Jurgen Klopp has explained a slight formation change that is aimed to maximise the influence of Sadio Mane, along with both Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah.
The Reds have begun the season in excellent form, with Mane, Firmino and Salah contributing four goals and three assists between them in two games.
A comfortable 4-0 victory over West Ham and a hard-fought 2-0 win at Crystal Palace showcased two sides to their game, with Mane at the forefront of both results.
Top scorer, with three, the Senegalese has been widely tipped to be Liverpool’s most influential player this season—particularly following the failure to sign Nabil Fekir.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s clash with Brighton, Klopp hailed Mane’s bright start, and alluded to a change in system that has seen the importance of his on- and off-ball work magnified:
“Sadio did start pretty well last year. He was in fantastic shape then came the City game and an unlucky situation. That was not good.
“I think he had an injury then as well, a little one. Now he’s much more secure that this is his level.
“The players surprise themselves sometimes. ‘Wow, really? That’s how good I am?’ We all need to show our best and get used to it.
“Sadio is a very consistent player for us. His work rate is great.
“We have a very strange 4-5-1 formation with Sadio as a midfielder, Bobby being a midfielder more or less and Mo being a striker, even though he plays in a little different position.
“We talk about the defensive work rate they put in and that’s really important.”
Mane’s strong early season form comes, remarkably, off the back of disappointment at the World Cup, with Senegal eliminated in the group stage despite his impressive displays.
After his spell in Russia, the 26-year-old took an extended break, returning in time for Liverpool’s pre-season tour of the United States.
Klopp attested to his ability to hit the ground running, and insisted consistency will be key for the Reds and their on-fire front three.
“Pre-season was not the longest [for Mane], three weeks after three weeks of holiday,” he continued.
“I think the first game he and Mo played was City, right? That was after three or four days training.
“It’s quality. We have to make sure we can show that every week.
“Who scores the goals is not too important but it was very important for us and very nice for Sadio that he could do it.”
Mane has so far averaged the fourth most successful tackles (2.1), the second-most key passes (2.6) and the second-most successful dribbles (2.6) per 90 minutes for Liverpool this season.