Liverpool were five points off the top of the Premier League at the start of the New Year following their 2-2 draw at Sunderland prior to Sadio Mané joining up with the Senegal national team for the African Cup of Nations.
Whilst the £35 million summer signing from Southampton was out of the country, Liverpool picked up only one point from their two Premier League matches, were eliminated from the FA Cup at home to Championship side Wolves and knocked out of the EFL Cup by the Saints.
The 25-year-old’s performances for Jürgen Klopp’s side should make him a strong contender for the PFA Team of the Year come the end of the season. Mané has arguably been the best right winger in the Premier League this season, with Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, Tottenham’s Heung-min Son and West Ham’s Michail Antonio also getting a shout out. Of course, the FA may simply select the best four or five midfielders regardless of their actual position.
In which case, N’Golo Kanté, Eden Hazard, Alexis Sánchez, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Idrissa Gueye, Kevin De Bruyne, Ander Herrera and Gylfi Sigurðsson can all be considered.
Sadio Mané’s importance to Liverpool is highlighted by some staggering stats, most notable of which is the team’s points per game with and without the forward.
|Win||Draw||Loss||Goals For||Goals Against||Points per Game|
The above stats are starts only – meaning Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea is classfied as ‘Without Mané’ as he only made a late substitute appearance.
Interestingly, in their 4-3 defeat at Bournemouth in December, Sadio Mané was substituted on 69 minutes with his side leading 3-1.
The Reds are out of title contention this season and face a battle to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League with Manchester United hot on their tail and Arsenal not out of it just yet. And if Liverpool are to finish top four they will have to do it without their talented attacker who is out for the remainder of the season through injury.
Despite Mané missing five games already this season he is the club’s top Premier League goalscorer and has been involved in more goals than any of his teammates to date: