There was a lot of scepticism about the signing of Sadio Mane this summer, with many Liverpool fans thinking they had overpaid for the attacker. The finances of the Premier League at the moment are difficult to fully grasp and as such I try to not look closely at them. A better way to judge signings is whether they fit into the style of their new club. In this sense, Mane has been an excellent signing as he suits Jurgen Klopp’s system perfectly and has improved the starting eleven at Liverpool. Klopp has several options in attack and it still isn’t clear how he will set up as the season progresses, but Mane is emerging as the first name on the team-sheet.
During the opening three matches, Liverpool have looked more dangerous with Mane in the side. In the two matches that he has played in, Liverpool have taken four points, which is a good return from away matches against two of last season’s top four. However in the match he missed out on, Liverpool lost against Burnley, despite having over 80% possession. Although it is too early in the season to draw conclusions, it does look like Liverpool will do better when Mane is in the starting eleven.
Mane has pace to burn and that will be an asset, especially against the lesser sides in the league. He is more than just a pace merchant and his intelligence in the final third accentuates the threat he poses with his raw speed. In the opening few matches, he has made dangerous runs in behind and looks to have fitted into the Liverpool side seamlessly. Sometimes players need time to get on the same wavelength as their new team-mates, but that hasn’t been the case for Mane. He has instantly settled at Liverpool and will only get better as we get deeper into the season.
His pace and movement have drawn nine fouls in his first two Premier League matches. Mane will provide Liverpool with some excellent set piece situations during the season and they could look to improve in that area of the game to make the most of these opportunities. Mane’s directness makes him great to watch for supporters and he has attempted five dribbles in his opening two matches. The former Southampton forward is exciting when he is running at defenders. Mane showed his attacking quality during the opening weekend win over Arsenal, as he went on a superb run into the opposition box and scored a wonderful goal. This ability to create space in the final third was missed against Burnley and Liverpool had to rely on long range efforts, which wasn’t a successful strategy.
The reason why Mane was identified as a priority target this summer was his work rate on the wing. He has a history of pressing from the front with Red Bull Salzburg and it is likely that Klopp has been tracking him since his time in Austria. Mane can win the ball in the attacking half, as he has done on a number times already in a Liverpool shirt. During his first two league matches, he has made seven tackles and two interceptions, which is impressive for an attacker. He is relentless in his pressing and is a perfect fit for Klopp’s gegenpressing system.
Although it remains early in Mane’s Liverpool career, the early indications are that he is going to be a crucial part of the Jurgen Klopp era. The system at Anfield plays to his strengths more than Koeman’s style at Southampton. There are some players that can perform at an elite level in any system, while others need to be utilised correctly in order to reach this level. Mane fits into the latter and I’d expect him to become a Champions League calibre player under Klopp. The fee still looks high, but he has started the justify the huge outlay from the club.