Liverpool raised a few eyebrows when they agreed to pay Southampton around £34 million for the services of capricious Senegalese winger Sadio Mane over the summer. Klopp had identified the pacy star as the perfect fit for his system, but many thought that the price was too steep for such an inconsistent player.
However, after Mane’s performance in Liverpool’s breathtaking 4-3 win over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, many doubts about the Senegalese’s compatibility with the Anfield club have been blown out of the water. Mane scored a stunning goal and contributed massively to the considerable threat posed by the Reds’ frightening front line.
Initially deployed through the centre as Liverpool’s most advanced player, Mane struggled to get into the game at the start of the match as Jurgen Klopp’s side failed to impose themselves on Arsenal. The Gunners were the team pressing highest and creating the most chances, whilst the visitors looked disjointed and unfamiliar with each other in attack.
There were some examples of Mane’s prowess in the first half, showing flashes of pace and strength, with Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny struggling to knock him off the ball on a few occasions. But overall, he suffered from a disappointing first half from Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Then Philippe Coutinho’s free-kick changed everything. Suddenly Liverpool were all over Arsenal at the start of the second half, and Mane played an important part in their second half demolition. His pace and movement, as well as the threat of running in behind created space for the likes of Coutinho, Wijnaldum and Firmino to dominate Arsenal, as Liverpool surged into a 3-1 lead.
Then came the moment of the match for Mane. The goal that ended up deciding the match. Mane picked up a loose ball on the right just inside the Gunners half, before burning past Calum Chambers and Nacho Monreal, cutting inside onto his left foot and thumping an unstoppable strike past the flailing Petr Cech. It was a brilliant goal and a brilliant way to mark his debut.
Mane’s goal marked a fabulous 20 minute period where the Senegalese and his attacking counter parts looked untouchable. The rest of the game, Mane and his teammates looked threatening without being particularly cohesive, but they sent a frightening message in the period when they turned it on.
Mane saw out the game on the right hand side, providing a useful outlet and pinning Nacho Monreal back as Arsenal came back into the match. Mane provided a constant threat on the counter attack and held the ball up well when necessary. This was an important factor in Liverpool seeing the game out.
Overall, the majority of Mane’s performance was solid, and showed the crucial part and extra factor he will provide Liverpool with this season. But the display will be remembered for the burst of pace and strike that separates him from many of his peers and won the game for his new side. There’s still more to come from Mane, particularly in terms of consistency, but what a start to his Reds career.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Paul Vause