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A Point to Ponder After Porto: Mané’s Drop in Form Was All in Your Head

Sadio Mané’s drop in form was all in your head, and Jürgen Klopp thinks so too.

Sadio Mané joined Liverpool on 28 June 2016 after Jürgen Klopp decided to add more attacking options to the team arsenal and made an instant impact – one some think he hasn’t managed to replicate in season two. But is that fair? Let’s dive right in...

Oh Mané, Mané, Season One: 2016-17

Mané scored his first Liverpool goal on 6 August 2016 in a friendly against Barcelona in a 4-0 Liverpool victory and made his competitive debut eight days later against Arsenal, in which he scored a stunning individual goal which ended in a 4-3 win. After a brief shoulder injury, Mané returned to active duty and assisted both Divock Origi’s and Daniel Sturridge’s goals in our League Cup match against Burton Albion on 23 August 2016. Mané quickly became an integral part of the team and went on to score the second goal In Liverpool’s 4-1 win over Leceister City on 10 September 2016, when he dinked the ball over Kasper Schmeichel and later squared the ball unselfishly in order for Firmino to convert our fourth of the match. Two weeks later Mané was back on the scoresheet with a strike from the edge of the box in our 5-1 thumping of Hull City.

Mané then scored the first goal in our 2-1 win over West Brom and followed that up with an assist to Coutinho’s decisive strike. He then scored two goals against Watford in November and picked up a goal and an assist in our 4-3 defeat away to Bournemouth in early December. The match against the Cherries exemplified our reliance on the winger when the home side managed an epic retaliation after Mané’s forced substitution and found the back of the net thrice in quick succession. 19 December 2016 saw Mané catapulted into Merseyside Derby history (and an Everton Christmas song from the Reds) when he scored the winner in the 94th minute of the 227th Merseyside Derby. At the start of January, Mané scored in our 2-2 draw with Sunderland before joining his country, Senegal as part of their African Cup of Nations team.

He returned on 31 January 2017 against Chelsea and solidified his presence yet again in his Man of the Match winning performance in which he scored both goals in our win over Tottenham on 11 February. Mané then, followed that up with a delicious goal and an assist in a 3-1 victory over Arsenal and scored his thirteenth goal of his first Liverpool season on 1 April in a 3-1 win over Everton. During the same game, Mané sustained an injury in the second half and needed to be substituted which sadly marked an abrupt end to his game time and as it would turn out, the rest of his season.

Premier League Appearances: 27
Goals: 13
Assists: 5

League Cup Appearances: 2
No goals or assists

Oh Mané, Mané, Season Two: 2017-18

Mané scored Liverpool’s first goal of the 2017-18 season on the first day of the new season in a 3-3 draw away to Watford, followed by scoring the winning goal a week later, against Crystal Palace at Anfield. Mané became only the third Liverpool player (after Robbie Fowler and Sturridge) to score in each of the opening three league games of the season when he netted our second goal in a 4-0 win over Arsenal on 27 August 2017.

An injury kept Mané on the side lines for just over a month and he returned in November to assist both Mohamed Salah’s goals in our 4-1 thrashing of the Hammers. Mané then scored Liverpool’s second goal in our 3-3 draw with Sevilla on 21 November and opened the score line against Stoke in our 3-0 win as well as assisting Salah for the second goal. Mané scored two of the 7 goals Liverpool put past Spartak Moscow on 6 December 2017, with the first being one of the best goals he has ever scored. Mané did receive criticism over his performances against Everton and Arsenal but 1 January 2018 saw him opening the scoring yet again in a 2-1 win at Burnley, followed by Liverpool’s third goal in our 4-3 heart stopping win over Manchester City on 14 January.

A month later, on Valentines Day, Mané scored his first Liverpool hattrick against Porto in the Champions League, his first being a powerful strike that slipped past Porto’s goalkeeper, the second coming from a rebounded shot off Firmino and finally the third goal coming from a powerful strike in true Mané style.

Premier League Appearances: 19
Goals: 6
Assists: 5

Champions League Appearances: 5
Goals: 6
Assists: 1

What Klopp said after Mané’s hattrick

“He (Mané) gave the right answer. That’s good. I said to him after the last game ‘finally you’re back’ immediately after when we talked on the pitch. Tonight he showed again what a fantastic player he is. He was always important, he was always fantastic for us, even in his not-that-good moments. That’s a real quality if you are not 100 per cent and still scoring, maybe not that often but involved in goals then that’s really important. Then they will come if you keep on working really hard like he did then there can be a moment like this. The first one was a little bit lucky, but then the other two were being in the right place, the second one, and using your fantastic skills for the last one. Good, really good, and I am happy about it.”

Let’s face facts or in this case, stats

Statistics don’t lie and a quick look at Mané’s numbers (Season one: 29 appearances, 13 goals; Season two: 24 appearances, 12 goals), it’s abundantly clear that Liverpool fans have ridiculously high expectations. In part because we’re Liverpool fans. In part because Mané scored his way into our hearts so emphatically in his first season, that we felt lost without him. And, finally, in part because Mohamed Salah and Bobby (Dazzler!) Firmino have been so damn good (the word scintillating comes to mind…) so far this season that we have been utterly stunned – and unable to think rationally when confronted with the rest of the first team’s performances. No other explanation makes sense because let’s face it, Mané’s drop in form never really happened. Fact.

Up the Reds!

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