Since Sadio Mané arrived in Liverpool three years ago, he has been raising his performance significantly. In this season in the Premier League, he has only missed three games and has reached a superb level becoming one of the most important players for the Reds.
In this scout report, we are going to do a deep tactical analysis of Mané’s performance in the 2019/20 season where we have seen the best of the Senegal international. We will also do an analysis in the roles of this player in all the phases of the game and how his athleticism and off the ball movements make him fit perfectly in Jürgen Klopp’s tactics.
After his period at Southampton where he played in the right flank, the Senegalese has returned to the left-wing, position he favoured in the Austrian Bundesliga when playing for RB Salzburg. His positioning in the left-wing does not restrict him only to the wide channel, albeit he would find the best position to create space. This is depicted in the next heat map, where we can see that he takes any position in the left half of the field, from the wide channel to the central area.
Most of the time Mané acts as a second striker, positioning himself between the left half-space and the central area, committing the opponent’s full-back to a narrower position. This would create space in the left flank to be exploited by his side-flank partner Andrew Robertson. In the next picture, we can see himself tucking in the half-space in the game against Wolverhampton pinning the right full-back and leaving space in the wide channel.
Inside the box, is where the Senegalese become a threat for opponents; he ranks in the top 10 for touches in the penalty area, averaging 5.57 touches per 90 minutes. When the Reds progress the ball to the final third, he will have the freedom to take any position in the penalty area, becoming unpredictable. Mané’s spatial awareness and off the ball movement would support his runs in behind the rival’s defensive line to create scoring chances. In the next shot, we can see him getting closer to the right flank to collect the ball inside the box, exchanging positions with Roberto Firmino.
Mané has become one of the most important players in this team commanded by the German coach. This is supported by his participation in 20 goals in the Premier League only outperformed by the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and James Vardy. Scoring 14 goals, above the 11.27 expected goals and 6 assists again performing better than the expected tally in this case with 4.6xA.
His speed is astonishing as he uses his power in the first steps to burst out in pace, accelerating and leaving rivals behind. His athleticism combined with his spatial awareness allow him to run in behind the defensive line at the right moment, speed, direction, and position. In the next picture, we can see Mané’s off the ball movement, anticipating the long ball from Virgil van Dijk and sprinting in the right moment to be onside, collecting the ball in a perfect position towards the goal.
Mané excels in the art of dribbling, using all kinds of fakes and tricks to get rid of rivals even without having much space. He outperforms his counterpart Mohamed Salah in offensive duels with both averaging 11.5 offensive duels per game, but the left-winger has a better success rate of 39.93% vs 35.97% for the Egyptian. This can be shown in the next picture – having the Bournemouth’s midfielder close to him, he faked an outside movement, and once the defender has committed his body, he gently uses an out-foot touch to turn inside. What can also be depicted from this shot is his capacity to read the play under pressure, after getting past the defender he already knew what the play was asking for and connected with Georginio Wijnaldum, beating another opponent with his pass.
As mentioned earlier, he also gets involved in the Reds’ goals as an assister, positioned fourth in the assist charts in the Premier League with seven assists. He can easily run with the ball with his head lifted looking for other options in front of him. We can see Mané in the next picture while running with the ball he lifts his head to see Divock Origi running in behind the defence. He placed a clinical curved pass assisting the forward, completing the first of the two assists he laid on in the game against Everton.
His athletic traits make him ruthless in the offensive transitions, becoming instrumental in Klopp’s tactics when counter-attacking. The Senegalese international’s speed makes him perfect for this phase of the game, exploiting rivals mistakes when they are not well-prepared for a defensive transition. In the next shot, we can see the second goal scored by the Reds in the game against Bournemouth; Mané exploited the space behind the defensive line, scoring in the offensive transition.
Under Klopp’s philosophy, defending and recovering the ball is a duty undertaken by all the players. High pressing is one of the weapons used by the Reds to suffocate their opponents and prevent their build-up. Mané will jump in at the exact moment into the central defenders when the ball is played to them using his speed and anticipation to provoke a mistake. In the next shot, we can see him being ready to attack the right centre-back as soon as the pass is released forcing a long ball.
He does not account for a huge amount of recoveries in the final third just averaging 1.71 recoveries in that zone per game. Albeit, once the ball is recovered high in the pitch, he becomes ruthless, so rivals play with a mental awareness of the threat to try to build-up from the back. A Klopp player analysis would not be complete without analyzing his counter-pressing role, and Mané’s acceleration favours this style of playing when losing the ball. Under the German’s “gegenpressing” system, Mané has improved his reactions and combined it with his athleticism. He can accelerate in a fraction of second for counter-pressing and recovering the ball. This is shown in the next picture, where after losing the ball, even though being behind the rival, he quickly shifted into a defensive attitude accelerating to regain possession.
There are some aspects of his game that could be improved to become even more ruthless in the final third. One weak point is his shooting skills from out of the box, as aforementioned Mané is much more an inside box striker, just averaging 2.32 shots in a game, less compare to his counterpart Salah who averages 3.57 shots per game. If we also check the following shots graph, we can see that most of his shots come from inside of the box, only scoring twice from just out of the box. If we exclude the penalty arc too, he has not scored from out of these two areas only having ten shots with only four of them being on target.
One more criticism that this player receives is the overuse of his skilling ability, this is a weakness that most of this kind of player tends to fall-on abusing on their one-v-one ability. He could skill more than once a rival that has already been beaten or tend to engage in a duel when the odds go against him. This can be depicted in the game against Everton in which instead of simply shooting into the goal he decided to try a skill move to get past the goalkeeper, but it was well-read by the goalie.
We have gone through a complete analysis of Sadio Mane and how his acceleration to burst out in pace supports his suitability to Klopp’s tactics in all the phases of the game. Increasing his shooting capabilities from outside the box would transform this player into one of the best forwards of the world.
His involvement in the Reds goals as assister and scorer is what has placed this player as one of the most important players of the team even ahead of Salah in this season. With his athleticism and skill to read the game, he has become a great player inside the box being ruthless in the attacking area and a menace for those who try to stop him.