Are Liverpool Missing Sadio Mané?

The revaluation that UEFA had pre-planned to blame Liverpool fans for any issues at the Champions League final on the 28th of May should send shockwaves through football. It was clear from the moment that an announcement pinning the delay to kick-off on the ‘late arrival of fans’ that the governing body for football in Europe wasn’t going to be taking any blame for the issues people were experiencing, but to see that the excuse was in place the day before the match even took place is genuinely shocking. In truth, my fear is that nothing will happen because it’s Liverpool. To rival supporters, being able to fall back on old stereotypes is far more important than trying to get the best situation in place for football fans in general. In the wake of the match, you only needed to look on Twitter to see the manner in which supporters of clubs from Manchester to Rotherham were keen to use the official line as a stick with which to attack Reds.

It isn’t right, it isn’t fair and it isn’t the way that human beings should react, but the desperation to repeat the old slurs has been easy to spot from the outset. It was always going to be an easy out for UEFA, to help them avoid any blame for genuinely woeful preparations for the final. Though I have some sympathy for them in the sense that there were limited options in terms of where the final could be held once it was clear that it needed to be moved away from St. Petersburg, so much more could have been done to get things right in terms of organisation. UEFA, of course, only cares about whether the big-wigs can be looked after in comfort, caring not a jot for regular supporters. It was only thanks to the calmness and sensible-thinking of Liverpool fans that lives weren’t lost in Paris, with this latest revelation showing that, if they had been, UEFA were planning to turn to the playbook of 1989 to get away from any scrutiny. They failed.

Missing Sadio

Away from the disgrace that is UEFA, I wanted to talk a wee bit about how pundits have reacted to Liverpool’s poor start to the season. The moment that Liverpool drew against Fulham on our opening day of the campaign, the first pundit said the inevitable. We were missing Sadio Mané. Never mind the fact that the Senegalese international had all but forced his way out of the club. Forget about the small issue of him no longer being a Liverpool player. The Reds were missing him and all of our problems could be pinned on the decision to sell him to Bayern Munich. This overly simplistic attitude isn’t helpful, but also isn’t all that true. Though the conclusion of Mané’s time on Merseyside was that of a player seemingly in the form of his life, the forward had only really played well for six of his previous 18 months at the club. He was another year older, so it was the right decision to let his legs go on someone else’s watch.

Mané has so far played seven Bundelsiga goals for Munich and three in the Champions League. During that time, he’s scored three league goals, none in Europe and he’s failed to register an assist. Though Liverpool haven’t looked right in an attacking sense, it is difficult to argue that Mané would have been the solution had he stayed. Obviously there are plenty of people arguing just that, but the reality is that Mané doesn’t seem to be any more immune to the tiredness that is affecting his former teammates than they are. I loved Sadio Mané. I think he was a brilliant player and an amazing man. I’m very glad to have been able to seen him play in the red of Liverpool Football Club, but the idea that his departure has been the catalyst for our travails is nonsensical. Yes, he’s having to fit into a new system and play with new teammates, but it’s not as if Bayern are pulling up any trees with him in the team.

Darwin Needs Time To Settle

What makes Mané’s absence seem more influential than it actually is is the fact that Darwin Nüñez, the man who was sort of brought in to replace him, still hasn’t settled into life on Merseyside. Even so, the Uruguayan has a goal and an assist in his three Premier League starts, one of which he played less than an hour in. He seems nervous on the ball at the moment, as though he’s trying to prove that he worth the price tag when he has no need to do so. His time at the club hasn’t been helped by the sending off, but it has also been marred by a dysfunctional midfield that hasn’t been able to assist the forwards in any meaningful manner. Given the absence of Diogo Jota through injury, we were always going to look as if we missed Mané if his sort of replacement didn’t hit the ground running. With Jota now back and Darwin having made his mistake that he’s hopefully learned from, Sadio’s absence will be less keenly felt.

If we can also get Nüñez to the point that he feels more relaxed with his teammates, we should start to get the best out of him. For his own part, Luis Diaz has been working well on the right hand side and has settled into the team nicely. As the goals start to fly in for him, my suspicion is that we’ll all wonder what the fuss about Mané was at the start of the season. We all want to be challenging for the title and the fact that City are already eight points clear of us, albeit having played a game more, means that many people will be wanting to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is a desperation from many to look for an easy excuse for Liverpool’s early season malaise, so it is little wonder that the absence of Sadio Mané is the thing that so many people have been keen to turn to. I don’t think it stands up to scrutiny, however, and I think the end of the season will prove as much.

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