Saturday 21 April 2018

Ronnie Whelan: Why Sadio Mane, and not Coutinho, is Liverpool's main man

Liverpool's Sadio Mane celebrates scoring against Arsenal
Liverpool's Sadio Mane celebrates scoring against Arsenal
Ronnie Whelan

Ronnie Whelan

When the transfer window closes, it would be great to see Philippe Coutinho still at Anfield, with a couple of major signings added to the squad by Jurgen Klopp as well.

If the money is there, go after players who will hit the ground running and add depth and quality. I said a few weeks back that I wouldn’t mind selling Coutinho if it meant Klopp’s task of bringing in quality was made easier and nothing I’ve seen since has made me change tack on that.

Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firminio look like the most dangerous attacking trio in the Premier League and Coutinho has not been missed.

All last week, the debate was about Liverpool’s transfer business and we’re none the wiser now about what may or may not happen in the next few days.

Klopp left everything in the air when he was asked about Coutinho after Sunday's demolition of Arsenal so all we can do is hope for the best and trust that when the dust settles, we have the right outcome.

What is now crystal clear, and never more so than against the Gunners, is that Sadio Mane is the best player at Anfield and not Coutinho.

I fully agree with Jamie Carragher’s comment that Barcelona should be chasing Mane and not the Brazilian. His pace is ferocious and no team will rest easy when they are up against him.

He also did his bit defensively against Arsenal as did Mo Salah which helped give Klopp another clean sheet but it should be said that Loris Karius was the biggest threat to the Liverpool goal line and not Arsenal.

Klopp must resolve his problem with goalkeepers. All told, however, this was a top quality performance across the board and I feel that Klopp is beginning to see his players follow his instructions with more thought and concentration than before.

Last season, players ran around like unguided missiles showing plenty of energy and enthusiasm but a poor grasp of defensive realities and I was inclined to blame Klopp for not getting his message across.

But to see Emre Can, Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson passing crisply among themselves and waiting for the right moment to spring Mane or Salah gave us more than a glimpse of an older Liverpool when good players made football simple.

Liverpool’s second goal was a great example. It took just four passes from back to front and a wonderful finish from Mane capped the move beautifully.

It wasn’t the only time they shredded a pitiful Arsenal team and this could be a very big week indeed in the life of the famous London club. Wenger looked shell-shocked, as he has done many times in the past but this time he had no defence at all for what we saw from several players who have clearly stopped playing.

Those that want to play for the shirt have no idea what they should be doing and those that do not won’t be happy until they are out of the club.

Wenger’s time is up and if we’re honest, it was up at the end of last season. The Gunners will pay a heavy price for not biting the bullet.

I think the club owners will have to act and perhaps very quickly indeed.

Arsenal are 16th in the table and isolated from the leading teams, who have already emerged in terms of the title race.

Jose Mourinho is managing a very confident group of players at Old Trafford and every win seems them grow. He has goals coming from all angles and all three strikers, Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have their scoring boots on.

Chelsea are very much back on track after a crazy opening game and although Antonio Conte is anything but happy with his squad, they will be hunting for a another title at the end of the season. Manchester City had to go to the wire to get three points at Bournemouth and I’m not sure they would have done that last season.

That’s the main reason they are title favourites.

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