Similarities have been drawn between the signings of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, both in the region of £35-40m, possessing blistering pace and lethal finishing – Liverpool have almost identical assets on each wing. This got me thinking, with both players having an almost immediate impact, who has made the greater splash on Merseyside in their opening games?
In this article, I’ll be measuring their influence over three factors: Results and League Position, Goal Contributions, and Style of Play. Note that I will be excluding Champions league performances in order to make this a fair comparison, as Liverpool failed to make it for the 2016/17 season.
Results and League Position
Starting with Sadio Mane last season, Liverpool found themselves top of the Premier League for the first time since April 2014. With convincing wins over Leicester, Hull City and Watford. Scoring 30 times in just 12 games securing 27 points – Liverpool’s strikeforce was certainly bolstered by the introduction of Sadio Mane. Liverpool’s attacking line clicked instantly, but defence remained an issue as a 2-0 loss to Burnley followed a dramatic opening day triumph over Arsenal.
Currently this season, Liverpool reside in 5th with 22 points, slacking behind the blistering start to last season. A recurring theme has appeared as the backline continues to let down Jurgen Klopp’s side. Draws against lesser lights Watford, Burnley and Newcastle have seen Liverpool fail to keep pace with the top of the table.
However, the real issue lies in significant losses to Manchester City and Spurs, where the Reds conceded nine goals combined. City’s dominance is something everyone has struggled to contest with, but the 5-0 loss is a huge warning sign within this season.
Winner: Sadio Mane, his contribution to a ruthless start to 2016/17 takes this round.
Mane’s £35m price tag was widely viewed as extortionate but it wouldn’t take long for Mane to prove the doubters wrong. A ridiculous solo debut goal against Arsenal in a 3-4 opening day win stole the headlines, while a brace against Watford only cemented the verdict that Liverpool had pulled off a shrewd bit of business.
With the Egyptian netting twice against Southampton on Saturday in a comprehensive 3-0 win, Mo Salah secured back to back braces. Finding the back of the net for an incredible ninth time (reminder, we’re still in November) in the Premier League this season, Salah emerged as the Premier League’s leading scorer. Add to that three assists, Salah’s contribution to the attack makes you think he’s been a Liverpool player for years; not months.
While it may be unfair to include, as he has played more games than Mane had at this point, his 15 strikes in all competitions are hard to ignore. That’s already defeated Coutinho’s tally of 14 last season, as the Brazilian nabbed the award for Liverpool’s best player and top scorer.
Sadio Mane, 6 Goals, 4 Assists – Mo Salah, 9 Goals, 3 Assists
Winner: Mo Salah, emerging as the Premier League and Liverpool’s leading scorer, this round was never in question.
Style of Play
A tricky one to decide, both players have had huge impacts on Liverpool’s style of play and how Klopp is looking to forge a menacing counter-attacking outfit. Both players have injected pace and lethality into the side – possessing almost identical attributes, it will be difficult to split the two in this department.
First of all, Mane’s arrival last summer was pivotal in adding pace to a side that significantly lacked it. Previous to Mane, the Reds fastest player was Alberto Moreno at left-back, with the front line consisting of Roberto Firmino, Cristian Benteke, Jordan Ibe and Philippe Coutinho. Klopp had arrived towards the end of October in the 2015-16 and Mane was one of the signings that allowed him to transform Brendan Rodgers side into his own.
However, the addition of Salah this summer only furthered Klopp’s ultimate end goal for this side – an interchanging attacking force that is able to dismantle even the most organised defences. Salah’s introduction almost duplicated the effect of Mane, with the latter often marked out of games midway through last season. Salah has added another focal point to the attack and an even harder threat for defences to deal with.
Winner: Mo Salah, replicating the “Mane effect”, the Egyptian has made it even harder for defences to contain Liverpool’s front three.
It was a hard one to decide but we must bow down to the King of Egypt… Mo Salah 2-1 Sadio Mane