Liverpool produced a wonderful display of attacking football to outclass sorry Arsenal at Anfield. Central to their victory was Sadio Mane, who once again underlined his influence in Jurgen Klopp’s side.
The Senegal international made it three goals in as many Premier League matches this season as Liverpool continued their unbeaten start to the 2017/18 campaign.
There was much more to Mane’s performance than just the goal, however. He was a constant menace all afternoon and in particular gave Rob Holding, playing on the right of Arsenal’s central defensive trio, a torrid time.
Mane’s link-up play with Roberto Firmino, who opened the scoring, was near telepathic and along with Mohamed Salah, the Reds’ front three showed there could be life after Philippe Coutinho, who remains sidelined through injury amid continuing interest from Barcelona.
Mane has been a revelation at Liverpool since joining from Southampton last year. With 16 goals in 30 Premier League appearances, his statistics are phenomenal. Remember, Mane is not an out-and-out striker but a player who likes to cut in from the left.
That was how he doubled Liverpool’s advantage after Firmino had given the hosts a deserved lead.
Arsenal had been threatening at the other end of the pitch but their attack broke down and the Reds countered with pace and in numbers. Firmino released Mane, who shifted the ball onto his right foot and unleashed an unstoppable curling strike that beat Petr Cech’s despairing dive.
Holding, talented but still raw at the highest level, would not have faced a sterner examination than that provided by Mane, whose movement and trickery was too much to handle.
The 25-year-old is brilliantly unpredictable. He can be direct and use his blistering pace to outstrip his opponent. Alternatively, his excellent hold-up play brings his team-mates into the equation.
Mane was substituted by Klopp on 74 minutes to warm applause from the Anfield crowd after another decisive contribution. His participation in the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year came at the same time as Liverpool’s poor run of form, which extinguished their title hopes. This was no coincidence.
The arrival of Salah will have eased the burden somewhat, but Mane’s importance cannot be overstated. With three goals in three games, he has started this season as he ended the last. These are exciting times for Liverpool supporters.