Liverpool are widely expected to sign another forward at the end of the current season – whenever that is – and a few names crop up more regularly than others.
The trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have been a key part of the Reds´ ability to challenge for honours over the last two years, but they need support.
Jurgen Klopp also needs the freedom to rotate at times, with the knowledge that whoever comes in will be of the same standing on a technical level and ready to perform from a mental standpoint, too.
Until now, the rotating cast of Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and, most recently, Takumi Minamino have all stepped into the void as and when required.
But there remains the suggestion that the Reds will go big this summer—or whenever the transfer window is open—to add a stellar fourth name to the attacking line.
While Firmino is the player most see as the tactical enabler of the side, and Salah is the most regular goalscorer, it’s Mane who many point to as being key in terms of his crucial contributions in open play and in front of goal.
Part of that stems from Mane’s ability to dribble the ball, beat players or quickly exploit space in possession, using his unique combination of game intelligence and elite technique.
And now one particular statistic highlighted by Opta perhaps shows up not just Mane’s importance in certain situations, but also why two players in particular have been regularly linked with the Reds: Timo Werner and Jadon Sancho.
The Bundesliga-based duo are, in fact, the only two players at the top of the game who have been involved in more goals than our No. 10 directly after making gains with the ball at their feet:
13 – Most goal involvements in Europe's top five leagues this season directly following ball carries (travelling 5+ metres with the ball):
13 | Timo Werner
10 | Jadon Sancho
9 | Riyad Mahrez
9 | Sadio Mané
9 | Lionel Messi
9 | Kylian Mbappé
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 18, 2020
The goal involvements will be combined goals and assists, and though there’s no specific breakdown of the number of each, it doesn’t really matter: the players listed all have the ability to drive forward, then pick the right option at the end of the run.
Those movements create panic in the defence, force at least one to break ranks and step out to challenge the runner—leaving a gap for Mane (or Sancho, or Werner) shoot through or pick out a runner.
Journalists’ reports as to the level of the Reds’ interest in either player—and another name on the list, Kylian Mbappe, for that matter—have varied over time, but there seems little doubt that they are at least on the shortlist and could be the ones Klopp and Michael Edwards opt for in the end.
Adding in Sancho’s appearance on the list of secondary assists involving Trent Alexander-Arnold recently, and it’s clear why the Premier League champions-in-waiting are monitoring these enormously effective players.
Expectation is high that the Reds will make a move or two in the market in the off-season after a quiet summer last year; with the recent track record that the club has in getting their big picks right, it’s exciting to see the evidence pile up as to why the rumoured targets would be another perfect addition.