Liverpool need more from Sadio Mane in Premier League top four race

The Senegalese has had his toughest season on Merseyside to date and needs to find some form.

12:23pm on Monday 15th February 2021
Nicholas Hughes

Sadio Mane has hit a sudden downturn in form, and there is no surprise that has coincided with Liverpool’s recent struggles in the Premier League.

The Reds’ No.10 has scored just once in his last seven outings in the league, and has in fact hit the net just three times after starting the season with four goals from four games.

Liverpool have lost three league games on the bounce for the first time in the Jurgen Klopp era and have fallen well away from the title race, now well and truly in a fight to secure a top four position.

Statistically, Mane’s drop off doesn’t really show. According to Instat, his xG90 is slightly up this season, 0.48 from 0.4, while dribbles P90 have jumped from 4.6 to six.

Crucially, while his xG has improved, his end product is waning. Last season Mane averaged 0.55 goals P90, just over one every two games, but this season so far he is going at one every three fixtures, averaging 0.33 goals P90.

That is his lowest goal scoring ratio since arriving in English football, and that is including his two seasons with Southampton, despite the fact that he is attempting more shots and registering more shots on target per 90 minutes than he ever has.

Comparing that to his teammate Mohamed Salah, he is being vastly outperformed by the Egyptian – while Salah is slightly down on xG90 from last season, he is averaging 0.75 goals P90 and currently leads the golden boot race with 17 Premier League goals.

There seems to be a great deal of frustration in Mane’s game at the moment, and it is easy to see why as he loses possession of the ball 16.4 times P90, is caught offside just about once every match and gets fouled 2.7 times P90 – his highest total in England and far greater than Salah’s 0.8.

Things aren’t quite sticking for Liverpool, and indeed for Mane, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the season and was injured little over a week ago, missing two games.

The entire rhythm of Jurgen Klopp’s side has felt the effects of this season, particularly the full-backs and Andrew Robertson, who Mane has developed a brilliant partnership on the left-hand side, may well have something to do with it as well.

Even defensively, in a team that doesn’t appear to be pressing at it has done in the past, Mane has increased his contributions in recoveries in the opposition half P90 and percentage of challenges won per match.

The impending return of Diogo Jota should do some good in at least taking part of the burden off Mane’s shoulders, as well as those of the rest of the front three, which could be key in Liverpool achieving Champions League football for next season.

Perhaps it is a combination of fatigue, bad luck and just a natural, slight recession after a relentless title-winning campaign. Mane is still a top class footballer capable of things not many others are, but he needs to start showing those things again to help his side pick their season back up.

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