Liverpool Vs Tottenham: Jota Injury Means Mane Must Play Himself Into Form

The unrecognisable Liverpool star fired blanks against Fulham on Sunday, and Jurgen Klopp will be scratching his head over the Senegal forward’s form

What is wrong with Sadio Mane? Something has clearly gone awry for the Liverpool forward, whose ability, end-product, consistency and street-wise nature made him one of the most-complete attackers in Europe.

Undoubtedly, being voted Africa’s best player in January didn’t flatter him in the slightest, but the Senegal star has dipped since that mid-October meeting against Everton at Goodison Park. If anyone had predicted at the time the former Southampton attacker was to go two months without a league goal, he may have been laughed out of the room.

The reality of how events have panned out, however, presents a curious case amid Liverpool’s general Jekyll and Hyde campaign.

Maybe it’s a tad expected; after all, this side had been at the top of their game for about two straight seasons, where they won the Champions League in 2019 for the first time since Istanbul and only missed out on successive Premier League titles by a top-class Manchester City side in 18/19…so maybe a drop off was always around the corner.

There’s an impulse to put Mane’s apparent slump this season down to a lack of rest — he’s played 71 of the side’s 76 Premier League games in the last two seasons, starting 66 times — or little pre-season before the start of the new campaign.

Naysayers may brush that suggestion aside owing to how the defending champions had ample time, compared to other nominal top six rivals at least, to prepare for the 20/21 season.

They won the league with games to spare, didn’t have to feature in the revamped Champions League knockout stages in August, and were one of the few sides that had the benefit of pre-season friendlies.

Injuries, which always seem to be knocking at Liverpool’s door this term, haven’t helped Klopp’s side whatsoever and Mane’s numbers so far make for very grim reading. Despite starting the season amazingly, the 28-year-old hasn’t scored since October, having initially hit the back of the net four times in as many league appearances.

Diogo Jota’s immediate impact on Merseyside largely eased the burden on the Mane and Mohamed Salah’s shoulders, the pair who struggled for open-play goals from October until December when the latter scored against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

While the Egypt superstar has the advantage of being the Reds’ penalty taker, his West African teammate gets no gimmes and has toiled for goals and even assists in the last two months. The pair’s paucity of strikes was examined after the frustrating 1-1 draw at Brighton & Hove Albion in late November, and the former Southampton forward still hasn’t hit the back of the net since.

The injury to Jota thus puts the English giants in a quandary in every sense of the word as the Portugal attacker is likely to miss six to eight weeks, according to Klopp.

This means a return date could possibly be in mid-February, leading to a further absence in 12 games. Given how swiftly the former Wolves wide attacker has integrated into life at Anfield, he’ll be hugely missed, especially as Mane and Salah continue to struggle.

Even though the ex-Chelsea winger has netted in his last three games in all competitions, there’s a feeling he isn’t playing at his best, and the goals from 12 yards have mostly embellished an otherwise average campaign so far.

As for Mane, a dive into his underlying stats reveal quite interesting numbers. Per Fbref, the Senegal star is underperforming his Expected Goals tally slightly and is on pace to finish the campaign by scoring lower than he ought to for the first time in the last three seasons.

The Senegal forward’s xG of 6.0 has only resulted in four league goals in reality. Contrast this to 2018/19 when the former Metz forward netted 22 times from xG of 16.1, while he scored 18 goals in Liverpool’s title-winning season from Expected Goals of 13.8.

This year’s decline has been interestingly striking and below previous standards set, although an even deeper dive then suggests the corner could be turned soon enough. Mane xG per 90 this term (0.59) is higher than the average from the last two seasons — 0.45 last term and 0.47 in 18/19.

He’s apparently also averaging a higher involvement in the side’s build-up play, averaging 4.33 Shot-Creating Actions; which trumps the number in 19/20 (3.57) and two years ago (3.13).The aforementioned numbers give the impression that Mane could get back on the goalscoring trail sooner rather than later but with Jota’s unfortunate injury, Klopp needs the striker to promptly blow away the cobwebs and rediscover the form that saw him voted Africa’s best player.

source:- goal


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply