation, having grown tired of a semi-sensible chat about a footballer when there were much more interesting things to be discussing after 20 gallons of alcohol.
Mane is just crap.
A few days ago, lots of Liverpool fans were saying the same thing — including me.
He’s not the player he was. He’s lost a yard of pace. His confidence is shot. He must be carrying an injury. He doesn’t like playing second fiddle to the greatest footballer the world has ever seen. Maybe nearly decapitating Ederson Moraes had a bigger impact on him than we thought.
All theories that had been bandied around groups of mates in pubs and in WhatsApp groups around the world, and all with enough substance to argue their case.
Then Mane had a shot squirm under a goalkeeper in the Champions League, knocked in a Bobby Firmino rebound and completed a hat trick with a piledriver of a shot when other options were available, and we’re all proclaiming that he’s back.
Which got me to thinking. How crap was he in the first place?
Our Senegalese winger has now scored 12 goals this season, with seven assists over 28 games in all competitions.
We’ve spent all season comparing him to last season when, in our flimsy memories, he was far better than he is now, yet in the entirety of the 2016-17 season Mane scored 13 goals and got eight assists in 27 appearances.
One more goal and one more assist puts him on exactly what he achieved last season, in roughly the same number of games.
So why have we all viewed his season to date as being so far removed from his form of last season?
This season, Mané scored Liverpool’s first goal of the season in a 3-3 draw with Watford and he was named Premier League Player Of The Month, after scoring a goal in each of our three league matches in August.
Since then there was the sending off against Manchester City which I think many of us thought had dented his confidence, but after returning from his ban he scored the opening goals away at Stoke and Burnley (the latter with a thunderbolt), scored another screamer at home to Manchester City and scored a couple of Champions League goals for good measure.
It’s undeniable that there seems to have been some of his old spark missing, but it intrigues me as to why we all consider him to be so much worse than he was last season given the contribution to the team that Jürgen Klopp and many of us are still acknowledging, not least in his performance against FC Porto outside of his goals. Even without last night’s three goals, he was on nine for the season compared with 13 last year.
Then I realised, for about the millionth time in my life, that the problem is that everything is in context. Always.
I often laugh to myself at the fact that, no matter how old we all get, how sensible we try to be or how calmly we try to analyse football, sooner or later we all get caught up in its ludicrous web, getting carried away with what we think we can see.
Mane could well be another example of that.
I think our perception of his performances this season could be explained simply by the fact that last season we didn’t have Firmino and Mo Salah banging in goals week after week.
All of a sudden Mane’s contribution looks relatively poor, but the keyword here is “relatively”.
Last season, Sadio scored 13 goals and had seven assists, which made him the second highest scorer with Philippe Coutinho bagging 14. Firmino scored 12, with Divock Origi on 11, and he was only behind Gini Wijnaldum, Coutinho, and Firmino in the assists charts.
So, relatively speaking, he was arguably our best player (depending on your views on Coutinho) and his contribution of goals and assists made him a vital cog in our attack, which was reflected in the way we all talked about him and valued him. Remember when he departed for the AFCON and we all thought the sky might fall in before he came back?
Fast forward 12 months and the context through which we now view what Mane contributes to the team has changed dramatically. His 12 goals now pale into relative insignificance when compared to the King of Egypt’s goal haul and our flamboyant Brazilian’s substantial increase in all the things people said he couldn’t do (i.e. scoring loads of goals).
Mane’s position has been changed to accommodate our new right winger (although I think soon enough the rest of world football will ban us from ever referring to Salah as a winger).
He’s now effectively playing as an outside left advanced midfielder rather than as an out-and-out forward and, as Sean Rogers mentioned on the TAW Player Review Show after Southampton, the very existence of Salah means that Sadio is no longer the only go-to player in our front three, which in itself reduces his perceived impact on the team.
Despite all of that, he’s still basically on the same trajectory as he was last season when we all thought so highly of him, and he could well finish the season with numbers for goals and assists that make us all wonder why we ever questioned him.
The reality is that, without going back and watching every one of last season’s games in which Mane featured, it’s impossible to tell whether he’s significantly different now to the majority of last season, or whether he’s just had a few games in which his impact has been less noticeable given our focus on the other side of the pitch.
I’m sure he had off days last season as well but, before looking into the statistics, I’d have said that he was just generally more dynamic and aggressive last time out, more willing to beat his opponent in one-on-one situations, and created more for the team in general.
Then looking at chance created stats he averaged a rate of a chance created every 1.8 games in the league in 2016-17, and this season he’s currently at a rate of 1.6 per game. That represents only around an 11 per cent reduction, yet I’d say if we had to put a number on it many of us would have said he’s been more than 11 per cent less effective than last season.
As always, statistics don’t usually tell the full story, but it would be interesting to see in some alternate universe that exists without Salah just what we’d be thinking of Sadio’s contribution this season.
Luckily for us, we get to watch them both play for The Mighty Reds.
I’ll take Mane being our third best attacker all day long.
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You’re looking far too exclusively at his goals/assists, here…the issue hasn’t been his production on the score sheet; it’s been his lack of quality in attack…we’ve had literally more than a dozen attacking/counterattacking opportunities completely squandered this season by Mane’s abysmal first touches and spotty decision-making…things that weren’t an issue last season at all. I would argue that if you took Mane in last season’s form and threw him into this year’s side and adjusted for his transition from right to left, he’d have way more goals and assists than last season. Likewise, if you took this year’s Mane is his recent form, bar the hat-trick, and dumped him into last year’s side, he’d be far worse off…banging in 3 in the UCL is great and all, but Mane will not truly be “back” until he puts together a run of games in which his first touch doesn’t roll 10 yards in the wrong direction virtually every single time and he actually chooses to pass to 1 of his 2 wide-open teammates in the 6-yard box instead of trying to beat the keeper at his near post
You have this absolutely spot on. Well put.
I agree Mane got a hat trick, but I hardly would say he played great. Not even really good. He was okay. Lucky first, rebound on the 2nd and a great 3rd. But he lost the ball a ton in that game. He continues to give the ball away cheaply and that is what bothers me about his “form” right now.
He’s probably not adjusted great to being on the left flank yet.
Play the youth team for the second leg.Squad looks a bit think to compete on two fronts.Tough tests await in Cl
Mane,Bob,Mo are worth half a billion £.
You forgot Curly. :)
Even when not fully firing Mane draws in opposition players in numbers and that creates space for Salah Firminho etc. He had a good game at Southampton on that basis alone which was maybe more apparent from inside the ground than a bar in Hamburg! He is a constant threat even if his touch and confidence has not been quite on same level as last season. Let’s hope we can keep the 3 of them fit for an exciting end to season.
Absolutely, and he’s been working like crazy throughout his dip in form, which has been good to see. No drop off there.
As you say though, fitness is key to our season. It was fascinating to see Ings come on to play ‘the Firmino role’ in Porto, rather than a wide forward role. I’ve been terrified since January that an injury to Firmino could completely derail our season, but I think that was a hint as to Klopp’s backup plan – he’s training Ings as Firmino’s deputy.
Feel like Ox would be a better backup to Firmino than Ings or Solanke at this point. Ings still looks a step slow.
Personally I can’t see Ox playing centre forward. For me, he and Lallana are the cover for the wide forward roles.
Hopefully this all remains academic! God I’m loving watching our front three at the moment :)
Form is temporary. Class is permanent. Mane is a class act.
Hi Paul, is this your atonement for calling Mane crap? :)
I think it is fair to say that maybe Mane needed to rest or trade positions with Salah for a match or two, to see if he would fare better. This doesn’t equate to “Mane is crap” for me (maybe for you and some others).
Even you want to use such a word, then it can be argued that Gini Winaldum is crap since he never scores away from home or that John Achterberg is crap goalkeeping coach for not having contributed towards turning any of the goalkeepers from good to great with his coaching since he has been at LFC.
If anything Mane’s perceived lack of contribution (ala goals) allowed Salah and Firmino to flourish in a way they needed to. The focus/spotlight was on them for the right reasons.
Statistics are great but how a players feels on any given game day, his mentality coming into the fray from injury, etc cannot be measured by Stats. The last match blows the stats out of the water since nothing was predicted about his hat-trick.
Other than this my sentiments are along with Paul G above.
“He averaged a rate of a chance created every 1.8 games in the league in 2016-17, and this season he’s currently at a rate of 1.6 per game.”
Er, if what you wrote here is accurate then he’s actually creating nearly three times as many chances per game this season, compared with last season! Perhaps though you meant to write that he averaged 1.8 chances created per game in 2016-17?
“Then Mane had a shot squirm under a goalkeeper in the Champions League, knocked in a Bobby Firmino rebound and completed a hat trick with a piledriver of a shot when other options were available, and we’re all proclaiming that he’s back”
The above statement says it all. He was generally more lucky than good yesterday, and I’m a Mane fan.. Even Migs could have saved that first shot. The rebound goal? Well, he put himself in the right place and finished it well, but hell, even Migs would have buried that. The 3rd goal? obviously the best quality one of the bunch, but had it been blocked, saved, or went wide, he would have been battered for not passing the ball.
He’s been frustrating to watch and drawing ire, because of his poor decision making and abysmal attempts at dribbling around any defender. His passing has been generally poor(when he passes) especially compared to the rest of the lads. I think he misses being on the right, though he’s clearly not going to unseat Salah in that position.
All that being said, I’d still put him in the first 11 every time, as his work rate is fantastic, though late in games, he doesnt press nearly as much as Mo or Bobby. Seeing him track back and play D must be inspiring to the others on the team, so let him play through his funk. I dont think he is crap, just maybe out of his preferred postion and in a minor funk.
You could argue the current perception of Andy Robertson is directly but inversely linked to the perception that has built up around Alberto Moreno….
You could also argue Robertson is simply a better footballer than Moreno, hence the manager playing him.
Robertson wasn’t getting a look in until Moreno got injured. But you stick with the belief we’ve found the best left back in 30 years…you’ll be right as well if you keep the blinkers on
Same with Karius and Si I reckon.
At the beginning there was definitely this belief that loris karius must be, and will be, brilliant simnply to convince ourselves he wasn’t simon mignolet. Don’t think it lasted too long, but maybe resurrecting itself again now.
The Robertson thing is just plain weird.
Sadio being in bad form is a mantra that was fabricated by the media all along.
Fact is he won ‘Player of the Season’ in his FIRST season at Anfield!
He set the bar sky-high and it is obviously very hard to confirm that level in the following season. Salah will probably experience that next season.
Nonetheless, Sadio has been an absolute workhorse for the team and remains one of our most important players.
Regarding his confidence or that of any Liverpool player, I don’t worry. Klopp is an excellent man-manager who knows how to get the best out of his players, physically and mentally.
I was chuffed that he got his hattrick the other day.
Very much a case of “Speak for yourself” as far as I’m concerned. Of course Mané hasn’t been at the level we’ve seen from him in the past, but he’s still been a valuable asset, pitching in with goals, assists and good defensive work. It was only ever going to be a matter of time before he rediscovered his best form (and I don’t believe his fantastic hat trick necessarily means he’s suddenly found it now).
I don’t know why anybody would have been suddenly thinking he’s crap just because he’s not been at his best. Bit ridiculous, to be honest.