Top of the league, the highest scorers and playing the best football of any side in England, everything is looking rosy for Liverpool right now.
The Reds have settled after an up-and-down first two-thirds of a season under Jurgen Klopp, which brought Europa League and League Cup finals but ended rather disappointingly with no silverware and an eighth place finish in the Premier League – below West Ham and Southampton.
The German’s plans seem to be really progressing now, though, with the summer addition of Sadio Mane, among other tweaks, having taken the team to a whole new level.
The Senegalese star, however, will be removed from Klopp’s plans in the New Year due to the Africa Cup of Nations. With the first game of the tournament scheduled for January 14 and the final set for February 5, there is a chance his absence will be lengthy.
Here are THREE stats that prove the Merseysiders really will miss their forward, and should perhaps consider signing a stand-in when the transfer window opens…
The fact Mané, Coutinho and Firmino’s stats are this close to Messi, Suarez and Neymar’s really is exciting. pic.twitter.com/fPbSRculwu
— ᴛᴏᴍ (@FutboIFirmino) November 6, 2016
Much in the same way Liverpool’s ‘SAS’ partnership between Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez shone during 2013/14, Klopp’s attacking trio of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Mane – ‘CFM’, if you will – are sparkling this term.
Indeed, the two Brazilians and the Senegalese star have been mightily effective in a fluid attack this term, and have actually performed comparably to Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Suarez and Neymar – widely seen as the finest forward triumvirate on the planet – in league action. ‘CFM’ have scored and assisted a combined 25 times, just one shy of ‘MSN’s’ return, in eleven games, showing just how dangerous and key they are to Klopp’s set-up.
Although the removal of one man should not derail the team entirely, it’s worth noting that when Mane was absent against Burnley on the second weekend of the season, the Reds slipped to their only defeat and put in their worst performance of the campaign.
Top scoring midfielders in Europe’s top 5 leagues since the beginning of last season:
Mohamed Salah (22)
Riyad Mahrez (18)
Sadio Mané (17) pic.twitter.com/GvATnFNwtW
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) 11 November 2016
As well as being Liverpool’s top scorer in league action thus far in 2016/17 with a return of six, Mane has been consistent in his overall goal-return for some time. As the numbers show, the 24-year-old has scored the third-most goals of any midfielder across Europe’s top five leagues (Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1) since the start of last season (17), leaving him adrift of only Mohamed Salah and Riyad Mahrez, who, no disrespect to Southampton, were teams of a higher calibre in 2015/16.
Much of potency of the ‘CFN’ forward line comes from their unique blend of skills. While creativity and finishing prowess come via Coutinho and Firmino, Mane offers the pace and direct running neither of his partners can truly deliver. In fact, there are no players in the Liverpool squad that present the same level of threat with the ball at their feet as the Senegal international, who averages 5.1 dribbles-per-game (one more than his closest rival) and completes 2.9-per-game, the most of any Liverpool player.