In Focus: How Liverpool can turn Sadio into the Man again

Sadio Mane has struggled for form for Liverpool since the turn of the year

Sadio Mane has struggled for form for Liverpool since the turn of the year

It is time to address the elephant in the room — Sadio Mane is a shadow of his former self this season.

The Liverpool No10 followed up his Golden Boot showing in 2018-19 with an 18-goal haul last season as the Reds lifted the Premier League. 

But 2020-21 has been a different story. 

Mane, 29, has scored just once in the league since the turn of the year but he did net twice in the Champions League last-16 tie with RB Leipzig.

If Liverpool are to overturn their 3-1 deficit against Real Madrid in the quarter-finals tonight and force their way into the Premier League’s top four, they need Mane firing on all cylinders.

So how can they get him back into form?

Consistently inconsistent

Prior to his move to Anfield, Mane was not the most reliable in front of goal. 

He hit double figures in both of his seasons at Southampton but his goals often arrived in bursts. It was a similar story during his time with Red Bull Salzburg. 

Mane is a confidence player who starts to overthink things if chances are missed. There is a sense the fleet-footed forward is now doubting himself, whereas he is at his most destructive when playing on instinct. 

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp is aware of the problem. Asked why Mane has struggled, he said: “We all know how good Sadio is and what a player he is. 

“The numbers, scoring-wise, are not great for us at the moment. He knows that. With a player with the mindset of Sadio, he wants to do extremely well.

“I’m not concerned but I see it as well, that’s clear. We work on it, that’s the only answer I can give.”

Barren spell

You can understand why Mane is focusing on the negatives.

 His last league goal for Liverpool arrived in January during the 3-1 win over Tottenham. 

Since then, he has racked up 16 shots in 743 minutes of action and failed to add to his tally. 

Worryingly, Mane is not even getting into high-quality areas.

His expected goals average of 0.33 per 90 minutes during that period is significantly down on the 0.44 he has been averaging for Liverpool since the start of 2018-19. 

Sadio Mane has not found goals easy to come by this term
Sadio Mane has not found goals easy to come by this term

Trying too hard

Bizarrely, Mane’s worst season for Klopp has come when he is more involved than ever before. 

The versatile attacker is averaging more shots per 90 minutes and has already equalled last season’s Premier League total (77) — despite racking up 478 fewer minutes of action. 

He is also attempting 1.15 more take-ons per 90 than last season and his total of 120 is already more than he managed in the previous two campaigns. 

Sometimes, less is more. 

Tags

LiverpoolReal MadridChampions League