Sadio Mane is already off to a flying start at Bayern Munich, and he’s left behind a bit of a void at Liverpool. Of course, Jurgen Klopp’s side still has plenty of firepower left in the ranks with Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota, and Roberto Firmino — but it’s Luis Diaz that Klopp is counting on to step up and replicate Mane’s scoring rate.
After joining Liverpool from FC Porto in last year’s winter transfer window, Diaz adapted to life in the Premier League much quicker than even Liverpool fans had anticipated. He wound up tallying eight goals and four assists from a total of 30 appearances across all competitions after joining from Porto and quickly became a key player in Liverpool’s pursuit of what could've been a truly historic quadruple. In the end, they wound up securing the domestic double of the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, both of which came by virtue of defeating Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea on penalties.
Most recently, he spared Liverpool’s blushes with a sensational solo effort goal to draw level with Crystal Palace at 1-1 after new man Darwin Nunez had been sent off with a straight red for a headbutt on Palace’s Joachim Andersen.
However, Liverpool’s start to their season — a draw each against Fulham and Crystal Palace — pales in comparison to Bayern’s three wins on the trot against RB Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt, and VfL Wolfsburg. Sadio Mane has scored two goals already and seen a further three ruled out for offside.
Still, Klopp is still confident Liverpool’s system will yield Mane-like numbers for Diaz eventually — even though they are two somewhat different profiles of player.
“It’s the way we play. It’s the way we bring the boys into the situation,” he explained (90mins). “Of course it is about whether it is in you or not, but it’s the way we play, how we position the players, how we protect the players, where we win the balls back and how the boys can use their speed in these moments. They will be in a lot of goal-scoring situations and that then makes you the player we remember.”
Klopp also recalled managing Liverpool against Mane while the latter was still at Southampton. “Sadio scored three against us [over two games] when he played for Southampton but it is not that he scored every week,” he said. “He didn’t even start the game when he scored two against us. The consistency came with confidence, with the team-mates and with the structure of our game. That is what we are working on.”
Consistency — the key to growth and evolution at Merseyside.
Tactically, Klopp is adamant that the systems he like to implement, which usually feature a 4-3-3 formation, sets up the attacking line well to be very productive in front of goal. Diaz, he feels, will be one of the beneficiaries once he starts to find his scoring rhythm even more.
“The way we play should help strikers, the way we play should help the last line of defenders because everyone is involved. That is also a little bit why midfielders are seen as not scoring enough, because they are involved in keeping everything together. The potential is there.”
Despite not getting anywhere near as many goals as Mane did, even in just the second part of last season, Klopp feels that Diaz had been getting into the right situations. If that continues, the finishing will naturally improve the more he continues to get into dangerous situations. “You see the situations he [Diaz] had — big chances and he was just unlucky. He is in really good shape and that is more important. It’s not that I tell him after a game, ‘You should have scored here or there.’ The boys know that in the moment. It happens. It’s a normal process,” Klopp said.
When he was asked whether or not he was confident Diaz can score 10-15 goals this season, Klopp had no doubts. “Ten to 15 goals? Oh definitely, that is his quality. We need to see, but that is his potential. He just needs one goal and then we will go from there,” he said. While he hasn’t directly said it, Julian Nagelsmann most likely also has faith that Mane can put up those kind of numbers, if not higher at Bayern.
Will Sadio Mane score 15-20 goals for Bayern this season?
This poll is closed
More like 10-15
More than 20