So why are Liverpool trying to buy Sadio Mane…?
Journalist Paul Joyce told Anfield HQ that Jurgen Klopp wants the Southampton flyer because he fits directly into the 4-2-3-1 formation in the wide areas.
Southampton will likely expect a hefty transfer fund, which is putting some fans off, but with 25 goals in 75 appearances, the Senegalese is more prolific in front of goal than any of our current attacking midfielders.
He also adds width and directness to an attack whose current playmakers are all quite similar. Coutinho, Firmino and Lallana have superb feet and technical ability but are not sprinters and bar Firmino – do not naturally get on the end of things in the box.
If we signed Mane, he’d fit most naturally on the right wing, perhaps in competition with Lallana. By using Mane here, we’d have natural offensive width on the right, something we lacked in 2015/16 because Nathaniel Clyne’s instincts are defensive and Lallana cuts in.
Over on the left, Coutinho cuts in (or at least he should) and Alberto Moreno provides the offensive width. From this position the Spaniard created more chances than any other Liverpool player last term, and despite his defensive mistakes – it doesn’t look like Klopp’s trying to directly replace him. Instead, he’ll sign Ben Chilwell as talented support.
At the back, Joel Matip comes in to compete with Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho for central roles – while there’s a number of midfield options available for the double pivot. (Possibly including Piotr Zielinski, Cameron Brannagan and Marko Grujic as well.)
With Mane, our attacking shape has more options. He gets into the box to support a centre-forward, meaning Daniel Sturridge would be less isolated; something he struggled with at times in this formation. The fact Mane pulls wide creates more space centrally for Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and an onrushing central midfielder.
At times, we were predictable offensively in 2015/16 and spent plenty of time passing aimlessly around the box. When we have the ball, Mane gives an option in behind with a quick long pass, or he can take a defender on one-on-one.
Off the ball however he’s less accomplished than Coutinho and Firmino, and far worse than Lallana; which will need to be rectified. Klopp needs every cog turning together for the cause, and would not allow a luxury item in Mane who wouldn’t help in defence. (It’s not like he’s Cristiano Ronaldo.)
Going forward, the African, though not especially glamorous, makes complete sense as a target – assuming he’ll be used on the right flank. Out of possession, there’s work to be done, but at 24, Mane has time to learn and improve under Klopp.
This potential lineup below intrigues us…