Tag Archives: Sadio Mane

Liverpool have a Sadio Mane dilemma

Liverpool continued their brilliant start to the season thanks to a 4-0 win over Arsenal at the weekend, with Sadio Mane once again on the scoresheet for the Reds.

It was the winger’s 106th goal in 234 appearances for the club, as he currently takes part in a sixth season with the club since his £30million move from Southampton back in 2016.

But as the Senegalese star enters the final 18 months of his contract, Liverpool are suddenly in a dilemma with one of the key members of their attacking unit.



Since the arrival of Jurgen Klopp at Anfield, only Mohammed Salah has scored more goals for the club than Mane.

His pace, agility, directness, skill, physicality and technique have set him apart as one of the very best wingers in the Premier League and Europe but now at the age of 29 there is a decision to make for both player and club.

Mane is entering the final 18 months of his contract at the club, just like Salah is. Discussions over a new contract are yet to begin and with the club reportedly keen to re-sign Salah too there may be no space for them to sign both.

Reports suggest that the Egyptian wants a big pay-rise and with his importance to the side completely unquestionable, that could affect the budget in a big way.

Mane is unlikely to want to be second fiddle forever, and rightly so. At any other club in the world he would likely be the main man in the attack, with the ability to score 20+ goals per season and assist a huge amount too.

His ability to go in both directions and use both feet, while also being an aerial threat despite his diminutive stature, makes him an absolute nightmare for defenders.

At 29, Mane will be signing the last long-term contract of his career whether it is at Liverpool or not. He’ll want the one last big payday, like anyone else would, while also wanting some sort of assurances of being a key member of the team.

While Liverpool would no doubt be keen to sign Mane to fresh terms, but are they likely to give him the pay-rise and long-term deal he would crave considering everything else happening at the club? Probably not.

So the decision becomes whether they let him run his contract down and lose him for free, or sell him in the summer.

Sadio Mane of Liverpool celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 2-0 during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Liverpool FC and...

Should they choose to sell him, they won’t be short of suitors. Barcelona and Real Madrid have been linked to him in the past, while Paris Saint-Germain could potentially be looking to replace Kylian Mbappe in the summer too.

But if they let him go, they will be strengthening a European rival with one of the best players in the world.

The most likely outcome is that they find an agreement to extend his stay for an extra two or three years with a pay-rise that isn’t quite what Mane wanted, but enough to convince him to sign on.

But the club are running out of time to make it all happen, and the longer they wait the more likely an exit becomes.

Liverpool falter once again in race for top four with draw against Leeds

Liverpool blew a lead late on once again as they drew with Leeds United at Elland Road to stutter in the race for the top four once again.

The Reds started pretty well and took the lead in the first half after a wonderful reverse pass from Diogo Jota found Trent Alexander-Arnold, who reached the ball ahead of Leeds ‘keeper Illan Meslier to squad for Sadio Mane to score his first Premier League goal since January.

Leeds battled back in the second half as Patrick Bamford hit the crossbar and Allison Becker saved from Tyler Roberts, only for Diego Llorente to head home his first goal for the club just four minutes from time.

The result means Liverpool missed the chance to move back into the top four for the first time since February after West Ham’s defeat away at Newcastle earlier in the weekend.

It was a performance that was rather indicative of the season Liverpool have had so far. The team weren’t particularly poor but they weren’t particularly good and while they had chances to win the game themselves, they also could very easily have lost it.

Alexander-Arnold’s form continued to improve with an assist, while Fabinho moved back into centre-back and played well. Allison made some big saves during the game too, while Jota looked dangerous throughout.

Mohammed Salah started the game on the bench and was rather ineffective when coming on and Liverpool just couldn’t really get going as Leeds’ pressing game took over in the second half, leaving Jurgen Klopp’s side with less than 40% possession for the game.

Liverpool now sit two points behind West Ham in sixth place, having played a game more than fifth placed Chelsea. That means with six games to go they will need a big turn in their fortunes to secure Champions League qualification ahead of next season.

With talks over the European Super League putting the entire process into doubt, Klopp will want to ensure his side are involved no matter what happens next season and top four is essential to that.

He will need to make his squad stronger in the summer to get back on a title charge after such an abysmal season this year, with several players likely to leave in the summer to start up a new era at Anfield.

As the season begins to draw to an end, Liverpool must find some form of consistency or risk falling away and finding the gap between themselves and the rest of the top six getting larger and larger, making their job harder and harder.

Liverpool problems deeper than just injuries

The word crisis is thrown around far too much in football these days, but Liverpool are well and truly in trouble right now.

The defending Premier League champions currently sit in eighth place in the league with just 43 points from 28 games so far this season, making them statistically the worst defending champions of all-time at this point.

All eyes seem to point to their injury problems as a big reason for their huge drop off, but that seems like a really easy way out to cover up other issues. There is much more wrong with this team than simply fitness worries.

Lets be clear though, injuries are a factor. Any club that was without their three best defenders for the vast majority of the season would suffer, but some of the problems that have stemmed from that are of their own making.

Despite having youngster Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams available for much of the campaign, Jurgen Klopp instead opted to play captain and influential midfielder Jordan Henderson in defence. That led to him getting a muscle injury that has prematurely ended his season and meant the midfield has been bereft of it’s usual leadership and quality.

Thiago Alcantara has struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League, while Gini Wijnaldum has failed to adapt to a more defensive role. Curtis Jones has been the best performer in the midfield position but to rely on him to lead the team forward is an ask too far for the youngster.

Liverpool v Fulham - Premier League : News Photo

In attack, they have been found out. Mo Salah is the Premier League top goalscorer with 17 goals so far, but he’s scored those goals in only 12 games during the campaign despite making 27 appearances. Sadio Mane is having arguably his worst season in England since coming from the Austrian Bundesliga back in 2014. While Roberto Firmino has been falling lower and lower in the rankings of striker across Europe for a long period of time.

The full-backs, while still full of quality, have been poor this season for the most part. Defensively they’ve struggled massively and going forward where they usually shine more than anything else they’ve failed to deliver.

That hasn’t stopped Klopp from keeping a system in place that clearly isn’t working anymore, with Robertson and Alexander-Arnold still the main creators. The lack of form of the team as a whole isn’t a shock when you consider their drop off too and Klopp’s decision not to alter the team’s setup is pretty shocking.

The team are crying out for a new setup to help get the best out of the players they have available and in-form. Klopp must adapt and change if they are to have any sort of chance of rescuing the campaign. Top four looks like it could be in genuine doubt, meaning that the best chance of Champions League football next season will be through winning the tournament for a second time in three years.

They’re currently leading 2-0 against RB Leipzig in the last 16 of the competition but if they are to progress to the next round, their form will without a doubt make them a team that many teams will be willing to be drawn against.

Players look unhappy, the coach looks drained and the performance of the team is at an all-time low following six consecutive defeats at Anfield. This goes deeper than injuries and that needs to be spoken of, despite the successes of the squad in recent years.

My Perfect Footballer #3 – Klopp’s Liverpool Edition

Words by @BubbIxs

Over the past three years we’ve witnessed the best Liverpool team in generations. They accumulated 197 points in two seasons whilst picking up four trophies, including a Premier League title, Champions League title and a FIFA Club World Cup, the first in the club’s history. 

There is no doubt that this squad of players have excelled all over the pitch, but would it be possible to build the perfect player by trying to merge attributes from Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool players, with the only rule being you can’t use a player more than once? Lets give it a try… 


Brain
Fabinho 

Whilst firmly cementing himself at the heart of Liverpool’s midfield during the 18/19 campaign, Fabinho dominated in holding midfield sweeping up after those in front him. Virgil van Dijk once described him as Inspector Gadget because, “his legs are everywhere.” His ability to read the game is second to none, proven by his emphatic performances at centre back for the champions so far this season in the absence of van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, not to mention his appearances at right-back for the Brazilian national team as well. Definitely an underrated element of Liverpool’s recent success. 

Heading Ability
Virgil van Dijk 

It was pretty hard to think of anyone else for this attribute. Virgil is almost the most perfect player himself and so could fill a lot of these attributes to come on his own. He adds a calmness in your own box when dealing with set pieces and adds a threat in the opposition’s.

This was most clear in his Liverpool debut in the Merseyside derby, where he added a sense of security to the back line and went on to score the winner at the Kop end. His leap, strength and dominance in the air will be perfect for our perfect player. 

Physique
James Milner 

When you’re 35-years-old and still winning the long-distance runs within the squad, it’s made the decision easy. I’ve gone with James Milner. A model professional, always working hard to keep his physical condition in tip-top shape to still compete at this level.

To maintain the career he has from 16 years-old to now is something quite impressive and this may not have been the most obvious shout for this attribute but if our perfect player can stay at the peak of his physicality for 19 years (and counting) then there’s no doubt he’ll dominate the game. 

Hands
Alisson Becker
 

Well it’s fair to say there wasn’t much competition for this attribute, but nevertheless since joining the reds in the summer of 2018, Alisson has earned the status of one of the best goalkeepers with his hands but also his feet. An all-round solid goalkeeper who has come in clutch for Liverpool in so many key moments.

The “Goleiro Gato”, one of my personal highlights was when he collected more golden gloves than he had hands at the end of the Premier League and Champions League in 2019 and then with Brazil at the Copa America that same summer. 

Tackling
Roberto Firmino 

Having already awarded Fabinho with the “brain” attribute it was quite tough to think of who could fill this slot, and naturally of course I went straight to the remaining centre backs. But after a quick search I was surprised to find that Firmino had completed more tackles (275) than all of Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and even Virgil van Dijk in the Premier League.

One of the hardest working forwards in Europe, this attribute will be essential for my player, winning the ball back high up the pitch and in potentially dangerous areas. 

Agility
Sadio Mane
 

He can turn left, he can turn right, the fact of the matter is you never know! And neither do defenders, making him incredibly dangerous in the final third especially when bringing the ball into the box. Mane’s balance and agility will be key for our perfect player. 

Finishing
Mohamed Salah 

Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t. With two golden boots in 3 seasons and the record for amount of goals scored in a single Premier League season, there’s only one man this attribute can be awarded to.

With him recently also becoming Liverpool’s all-time top goalscorer in the Champions League, there’s no doubt in my mind that Salah is one of the best finishers in Liverpool’s history and this attribute will make our perfect player a match winner.

Passing
Thiago Alcantara
 

A new addition to the squad but a star nonetheless. A diamond in midfield who shared the pitch with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Xabi Alonso – and it shows! A truly blessed footballer who dictates the game from the middle of the park.

Speed
Joe Gomez
 

Having already allocated Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to different attributes I can’t also give them speed, so having said that I’ve gone with Joe Gomez. Gomez of course doesn’t venture forward in the same way the attackers do, in fact he’s never actually scored a goal, but going the other way he is rapid.

His recovery speed is ridiculous, and many players include him in the conversation when they’re asked who would win in a race. If you try to imagine his running ability going forward maybe it can be appreciated more, but I’m saying our perfect player has Joe Gomez’s speed! 

Dribbling
Naby Keita 

Maybe it goes quite under the radar just how press resistant Naby Keita actually is but when he’s on, he’s ON! One of the better ball carriers in Liverpool’s midfield and is great at breaking into the danger areas through the middle as an alternative to crossing into the box from the fullbacks. Our perfect player will have his dribbling, but definitely not his fitness problems!

Leadership
Jordan Henderson 

Filling the shoes of Steven Gerrard was never going to be an easy task for Jordan Henderson and it’s no secret that at times he’s struggled, but the turnaround to captain a side to winning the Champions League, after losing in the final the year before, and then winning the league, in an unprecedented way again after losing it the year before despite accumulating 97 points, only shows the signs of a phenomenal leader.

His teammates can’t speak highly enough of him and I always go back to the Champions League campaign of 2017/18, where Liverpool were in no way expected to reach the final but they did. A big part of that journey was down to Henderson. Particularly the home legs in the quarter-final and semi-final, Henderson never stopped running, set the intensity and led the press. A world class leader on and off the pitch. 

Crossing
Andrew Robertson 

It’s well known how crucial Liverpool’s flying fullbacks and their assists have been to their success, reaching the pinnacle of English and European football. I have given crossing to Robertson, but obviously, him and Trent have equally been a threat going forward. Robertson once shared that he looks for the “gap between the defenders and the goalkeeper,” knowing how tough that is to defend against himself.

His vision, paired with his technique but also his relentlessness to always being in a good position to whip the ball in, is what makes him the perfect crosser for our perfect player. 

Right foot
Trent Alexander-Arnold 

Trent Alexander-Arnold had to be in this list and I was happy to compromise and award Trent with the attribute of right foot. Trent is more than just a crosser. His passing ability in general is that of kid who grew up idolising midfielders like Gerrard and Alonso and being a midfielder himself all throughout youth football, his technical passing ability is superb. Scoring free-kicks on his right and striking a ball is not too difficult for him either so for that reason I’m giving our perfect player Trent’s right foot. 

Left foot
Xherdan Shaqiri 

Maybe quite a surprise shout given the high-profile status of a certain Egyptian’s left peg, but my word on his day does Shaqiri have a wonder of a left foot. With a collection of sensational strikes from long range throughout his career, Shaqiri’s left foot is no joke and he is technically one of the most gifted player at the club. With the whip and power he can generate our perfect player is going to be lethal. 


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Liverpool stutter to another draw as 2020 comes to an end

As the Premier League draws to a close for 2020, Liverpool have stuttered once again after being held to a 0-0 draw by Newcastle.

The champions travelled to St James’ Park looking to move five points clear at the top of the Premier League heading into 2021, but an strong performance from Karl Darlow in goal and a fatigued performance from Jurgen Klopp’s side led to a stalemate.

It means back-to-back draws for Liverpool after their 1-1 draw with West Brom at the weekend, following their 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace prior to that.

It means Liverpool have now failed to beat four of the bottom six sides, drawing with Brighton and Fulham as well as the two already mentioned.

Every time they seem to look likely to go on a big run, they seem to falter.

They started the season with three wins in a row against Leeds, Chelsea and Arsenal before being thumped by Aston Villa and drawing with Everton. They then beat Sheffield United and West Ham before drawing with Manchester City.

It seems to be a pattern that is forming, where they struggle to maintain the intensity for more than three games in a row. In fact, they haven’t won more than three league games in a row at any point this season.

Newcastle United v Liverpool - Premier League : News Photo

With just two wins in their last six games in all competitions, their lead at the top of the Premier League is currently at three points but second placed Manchester United have a game in hand currently.

Their primary tactic of bypassing the midfield by using their full-backs’ crossing ability and the high intensity attack of Mane, Salah and Firmino forcing errors and finishing clinically has struggled with the hectic schedule.

Obviously injuries won’t have helped throughout the season, but they’ve generally done well. They’re not in a crisis or anything of the sort, but throwing away points in games like these is something they haven’t done in several years under Klopp.

It may be time for the German coach to switch up his style slightly and take a page out of the book of Pep Guardiola’s Man City team.

The Catalan coach has slowed his team down and focused more on not conceding rather than pummelling sides, and while the lack of intensity has made them hard to watch it has been effective.

Klopp’s squad is strong and more than capable of playing their usual style through injuries, but with the schedule as crazy as it is a more reserved style may be needed for the quality to shine through.

My Perfect Footballer

I was born in 1993 which means I have been blessed enough to see to see some of the greatest footballers of recent memory, and even of all-time.

All of them have excelled in different areas that if you combined them together, would make the perfect footballer. But which players would have which attribute if you did merge them all together? Without using a single player for more than one attribute, lets build the perfect footballer from top to bottom.


Brain
Phillip Lahm

One of the most intelligent footballers I’ve ever seen, he was world class in three different positions during his career. Able to play in both full-back roles as well as central midfield, Lahm has one of the best football IQ’s ever seen.

Heading Ability
Sergio Ramos

It was between two but Ramos gets the nod due to the other player being picked elsewhere on this list. Ramos’ aerial ability is phenomenal in both boxes, with the central defender scoring over 100 goals during his career including a vital header the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid.

Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final : News Photo

Physique
Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Standing at 6ft 4′ and standing at the top of the European scene for the best part of two decades, Zlatan’s physique is paramount to his success. Still scoring goals at age 39 without a problem, his longevity makes him the perfect choice here.

Hands
Peter Schmeichel

If my player ever had to do a Kyle Walker and go in goal for whatever reason, then I’d want him to have the hands of the Great Dane. The greatest goalkeeper I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes, he has to get the pick here.

Tackling
Alessandro Nesta

For me, the best defender I’ve ever seen. A calmness on the ball that is more often associated with modern defenders, Nesta was the epitome of old school when it came to tackling. He mastered the art of defending and was one of the best when it came to nicking the ball back from an opponent.

Agility
Sadio Mane

This may seem like a strange pick on paper but I can’t think of many players more agile than the Senegal international. He can go both ways as comfortably as the other and incredibly quickly, making him a nightmare for defenders.

Passing
Xavi Hernandez

Quite simply the best passer of a football in his generation. He was the focal point of the greatest midfield we’ve ever seen in Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side and had a phenomenal range. Whether short, long, through the lines or one-touch to beat a press, he had it all.

First Touch
Zinedine Zidane

The first name that comes to mind when someone talks about a player’s first touch is Zidane and therefore he’s my pick. I’ll never forget my reaction when he took down Barthez’s long throw with a flick and beat a man all with a single touch. Genius.

Speed
Thierry Henry

I could have put this man in plenty of these categories but I opted for this one because of the way he used to glide across the pitch. In his peak he would outrun anyone even with the ball at his feet, as his famous Bernabeu goal proved.

Dribbling
Neymar

Flying past opponents with absolute ease I could easily have switched Neymar and Ronaldinho around here. His creativity, speed, agility, ability with both feet and skill in tight spaces make Neymar the obvious choice.

Skills
Ronaldinho

The man that truly made me fall in love with the game of football. The smile on his face while he was getting kicked to pieces tells you all you need to know. He showed me football is an art and the things he could do with a ball still to this day bring me to my feet. What a footballer.

Crossing
David Beckham

Well, duh. Without a doubt in my mind David Beckham is the greatest crosser of a ball that has ever played football. He could put the ball wherever he wanted, from anywhere on the pitch. Genuinely one of a kind.

Right Foot
Cristiano Ronaldo

It had to be. One of the greatest players of all time, I couldn’t not pick his greatest weapon that got him that accolade.

Left Foot
Lionel Messi

The best player of all-time, much like Ronaldo there was no other option. It’s essentially a magician’s wand and he can do absolutely anything he wants with it. The easiest pick on this list.

La Liga 2017-18 - Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona : News Photo

Champions League Group Stage Predictions – Liverpool

After reaching back-to-back Champions League finals, winning it in 2019, the six time European champions return to the premier club competition in football.

Liverpool come into this campaign following a record-breaking Premier League season which saw them lift the league title for the first time since 1990, but they suffered a disappointing European outing last year as they crashed out in the Round of 16 to Atletico Madrid, losing both home and away legs.

They’ve started the Premier League campaign in interesting fashion too, winning their first 3 games before being thumped 7-2 by Aston Villa and then drawing the Merseyside derby with Everton 2-2 this past weekend. They now turn their attentions to Europe, where they have a group with two dark horses that on their day can cause any team on the continent trouble.

My Best XI*: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Gomez, Robertson; Fabinho, Thiago, Henderson; Salah, Firmino, Mane (*not including Van Dijk)

Ajax, Atalanta and Midtjylland make up a considerable amount of threat for Liverpool to contend with and they will need to be near their best to contend with the obstacles that will be put in front of them during this tournament.

With news that Virgil Van Dijk will miss the rest of the season with a ruptured cruciate knee ligament injury, Liverpool must navigate a very attack minded group without their talisman and best defender. This could see them revert to their previous style under Klopp, in which they simply aimed to outgun their opponents in every game.

The addition of Thiago and Diogo Jota in the summer has strengthened them and added considerable depth and quality to their side and ultimately they should still have more than enough about them to progress from the group as group winners.

I spoke with Liverpool fan Fahi, from renowned Liverpool podcast Kop End Fracas from the Touchline Fracas group, about his thoughts on the group and his predictions on how Liverpool would fare this season.

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  1. Tottenham Pod – Saint Kuluchefski | New Spurs Order
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  3. Arsenal FC Pod – Give Saliba The Supermax! | Touchy Gooners
  4. Liverpool FC Pod – Biggie, Biggie … Heavy, Heavy | Kop End Fracas
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I think the group itself isn’t as easy as everyone has been making out, especially in the current circumstances. A lack of atmosphere and injuries to key players equals potential banana skins. The games come thick and fast, so don’t expect the typical Liverpool performances in Europe. We should have enough to get through the group, just expect a lot of goals conceded… especially against Atalanta!

Prediction: 12 points in total – 6 from Midtjylland, 3 from Atalanta and 3 from Ajax.

I have to agree largely with Fahi on this one. There are plenty of potential banana skins in this group, especially with Van Dijk unavailable. Ajax and Atalanta both playing attacking football and have the ability to score plenty of goals but they also leave themselves susceptible to counter attacks which is something the Liverpool attack will thrive on.

They start the campaign with a trip to Amsterdam and I think they should be able to get at least a draw there, while I think they will win all their games at Anfield. The away trip to Atalanta is their toughest fixture in the group in my opinion and they could suffer a defeat in that one, but I’d expect them to win every other game during the campaign to eventually sail through into the next round as group winners.


Fahi is a regular cast member of popular football podcast group Touchline Fracas and appears on the Liverpool podcast ‘Kop End Fracas’ every Wednesday night.

You can follow Touchline Fracas on Twitter:
@TouchlineFracas
You can follow ‘Kop End Fracas’ on Twitter:
@KopEndFracas
You can follow Fahi on Twitter:
@FeeFahiFoFum

Community Shield: Liverpool vs Arsenal – Match Preview

Less than a month after the end of the domestic season in England, the new season gets it’s curtain raiser as league champions Liverpool take on FA Cup winners Arsenal at Wembley on Saturday.

Arsenal won the FA Cup on August 1st thanks to a 2-1 win over Chelsea, where Mikel Arteta showed his coaching stripes by coming from behind to win the first silverware of his career. They’ll face a Liverpool side who dominated the Premier League last season and romped to a record-breaking first league title in 30 years with 7 games to spare.

Since the end of the season, Arsenal have seen their squad strengthened. The return of William Saliba from his loan at Saint-Etienne strengthens the defence while Cedric and Paulo Mari have made their loan deals permanent. They’ve also completed the free transfer signing of Brazilian winger Willian from rivals Chelsea to strengthen their attack options.

For Liverpool, they’ve brought in Greek left-back Kostas Tsimikas as competition/cover for Andy Robertson while young striker Rhian Brewster has returned from his loan at Swansea in fine form during pre-season, scoring three times in their two games so far. Dejan Lovren has left the club for Zenit St Petersburg.

This will be a strange Community Shield game. Unlike normal years, this is still relatively early on in pre-season for both sides. Clubs are still looking to do business and the Premier League season doesn’t start for another two weeks, while the transfer window is open for another month or so after that.

With international duty separating this game and the start of the season, the two teams won’t be at full strength or full fitness for this game and I would expect a slow tempo. That will suit Arsenal, with Klopp’s side unlikely to implement their highly effective pressing game as efficiently as they usually would.

Arsenal FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League : News Photo

With that said, Liverpool’s squad is much stronger and has more depth right now. They should be beating Arsenal, but football isn’t played on paper.

With Liverpool likely to play a style that isn’t their ideal plan A, Arsenal will feel like they are there for the taking. With the morale around the club right now good, plus the expected announcements of Gabriel Magalhaes’ transfer and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s new contract, Arsenal will feel confident they can secure an upset win and continue their momentum going into the new season.

Arsenal are likely to continue in their 3-4-3 shape, with William Saliba slotting into central defence and allowing Kieran Tierney to return to his preferred left wing-back position. Bernd Leno will start in goal following Emiliano Martinez having to enter isolation following his holiday, giving the German a head-start in their battle for the No.1 jersey. Willian will likely make his debut in place of Alexandre Lacazette, which will see Aubameyang move into the central striker position.

Liverpool will line up with a strong side, but could reward Rhian Brewster with a starting spot ahead of Roberto Firmino. The club are yet to decide whether he’ll stay at the club this season or be loaned out again but this will be a big chance for him to stake a claim if he is given some minutes. Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri won’t take part but are likely to re-join the group in training after this game.

PREDICTED XI’S:

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Keita, Milner; Salah, Brewster, Mane.
Arsenal: Leno; Mari, Luiz, Saliba; Bellerin, Xhaka, Willock, Tierney; Pepe, Aubameyang, Willian.

While Arsenal are riding a wave of momentum coming into this game, Liverpool will prove too strong for them once again. The sheer quality they have in depth should be enough to see them pip Arteta’s side in a competitive game to kick-start their campaign.

PICKS:

Liverpool win & both teams to score – 21/10 (Betfair)
Mo Salah to score anytime – 21/20 (SkyBet)

Premier League Team of the Season

As the craziest Premier League season of all-time ends, all eyes go immediately towards the new season. People begin to talk about new transfers, new clubs, new managers and predictions for the new campaign.

Before I start doing that though, I want to give my thoughts on the best XI in the Premier League last season.

GOALKEEPER
Dean Henderson

A phenomenal debut season in the league has seen the Manchester United loanee break into the England squad and now be spoken about as a potential starter at Old Trafford next season ahead of David De Gea. With 13 clean sheets in 36 games, Henderson helped push Sheffield United towards a European place and although they missed out in the end it was Henderson’s performances that stood out more than others.

Honourable mentions: Allison Becker, Nick Pope, Ederson.

RIGHT BACK
Trent Alexander-Arnold

Self explanatory pick this one to be honest. Trent has continued to excel as the best right-back in the league and is now among the best in the world. While he still learning and improving in a defensive aspect, going forward he is one of the best there is and that helped propel Liverpool to a record breaking run that saw them lift their first Premier League title. With 13 assists in the league, he broke his own record for assists by a defender and had more than anyone else bar Kevin De Bruyne. A truly remarkable season by a truly remarkable player, he’s my pick for young player of the season.

Honourable mentions: Ricardo Pereira, Matt Doherty, Aaron Wan-Bissaka

CENTRE BACKS
Virgil Van Dijk & Joe Gomez

A pairing in real life and a pairing in my team of the year, Liverpool dominate the defensive side of this team. Van Dijk has continued to show the world that he is the best in the world in his position right now, while Gomez has shown why Jurgen Klopp has so much faith in him. Gomez is undoubtedly better when he has Van Dijk alongside him but on his own, he has shown good reading of the game and positioning while also becoming more vocal as the season progressed. Together they have the perfect blend of strength, speed, aerial dominance and ability on the ball to keep any attack quiet and they are a huge reason as to why Liverpool had the best defensive record in the league this season.

Honourable mentions: Caglar Soyunçu, Willy Boly, Aymeric Laporte

LEFT BACK
Andrew Robertson

It’s a full house for the Liverpool back-four as Robertson completes the defence. The Scotland captain is often outshone by teammate Alexander-Arnold as a creative full-back, but he himself managed to get 12 assists this season. His surging runs on the overlap are a big reason why Sadio Mane is so successful at cutting inside in this team and while his form certainly dropped off post-lockdown, the position Liverpool were in was clearly a big reason as to why so I won’t hold it against him. He’s among the best full-backs in the world currently and will continue to perform at a high level under Klopp’s rock ‘n’ roll football style.

Honourable mentions: Enda Stevens, Jonny

Liverpool players Andy Robertson, Joe Gomez, Roberto Firmino ...

CENTRE MIDFIELD
Kevin De Bruyne & Mateo Kovacic

I want to have some form of balance to this side and this is the best performing duo that gives me that. Mateo Kovacic was arguably Chelsea’s best player this season, really coming into his own as a lynchpin in Frank Lampard’s midfield. His fantastic dribbling and passing means he can break lines in multiple ways but he was also excellent defensively. Kevin De Bruyne’s inclusion is self-explanatory. 13 goals and 20 assists from central midfield is a stunning return and he has cemented himself as the best player in the league for me. His creativity, pace, power and ball striking is at a world class level and he would be an asset to any team in world football. He’s impossible to leave out and in his current form Man City will be looking to him to lead their charge to potentially lift the UEFA Champions League.

Honourable mentions: Joao Moutinho, Jordan Henderson, Declan Rice

RIGHT WING
Mohammed Salah

Another stellar season in which Mo Salah dominated attacking charts and records for Liverpool. Just one goal away from a third consecutive 20+ goal season and he also hit double figures for assists this season. His electric pace, superb movement from the wing and ability to hold the ball up with his back to goal despite his smaller frame are all at a world class level. Regardless of aesthetics, Salah is among the best players in the world and without him Liverpool’s attack would drop a level.

Honourable mentions: Riyad Mahrez, Adama Traore

LEFT WING
Sadio Mane

Much like Salah, Mane is continuing to perform at a world class level in the Premier League. Another season where the Senegal international has notched double figures in goals and was also instrumental in creating. Mane’s goals won more points in this season’s Premier League than anyone else (21). His movement, touch and ability to beat a player one on one is among the greats in the game today and you’ll be hard fought to find a better left-winger for Klopp’s system. His willingness to defend too is a credit to his professionalism and makes him impossible to leave out. He was my contender for Player of the Year along with Kevin De Bruyne, although KDB pipped him towards the end in my opinion.

Honourable mentions: Marcus Rashford, Christian Pulisic

NUMBER 10
Raheem Sterling

Now Sterling’s inclusion will be controversial because he doesn’t play as a No.10 but there was no way I could leave him out. 20 goals in the league with no penalties is a personal best for the England man and his performances are a key reason as to why Man City fans didn’t panic when Sergio Aguero got injured and ruled out for the remainder of the Premier League season. He has mastered the run from outside to in for a back post tap-in but also has the ability to beat players one-on-one, play intricate passes between the lines and link-up with teammates in tight spaces. A truly top class player, Raheem Sterling was a player I simply couldn’t leave out of the side despite the qualities of rivals for this position.

Honourable mentions: Jack Grealish, Bruno Fernandes

STRIKER
Danny Ings

Another slightly controversial pick but Ings deserves recognition in my opinion. While Vardy won the golden boot, he went on a big barren run without a goal and it was ultimately his run of scoring in 9 games in a row earlier in the campaign that got him there. Ings was a consistent goal threat for Southampton this season, has stayed fit and is the reason they were able to turn their season around and end up finishing comfortably in mid-table. 22 league goals in a side that doesn’t create a lot of chances and were fighting for their lives is a mightily impressive return following his injury problems in recent years. His movement, link-up play and finishing with both feet was evident for all to see all season long and he deserves a place in the team of the season mainly due to his, lack of, supporting cast in comparison to his rivals.

Honourable mentions: Jamie Vardy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Anthony Martial

Do you agree with my team of the year? What would you change? Let me know in the comments or over on Twitter at @TapInsTapOuts.

Who Should Be Premier League Player of the Year?

A crazy Premier League season is drawing to a close and many questions we had are beginning to be answered.

Liverpool have officially been crowned Champions for the first time in 30 years, while Norwich and Aston Villa look certain for the drop having not won a single game between them since the resumption of the competition. Top 4 is still up in the air as are the Europa League places. One thing that seems to still be debated among fans, pundits and players is who is the player of the season?

With Liverpool on course for a record breaking season, a number of their players have been named as potential winners. Captain Jordan Henderson, winger Sadio Mane and young defender Trent Alexander-Arnold are all among the candidates after stellar campaigns and media pushes.

Liverpool FC v Aston Villa - Premier League : News Photo
Trent Alexander-Arnold has 12 assists this season, more than any other defender in Premier League history

Another name that comes to the fore but isn’t from Anfield is Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian is on course to break Thierry Henry’s assist record and has been the standout performer in an underperforming Man City side.

January signing Bruno Fernandes has turned Manchester United’s season on it’s head since joining from Sporting CP, with no player being involved in more goals (goals or assists) than him since his arrival. While he’s only been here for half the season, it’s hard to argue that anyone has had a greater impact.

Jamie Vardy is the current golden boot leader so could be in with a shout as Leicester currently sit in the Champions League places, while Virgil Van Dijk’s performances have once again seen Liverpool record the best defensive record in the league this season.

Manchester City v Liverpool FC - Premier League : News Photo
Kevin De Bruyne and Virgil Van Dijk both have big claims to Player of the Year

So who’s the deserving winner?

For me, it has to be Sadio Mane. The Senegalese winger has scored 16 league goals this season and provided 7 assists for Liverpool en route to their title. But it’s more than that. His influence on games has been immeasurable with stats. If you talk to Liverpool fans, it’s always Mane that they mention as their biggest threat.

His ability to beat players one on one, to go in either direction with either foot, his first touch, his final ball, his finishing are all of the absolute highest level. Not only that, but the goals he scores are crucial.

According to Sky Sports, Sadio Mane’s goals have been worth a staggering 21 points this season – more than anyone else in the league. Liverpool’s lead at the top of the table as of right now is 23 points, which shows just how dominant they’ve been but just how important Mane is to them.

After winning the golden boot along with Mo Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last season, his fine form has continued this year. Rumours of potential interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona are far from surprising, but he seems incredibly happy at Anfield.

Despite De Bruyne’s potential record, Vardy’s potential golden boot, Henderson’s captaincy and Trent’s assists, Mane has been the main man this season for the most dominant team in recent memory. He should be the man to take home the individual awards to go with his shiny, new Premier League winners medal.