By winning Saturday’s match against Stoke City in an utterly unexpected - and some might still argue, undeserved - fashion, Liverpool accomplished a feat that had eluded them this year: secure all three points in a Premier League match without Sadio Mané. The fact that they were only able to do so by the slimmest of margins will be a cause for concern, but Liverpool will hope that the gradual return to fitness of some other key players may tip the odds in their favor.
Liverpool’s £34 million Senegalese winger has been nothing short of a revelation this season. Losing your top scorer is never a good thing, and supporters will have hazy and less-than-happy memories of Jürgen Klopp’s sides struggling for fluency in Mané’s absence. The actual numbers prior to the match against Stoke City confirm a grim, and perhaps surprising story, as the infographic below from www.oulala.com shows.
While the sample size is small, that is still a very bleak 0% win rate staring Liverpool supporters in the face, not to mention a goalscoring rate that is almost half of what the side accomplishes when Mané features. For reference, those four Sadio-less and winless matches include contests against Burnley, Manchester United, Swansea City, and Bournemouth - no snark, but not exactly a roster of world-beaters here.
The fact that Liverpool were able to put one in the win column against Stoke City will offer some encouragement, though the fact that it required a wonder-strike from Roberto Firmino and a couple of miraculous saves from Simon Mignolet should not be ignored. If Liverpool can maintain/restore the fitness of Firmino and Coutinho over the final stretch, the (hopefully) pending re-appearances of Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson may provide Klopp with enough puzzle pieces to pull off a true feat: a winning run without Sadio Mané.