Player Zone: Sadio Mane is going under the radar at Liverpool

Liverpool were sublime in their 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday and played some of their best football all season, unfortunately enough for the Cherries, who also lost 4-0 to the Reds on the opening day.

Jurgen Klopp’s front three were excellent and looked like they would score every time they went forward; as James Milner said in his post-match interview, the trio were impossible to defend and, for all Bournemouth’s hard work in defence, it could have been a cricket score had the Reds’ finishing been a little better in a few certain situations.

We all know about Mohamed Salah and nothing needs to be said about his goal record, although it is worth mentioning that the Egyptian’s strike at the weekend took his tally for the season to 20 in all competitions, thus becoming the first Liverpool player since Luis Suarez to score upwards of 20 goals in back-to-back seasons having netted an incredible 44 last campaign.

Firmino

Roberto Firmino, meanwhile, has established himself in the eyes of many as arguably the best false nine in the world. You could argue that Salah wouldn’t have had the sensational scoring season he had last year if not for the Brazilian’s selflessness in terms of his movement and passing.

The pair stole the show with a breath-taking link up in the second half, with former Hoffenheim man Firmino played in behind by Salah before cheekily back-heeling it to the Liverpool number 11, who coolly slotted the ball into the corner.

A front three, though, isn’t a three without a third member, although many seem to forget Sadio Mane in the conversation, possibly because the other two are arguably the best in their roles in the league, whereas Mane has plenty of competition on the left flank.

The Senegalese’s header at the weekend was his fourth goal in as many consecutive games – a career first for the winger – as he continued his recent habit of popping up with key goals. There is still, though, a lack of appreciation for the number 10 and it seems that most would rather talk about Firmino and Salah, even when Mane has been perhaps their most important player in the last few weeks.

His strikes against Leicester and West Ham earned his side two 1-1 draws in games where the rest of the team was pretty lacklustre, while his goal against Crystal Palace in a 4-3 thriller at Anfield ensured his side took home all three points when the defence was having an off-day.

Despite scoring his twelfth of the season on Saturday, Mane has teed up a teammate just once this season and perhaps if we saw him assist talisman Salah more often, or create more chances for others, then there would be far more appreciation for the 26-year-old.

What he has got, though, is bags of pace, flair and the knack of arriving at the right place at the right time – he should have had his second of the afternoon against Bournemouth after Gini Wijnaldum dinked it to the back post, but his header was wide.

The speedster finds himself in a unique situation in that he seems to somehow be so underrated, yet part of one of the most revered attacks in Europe.

Less is expected of Mane in this front three when the other two are getting the Anfield faithful off their seats yet he can score in four straight games and no one is surprised. In many ways, he may well be the most paradoxical player in the Premier League.

Jurgen Klopp has gotten quite inventive with his excuses this season. FFC’s James Jones think he has no one but himself to blame for Liverpol’s poor form in the video below…