COMMENT by Harvey Byrne
Sadio Mane could be the difference between a win or a loss for Liverpool as they face Arsenal in their Premier League season opener on Sunday.
The 24-year-old attacker joined the Reds from Southampton in a mega £34million deal this summer and he has a history of tormenting the Gunners.
In his four starts against the north London club he has been on the winning side on each occasion and has even got on the score sheet twice.
However, this form wasn’t reserved just for Arsene Wenger’s club and in the Premier League alone the explosive Senegalese attacker has scored 21 goals and assisted 11 in his 67 appearances in England’s top flight.
Mane also finished ahead of Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez in the Premier League goal and assists charts last season with the Liverpool man totalling 18 with 11 goals and seven assists, while Sanchez provided three less assists and finished with a total of 17.
The Reds attacker could lead Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool attack on Sunday against a makeshift Arsenal back line that could field at least one rookie, even if Laurent Koscielny is fast-tracked back into the team.
The Gunners’ new-look back four could be in for a lot of problems with Mane in the attack and 20-year-old Rob Holding or fellow rookie Calum Chambers could be set for a long afternoon.
However, it could be a case that the youngster is more able to cope with the Liverpool star’s pace, after the slow and lumbering Per Mertesacker struggled to cope with the attacker as well as Shane Long when Southampton demolished Arsenal 4-0 on boxing day last season.
The Senegalese attacker has a history of terrorising defences and since turning professional with Metz five-years a go he has scored a total of 71 goals and provided 47 assists in 182 appearances in all competitions.
He is the man Arsenal will fear.
In other Liverpool team news, former Reds star Howard Gayle has rejected an MBE.