This season, too, Mane was the man who most often initiated the front line pressing, succeeding Roberto Firmino.
While keeping the best bits of his own game, Mane has become more and more like Coutinho, taking over as Liverpool’s man of choice in their front line for credibility, and has moved to the left since Salah was signed, the area the ground that Coutinho favored.
Cutting inside the left flank, Mane can create from scratch with that quick shoulder drop, but he’s risen to such a level now that when he misses there’s an inevitability around Liverpool which misses its presence.
On the Liverpool.com podcast, Mark Wakefield said: “When you talk about Liverpool’s most important players people will often say Alisson, Van Dijk, Salah, Henderson – but with Mane he sets the tone.
“Against Arsenal he led the press from the front, dominated the game and had an aura around him that reverberated throughout the team.
“When he’s not there, the players feel the loss – a bit like when Barcelona are without Lionel Messi or when Man City are without Kevin de Bruyne.
“He’s so important in terms of his offensive feel – in addition to the defensive work that can’t be seen – and if he’s often the one who pulls something off, it’s magic to stimulate the team. “
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Mane is more complete than Coutinho and is more actively involved in all parts of the game, but there is a similar talismanic nature to the Senegalese performance so far this season to what was seen with Coutinho three years ago.
Mane’s absence cannot fully explain the demolition of the Aston Villa, but the opposing teams surely need to be strengthened by him not showcasing the devastation he has caused against Arsenal.
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Mane is Liverpool’s new Coutinho, but by getting so instrumental, the Reds’ number 10’s absence could almost cause a problem when he’s not around – albeit a problem with luxury to own.
Diogo Jota, as he settles down, can help that, and the arrival of Thiago Alcantara to further develop Liverpool’s game to a new level, moving them once again in a tactical sense, will help that too. .
But Klopp found that working out one solution just spawns another problem elsewhere that needs to be addressed. The German has already sought a solution as the tactical development cycle continues.
By finding ways to depend less on Mane, Liverpool can once again take great strides forward.