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Talking Tactics

Mane making most of perfect timing

Adrian Clarke 30 Mar 2019
Sadio Mane goal v Crystal Palace

Adrian Clarke explains how Senegalese winger has become Liverpool's biggest threat

Adrian Clarke is looking at key tactical talking points ahead of Matchweek 32.

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The in-form Sadio Mane will attempt to score in a seventh consecutive Premier League home match when Tottenham Hotspur visit Anfield on Sunday.

Very few would consider the Senegalese star, who has become a hugely influential figure during a crucial period of the season, to be an out-and-out striker.

While he scored two fine goals against Watford in late February when selected to play through the middle, the 26-year-old is essentially a left winger.

Elusive movement

Fulfilling the duties of a regular wide man, either in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 system, the bulk of his touches come on the flank.

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Yet the quality that marks Mane out as a special goalscorer, after nine strikes in his last nine starts, is his ability to ghost undetected into the centre-forward’s domain and the most dangerous positions. 

Timing runs expertly to dart inside full-backs, while often swapping places with Mohamed Salah or Roberto Firmino in the process, Mane is a master at getting on the end of chances inside the danger zone.

When you analyse where he scores his goals, the picture is clear. All but two of his 17 goals have been scored from central positions, from close range within the width of the six-yard box.

This season, he has shown the positional instinct and finishing prowess of a world-class striker.

Even though Salah has had 22 more goal attempts than Mane this campaign, with seven matches to go the pair are level on 17 PL goals each at the top of Liverpool’s goalscoring chart.

Leading man

Mane, who boasts a 29.3 per cent conversion rate compared with Salah’s 21.3, has caught up across the last eight PL fixtures, a spell which has coincided with a dip for his fellow attackers.

Salah has performed well in general play and has had no problems finding shooting positions, but the Egyptian’s efforts have often been from tight angles or some distance from goal.

Firmino, meanwhile, has played a little too deep, which has affected his own goal threat.

Liverpool's front three
Last 8 PL matches  Mane Salah Firmino
Mins 699 708 466
Touches in box 41 76 29
Touches in box in central third 22 16 15
Shots 16 30 11
Goals 8 1 2

As for Mane, the key to his extraordinary recent success has been the efficiency of his runs into the penalty area.

Carefully selecting the right moment to sprint, over half of his touches inside the 18-yard box have been inside the central third, the most likely place to score goals.

By contrast, only 21 per cent of Salah’s touches in the penalty area have been in that zone.  

All three of Liverpool’s forwards are capable of escaping their markers to score goals, and their collective movement is usually terrific.

But of the Reds' attacking trio, it is Mane who is the most elusive and predatory at the moment, and he is the player Spurs should fear most this weekend.

Also in this series

Part 1: Ward-Prowse taking his chance with Southampton
Part 3: Spatial awareness taking Sterling to new level
Part 4: Gunnarsson can set tone for Cardiff resilience

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