Liverpool’s impressive early season form, which sees them just two points off the top after 8 Premier League matches, has been largely down to just how rampant their attack has been.
The summer acquisition of Southampton’s Sadio Mane has really seemed to be an adrenaline shot to what was at times a pedestrian, lacklustre Liverpool front line during 2015/16. Yes, at times Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana clicked and Liverpool seemed unplayable but moments like those were few and far between and the team lacked the ability to go from 3rd gear to 5th in the final third. That’s what Sadio Mane offers and that’s why Liverpool have looked pretty formidable when going forward at times this season.
Before Mane Liverpool had the creativity, the guile and the goal threat but they didn’t have the power, the pace and the directness that he’s brought to the team. He’s already showcased just how much damage he can inflict on the opposition with all three of the aforementioned traits with that sumptuous fourth goal in the win against Arsenal. So far it looks as though Mane was the perfect fit for Klopp’s revamped Liverpool side.
In his absence, the 2-0 defeat to Burnley, it looked like they’d run out of batteries in attack. Make no mistake about it, Burnley did defend well. They sat deep and they smothered the space centrally meaning Liverpool had to look wide and it played straight into Burnley’s hands. There wasn’t as much incisive movement from Liverpool’s attacking trio.
Barring an injury it looks as though Mane will be going to the African Cup of Nations in January. It’s a loss to this squad with Liverpool not really having a viable replacement on their books. The closest player to fitting the profile seems to be Divock Origi but for all of his talents it’s unlikely you’ll see the talented Belgian offering the team half of what Mane does from that inverted right role.
Liverpool scouts will no doubt be looking for potential incomings, not just to cover for Mane but for the long-term to improve the squad. There will be a clear profile for the recruitment team to work with. If we use Mane as the blueprint it’s clear they will want to identify an attacker with great speed, one who doesn’t ignore his defensive duties, is an attacking threat and can not only do a job now but has a lot of room to grow further down the line. After all, It’s not often you’ll see the club buying the finished product. It’s hard to judge an attackers influence defensively because it really depends on how their team sets up and the players instructions but using Roberto Firmino’s stats whilst he was at Hoffenheim you can get a picture of how much defensive work an attacker does. Firmino averaged 3.8 tackles and interceptions throughout his time in Germany.
Part one, which can be found here, looked at the slightly pricer options in the market. This time around it’s those that may not look ideal on the surface but their stats make them hard to ignore.
Yes, as in the ex-Arsenal midfielder. After an impressive Olympics with Germany, which saw him score 6 goals in 6 games, the German moved back home and joined Werder Bremen in a deal worth £5 million.
Seemingly all he needed was regular first-team football because since the move he’s caught the eye of many teams with his all round performances both on and off of the ball. The 21-year-old has appeared in 495 minutes so far in the Bundesliga and has 2 goals and an assist to his name. This in a team struggling for early season form. He currently completes 77% of his passes, averages 2.5 successful dribbles and wins 2.9 tackles and interceptions per 90. It’s only a small sample but these numbers are definitely worth taking a note of, after all he’s playing for a team that’s been tipped to be in a relegation fight.
He’s able to play anywhere across the attack and his intelligent movement in and around the area means he gets himself into goal scoring positions on a regular basis. He may turn out to be a bargain for Werder Bremen come next summer.
The Celta Vigo man has made an impact on La Liga since his €5 million summer move from FC Midtjylland. The 21-year-old Danish International has adapted to life in Spain at an alarming rate and recently scored the opener in Celta’s deserved win over Barcelona. He also scored against Espanyol from 20-yards after carrying the ball the entire length of the pitch.
He ticks all the boxes. He’s electric, he doesn’t ignore his defensive responsibilities, he’s positive with the ball, he’s a goal threat and he already knows how to press. So far this season he’s scored 2 goals and has 1 assist in 408 minutes of La Liga action. He averages 2 successful dribbles and 1.5 tackles and interceptions per 90 to go along with his 84% pass success rate.