Premier League 2019-20: How will Liverpool cope without Sadio Mane?
Runaway league leaders Liverpool continued their astonishing form with a 14th straight Premier League victory as they beat Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolverhampton Wanderers, courtesy of goals from Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino. Raúl Jiménez’s header in the second half capped an inspiring Wolves performance but they became the latest team to fall victim to the Reds’ late heroics. However, Jürgen Klopp coached Liverpool's triumph at the Molineux Stadium was overshadowed by the injury to their talisman Sadio Mané, who hobbled off the pitch with a hamstring injury ten minutes before the half-time whistle.
The Senegalese winger has been prolific for Klopp’s side this season with 15 goals and 7 assists in all competitions. Both Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have also been a . class apart in Liverpool’s attack but Mané’s performances week-in, week-out have turned heads across Europe. The 27-year-old attacker is pivotal to Klopp’s style of play due to his unparalleled work ethic, blistering pace, and incredible strength going forward.
The 2019 African Player of the Year has often been lauded by pundits and fans to be a more well-rounded player in comparison to his counterpart Salah, who is often been criticised for his individualistic approach. Against Wolves, when new signing Takumi Minamino came on in place of Mané, there was comparatively an evident lack of pace and power exhibited by the Japanese. However, much blame cannot be attached to the debutant because he obviously still needs time to adjust to the English game.
Klopp in his post-match interview stated caustiously about the situation with Mané,
“It was very average that he [Mané] had to go off. Hopefully, it’s not too difficult or too bad but we will see tomorrow. He felt something in the hamstring. We don't know yet; we have to wait.”
Sunday is Shrewsbury, Wednesday: West Ham, Saturday: Southampton. That’s tough. We have to find different solutions for the games. Let’s work on that – and that’s probably without Sadio (Mané). Let’s work on that and we will see,” he added.
Mané’s exclusion for at least the next trio of games should not prove to be a huge headache for Klopp because he could also deploy Divock Origi on the left flank. The Belgian attacker has been a goalscorer for the club and an excellent back-up to the front three. Xherdan Shaqiri could also be a handy alternative but the Swiss is also currently sidelined with a hamstring injury. However, it is important to point out that none of them can replicate Sadio Mané’s impeccable attributes.
The German manager could also surprise us by adding another midfielder to the fold such as Adam Lallana or Fabinho. An extra pair of legs in midfield will mean that Thursday’s match-winner Firmino can remain up-top at all times alongside the pacy Salah. James Milner and Naby Keita are also nursing their respective muscle and groin injuries, hence Klopp, in actuality, does not have a host of options to choose from. If Fabinho starts, then both Henderson and Wijnaldum can take up attacking positions, as both of whom have also been important providers and occasional goal-scorers. Minamino can also occupy an attacking role in the middle which will mean that Andy Robertson will have the entire left-flank to himself. We will have to see what tactical decision Klopp takes.
Perhaps, the most startling aspect of this Liverpool side is the fact that Klopp deploys more or less the same starting XI every three days, and the performance levels hardly ever dip. Many people have pointed out that a long-term injury to one of the star players such as Mané, Salah and Virgil van Dijk could have had serious ramifications. However, Liverpool are mathematically only 27 points away from clinching their first top-flight championship of the Premier League era and Mané’s injury might not be season-defining.
Liverpool now visit West Ham United in their next league game and will look to extend their unbeaten run to a 15th game and take one more step towards the inevitable title as well as the invincibles tag.
Published 24 Jan 2020, 12:41 IST