You’re probably wondering if you read the title correctly. Right?
For a moment, it seems ironic anyone would think Liverpool for any reason would lose out on being title challengers.
Firstly, they remain the only perfect side with four wins out of four so far.
They only just set a new club record with 13 consecutive wins on the bounce which is quite remarkable.
To cap it off, they comfortably sit two points clear of champions City going into the international break.
So how does talk of a faltering challenge apply to Klopp’s men? We’ll get to that shortly.
For Liverpool and their players, being champions of Europe is not enough. Their hunger for more success – the Premier League crown, the FIFA Club World Cup, another European title – was clear shortly before the final whistle concluded their 3-0 win at Burnley.
In the 85th minute manager Jurgen Klopp substituted Sadio Mane. The Senegal forward was not content to walk off and acknowledge the applause of Liverpool’s travelling fans. Quite the reverse.
Instead Mane gestured angrily to the bench, to the pitch and continued complaining as he sat down with the other substitutes.
It was not clear whether his anger was directed at his manager for the substitution or at team-mate Mohamed Salah who had not passed him the ball in a goalscoring position minutes earlier.
Either way, Mane’s refusal to be satisfied with another job well done spoke volumes about Liverpool’s continuing drive to improve – according to Jurgen Klopp.
Klopp was content to see Mane’s passion.
He said: “It’s good, isn’t it? He was upset, it was obvious. Sadio cannot hide his emotions, I like that. But all sorted. We spoke about it and everything is fine. We are individuals, we are emotional. It was a situation in a game. What else could have happened? It was not a phone call.”
Klopp can downplay the situation how he wants but it’s indeed a serious one that could seriously threaten Liverpool’s chances should it further deteriorate.
You simply don’t react like Mane did after his substitution if there isn’t at least a vague dissent piling up underneath.
For Mane, it’s understandable that he might see Salah as the “villain” in his Liverpool story. For all of his hard work, Salah seems to get most of the recognition and plaudits.
Imagine being Mane and in a season where you finally do well to win the golden boot – Salah is in the picture again and they both had to share alongside Arsenal’s Aubameyang.
To make things even more painful for the Senegalese, they are also contenders on the international scene and the presence of Salah means Mane has a slim chance of winning the African player of the year award cause the Egyptian is in the way yet again.
You would assume Mane would have thought on many occasions, “I do as much as or even better than Mo does and yet I don’t get half the recognition he does”.
Then at the back of that thought, Salah then chooses to be selfish still? Anyone would fume as well.
Let’s put that into context a bit.
Mane is the joint top scorer(alongside Aguero) for top-flight calendar goals for 2019 (15).
In Liverpool’s last 32 games, Mane has scored 21 goals, Salah has put away 14 and Firmino nine.
It simply tells you how much of an influence he is to the Liverpool side and unfortunately, he doesn’t grab the headlines like a Salah or a Van Dijk would do.
Put into further context, Mane made an average of 32.9 passes per game with a 78.2% accuracy last season while Salah could only manage 28.8 passes with a 75.9% pass accuracy.
That shows how Mane is more of a team-oriented player than Salah is. And perhaps, that “insatiable” greed for goal is what leaves Salah with 74 Liverpool goals since he joined in 2017 compared to Mane who only has 46 since his arrival in 2016.
Who knows how many more Mane could have bagged if his drive for goal and glory tallied to that of Salah?
Then there’s this – Liverpool are now unbeaten in their last 33 Premier League games when their No.10(Mane) has scored, winning 29 of those matches. That dates all the way back to the 4-3 defeat at Bournemouth in December 2016!
If all Liverpool players paid attention to the above stat, maybe they’ll always want to make sure Mane scores at least one goal in all their games. Goodluck charm he is.
Now perhaps the most eye-opening statistic is the rate at which Liverpool’s deadly trio create chances for each other.
Take a look at how many chances Mane creates for Salah and compare it to how many Salah does for Mane and you can understand why the latter will get angry at a point.
Firmino who completes their trio also gives more chances to Salah than Mane – making the latter feel something like the odd one out.
The summary is that Salah likes the “glory” and the fame.
Mane, on the other hand, just wants to get the job done regardless of whoever.
In spite of differences in both player’s attitudes, they remain a formidable team and Liverpool’s two most influential players. Klopp would be sweating on making sure that remains the same.
Last season, Liverpool had a total of 89 Premier League goals and in that total Salah and Mane alone had a whooping 44 goals between them.
Meaning 49% of Liverpool’s goals came from both players alone and if you take that away from the team – of course Guardiola might literally win the League by December.
The international break couldn’t have come at a better time and Klopp would be hoping it was just “passion” as he described and not the start of a brewing hatred on the pitch.
On many occasions, we have seen Salah go his own way when a compelling pass or number of options are available to him. It is a ‘greed is good’ ethos that has seen him accumulate 74 goals in what is still a relatively short Liverpool career so far.
Salah walks a fine line between selfishness and self-confidence that must upon occasion irritate those that surround him.
Mane’s outburst has its positives though.
That a player cares so much, in a game that is already comfortably won, is a wonderful thing.
It speaks of a magical single-mindedness and insatiability for more goals and bigger wins, that there is no willingness to take the foot off the accelerator.
Klopp would be hoping both players sort themselves out quickly or he could see himself managing the most difficult crisis of his Liverpool career.