28 Jun 2016

£30m MegaDeal: Legend insists 'Liverpool' have signed another 'top player' who can 'play anywhere'

It's official: Liverpool have signed Southampton attacker Sadio Mane, and although the Reds have been screwed yet again on the transfer fee (Between £30m and £36m, depending on the source) many fans (myself included) are quietly optimistic about his ability to make an impact at Anfield. If nothing else, Mane is a proven Premier League performer, and according to Arsenal legend Ray Parlour, the Senegalese international is a great signing for the Reds.

Speaking to TalkSport today, Parlour raved:

“Mane is a top player. He can play anywhere in the three behind. I think Liverpool have got a really good player there.”

There are obvious concerns about the fee, but price tag aside, the key question to ask is this: Is Mane an upgrade on any of Liverpool's current attacking players? In my view, the answer is a resounding YES. Last season, for example, Mane outperformed all of LFC's senior attacking mids:

* Ibe: 8 G/A in 43 apps (Goal 561 mins. G/A every 280 mins)

* Lallana: 15 G/A in 49 apps (Goal every 509 mins. G/A every 237 mins.

* Coutinho: 19 G/A in 43 apps (Goal every 267 mins. G/A every 169 mins)

* Firmino: 22 G/A in 49 apps (Goal every 302 mins. G/A every 151 mins)

* Mane: G/A in 43 apps (Goal every 207 mins/G/A every 129 mins)

Mane's total career stats are also superior:

* Lallana: 130 G/A in 353 apps (Goal every 375 mins. G/A every 208 mins)

* Coutinho: 74 G/A in 227 apps (Goal every 397 mins. G/A every 203 mins)

* Firmino: 115 G/A in 240 apps (Goal every 358 mins. G/A every 153 mins)

* Mane: 118 G/A in 182 apps (Goal every 191 mins. G/A every 115 mins).

When it comes to fulfilling his primary role (i.e. scoring and creating goals) Mane is a clear upgrade on Coutinho, Lallana and Firmino, and in theory, he should be able to replicate his goals/assists record at Anfield. Alas, it never seems to work out that way with Liverpool signings, but perhaps things will change under Jurgen Klopp.

Mane has all the attributes to be a success: Premier League proven; blistering pace; brute strength; a history of scoring/creating goals to the extent that he is more prolific than Firmino, Coutinho, and Lallana.

There is no compelling reason why Mane shouldn't perform at Anfield (especially operating alongside superior players), but if, heaven forbid, he fails to produce, it will be Klopp's fault, and the reason will be simple: he'll force Mane to prioritise pressing/running over scoring/creating goals.

People think I exaggerate when I argue that Klopp is obsessed with pressing, but whether fans choose to accept it or not, it's true. For example, consider Pedro Chirivella's comments last week:

"He [Klopp] says that I have to improve without the ball. He wants me to press without the ball even more".

Great. Another talented young player being directed to subjugate their natural creative instincts to 'press' more. I want to hear Chirivella saying 'Klopp wants me to be more creative, and dictate play more in the middle', but this is the reality, and I fear that Klopp will take the same approach with Mane.

Instead of encouraging his creativity and individual expression, Klopp will probably urge Mane to 'improve without the ball and 'press more', and this may end up having a detrimental impact on his creative stats.

Obviously, I hope I'm wrong.


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