The signing of the Senegalese striker for around 30 million pounds in 2016 triggered the start of a major reconstruction under the direction of the German manager, and making Mane the first arrival of such a busy summer showed how much Klopp evaluated the attacker.
Since his arrival in Merseyside, the development of Mane under Klopp reflects how the European champions have managed to become the best team in the world.
Much of this success is due to a prolific attack trio including Mane alongside Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. The trio has helped rack up an incredible number of goals since then and is well regarded as the most powerful line of attack in world football.
However, Mane’s development since arriving at Anfield often slips under the radar. While his contributions to the goal are highly valued, Salah’s prolific nature and Firmino’s daring skill make the 28-year-old the most “replaceable” member of the trio.
Choosing one of the top three to replace it hypothetically is almost impossible given the different attributes it brings to Klopp’s Liverpool. But Mane’s improvement over the past three years indicates that the Reds couldn’t afford to let him go.
His total of 22 goals last season earned him more than double the total he recorded in the 2017/18 season (10). En route to an almost equal number last season with 14 goals so far this season, the striker has shown his ability to consistently produce at the highest level.
Nevertheless, a slight tactical adjustment seems the most interesting when we take a more granular look at Mane’s progress as a goalscorer. This season in particular has seen Klopp deploy the Senegalese international to areas more likely to score goals.
So far this campaign, he has scored 5.57 hits in the opposition box for 90 this season, compared to 4.63 and 4.57 in the two previous league campaigns.
Such additional influence in the opposing penalty area highlights Mane’s growing awareness of entering the areas most effective for scoring goals. As the graphs show below, his goal cards from the previous two seasons show his influence closer to the goal.
Five of the 14 goals he has scored in the league this season have come from within the six-yard area, indicating trends closer to the forward.
His six assists this season, against just one in the 18/19 campaign, highlight the increased contribution he has shown in front of goal.
The 28-year-old’s role in the 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace on November 23 is an excellent example of his evolution towards a more balanced striker this season. With Salah absent, Mane was given the additional responsibility of completing the attack movements.
He managed to do so by scoring the first goal. However, as shown below, this has happened through intelligent movement in a central position instead of cutting from the left wing as it so often does.
Andrew Robertson’s potential center on the left flank falls to Mane around the penalty spot. Although he is surrounded by defenders of Crystal Palace, the striker has successfully converted luck.
Such a finish not only indicates that the 28-year-old has improved before goal, but to an extent that sees Klopp trust him to produce the goods. His open play xG of 26.71 over the past two seasons, against 36 goals scored, further underscores the conviction he has shown before goal in the past 18 months.
The first goal against Crystal Palace will certainly not be considered one of the most memorable in Mane’s career, but it was a clear demonstration of his improvement in front of goal.
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Among all of his goals for the Reds, the forward has demonstrated his unpredictable nature, athleticism and key influence in the deadliest attacking trio in world football.
Nevertheless, increased involvement in the most effective score areas shows how round he has become as a player.
It’s hard to see where Mane can improve in the next 12 months, but a slight role change since last season has shown that you don’t have to know when you’re one of the best strikers in the game. world football.