Mane the Main Man: Improved Goal Threat is Key to Reds’ Title Hopes4 min read
Jurgen Klopp tried his best to play down what his Liverpool side had offered up on the opening weekend of the new Premier League season, but everyone present at Anfield for the 4-0 win over West Ham knew what they had witnessed. This was the start of something special, the start of a landmark season for the Reds.
Rather than being shaken by the expectation that had built with every big-name, big money signing made over the summer, Liverpool looked emboldened by it instead as they swept away Manuel Pellegrini’s Hammers side on Sunday. There was an assured swagger to the way they played, with summer signing Naby Keita making an early mark and Mohamed Salah picking up where he left off last season.
But nobody on the pitch was as impressive as Sadio Mane, who bagged a brace and carried his pre-season form into the opening game of the Premier League campaign. The Senegalese winger has hit the ground running and could bet set for the season of his life. He could be just as important to Liverpool’s title chances as Salah, or anyone else for that matter.
— Premier League (@premierleague) August 12, 2018
Liverpool’s attacking line is revered as one of the best in the European game and yet Mane is relatively unheralded, at least when compared to both Salah and Roberto Firmino. That could change this season, though. Mane has added more of a goal threat to his game over the past few months, with this demonstrated against West Ham.
Klopp’s front three aren’t a conventional front three, with Liverpool playing without a traditional number nine. Firmino, Mane and Salah all interchange and interlink, giving opposition defences all kinds of problems in tracking and marking them. They all depend on each other and so it’s crucially important that Liverpool tie Mane down to a long-term contract after Firmino and Salah were signed to similar deals.
Four goals and three points. Picking up from where we left off at Anfield last season. 🙌
— Liverpool FC (at 🏠) (@LFC) August 12, 2018
“These boys, Bobby Firmino, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane, and a lot of the others as well, could play for pretty much any team in the world,” Klopp explained, underlining the quality of his players.
“That’s how it is and a good sign for the club that they want to stay. It is an improved situation that these players don’t use us and then go. It’s cool but now we all together have to deliver. Sign your contracts but now, go again… play and fight, run and shoot, all that stuff. That’s football.”
At the time, the sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona looked to be a serious blow to the development of Liverpool. However, it allowed the Reds to become a purer Klopp team and Mane has become the embodiment of this. The 26-year-old has always been an important component at Anfield, but he could now become a true superstar.