Sadio Misfiring But Jota Is Back

It’s impossible to think of last night’s win over Wolverhampton Wanderers and not mention what happened to Rui Patricio. The goalkeeper was taken out by his own onrushing defender and the match was stopped for a worrying amount of time. The good news is that he’s apparently doing well today, talking as he left the ground last night and able to to remember what happened. It is proof of the fact that football is a sport that has its dangerous moments, which is why those that are reckless or premeditated should be punished severely. Away from the injury to the Wolves goalkeeper, the Reds emerged from Molineux with all three points, maintaining the form that we picked up against RB Leipzig in the Champion League and taking it into the domestic competition. It means that we’re now 5 points behind Chelsea in fourth, meaning the chase isn’t over yet.

Most of the talk in the wake of the full-time whistle was about the defence, which is entirely understandable. Nat Phillips is, as most people would admit, a limited defender. That doesn’t mean that he’s rubbish, though, and he’s proving himself to be something of a cult figure in the same way that Ragnar Klavan did during his time at the club. Ozan Kabak, meanwhile, is starting to look like the promising defender we were told he was twelve months ago. The rush from some to dismiss him based purely on his first couple of performances, after he arrived at a club in crisis and had to play with midfielders in defence and two different goalkeepers, was poorly judged. I think he looks like a really promising talent and wouldn’t be at all disappointed if the club opted to trigger the £18 million deal to sign him permanently in the summer. It’s the attack that seems the most worrying right now.

Sadio Mané Has Got The Yips

Ask most Liverpool supporters about Sadio Mané eighteen months ago and they would tell you that he is a phenomenal footballer, brimming with confidence and full of ability. Whilst his ability hasn’t left him, it’s fair to say that he’s struggling for confidence right now and that means that his performances aren’t up the the standard that we’d usually expect from him. There are numerous reasons for the club’s poor run of form recently, including six straight home league defeats for the first time in our history, but one of the big ones is the lack of instinctive play from our forwards. Mané is not a player that is at his best when he’s got time to think, as demonstrated by the fact that he will often miss the ‘easy’ chance but score an outrageous one. He’s the definition of an instinctive player, which is why it’s so difficult to watch him seemingly overthink everything at the moment.

Mané has always had it in him to play a mad pass, plunging the ball back into our own danger zone when a simple pass to someone else would make much more sense. When he doesn’t have time to overthink his options, though, he’s capable of absolute brilliance. It’s clear that he’s got into his own head at the moment and isn’t doing attacking things naturally. I was hoping that his goal against Leipzig might lead to a change on that front, but he missed at least two massive chances last night that suggests he’s still struggling. Even the pass that he made to Diogo Jota for his goal wasn’t hit cleanly, so I’m not sure that getting that assist will help him turn a corner. We’ve got three weeks without a game now, so hopefully Jürgen Klopp and his team can get Mané back playing the instinctive football that makes him such a brilliant player. It could be a difference maker to our season if they can.

Jota Is Back In The Swing Of Things

Against RB Leipzig, Diogo Jota was getting into all of the right places but lacked the fitness and rhythm to give him a decent first-touch or pass. He looked a little bit better against Wolves and is perhaps one of the main players who will suffer the most from the upcoming international break. His goal against his former club was something of a return to the norm for him, with the Spaniard hitting the shot earlier that Patricio might have been expecting and that allowed the ball to sneak into the near post. It went in in a manner that had me cursing a miss, only realising it was a goal when the commentators said as much. I was convinced that it had gone wide, proving that it’s not just the Video Assistant Referee that can delay you celebrating a goal. His return to the starting line-up could have come at the perfect time, especially with the rest of the team starting to get its shape back.

The ability to not have to rely on the triumvirate of Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino might well prove to be crucial as we head into the final stages of the campaign, given the way in which teams seem to have essentially figured out how to nullify their threat. Now there’s something different for opposition managers to think about and defenders to worry about, which might see us reclaim the initiative. The manager is someone who is always looking to learn and improve, so I imagine that he’ll look back and question why he played the forward in a dead rubber Champions League match that saw him pick up an injury, just as he’ll question whether he should have put Fabinho back in the midfield sooner than he did. They’re questions that he’ll consider in the coming weeks and months as he looks to get Liverpool back on track, but for now he’ll just be glad that he can turn to Jota once again, especially with Mané looking so out of sorts.

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