You could point to any one of a host of factors in trying to make sense of Liverpool’s puzzling stumble against Swansea City at Anfield yesterday. And most observers have indeed done so, noting the oddly sedate performance in the first half as well as more disappointingly cavalier defending in the second. In his post-match analysis, Liverpool legend Mark Lawrenson identified yet another, and it was something everyone knew the club would have to deal with: the absence of Sadio Mané.
Speaking to LFCTV together with Jason McAteer, Lawrenson focused on the lack of a true cutting edge from the outset of the match. Despite yet again being in control of the proceedings and limiting the visitors to little action of note, Liverpool arguably struggled to create chances of great significance, outside of perhaps an opportunity for Adam Lallana.
“Sometimes you have to state the obvious,” noted Lawrenson. “We so miss Mané. Of all the players that we can replace or who are replaceable, we can’t with him for some reason, because he gives you something different.”
“We can replace Coutinho to a certain degree, Firmino, Wijnaldum, Lallana - all those kinds of players. We just can’t replace Mané. On a day like today, where teams come and sit, it’s really important.”
Given that Liverpool have looked not-quite themselves during Coutinho’s and Lallana’s absences, it might be overstating things somewhat to state that the likes of those players are fully replaceable - and Lawrenson certainly isn’t pushing that hypothesis. But it is somewhat true that Liverpool have been able to cope with those absences better by shuffling the puzzle pieces around, whereas there isn’t really an option in the squad that comes close to offering what Mané does.
Mané’s continued participation at the Africa Cup of Nations tournament has prompted calls from some supporters for spending in the January transfer window, and those sentiments will no doubt continue after this performance, despite some observers such as Lawrenson insisting that manager Jürgen Klopp should resist pressure to do so. The window is, however, rapidly closing, and the club will have to commit to either looking for external reinforcements or an internal solution very soon.