Are Liverpool’s Front Three Still Fit For Purpose?
With Euro 2020 now done and dusted, attention returns to the domestic game, with the 2021-22 Premier League season just a month away. For Liverpool, the challenge is to regain the title, after putting up a meek defence of their crown last season. The 2020-21 campaign was defined by one atrocious spell of form in the middle of it, but the fact that Liverpool ultimately salvaged a third-place finish means there is a basis on which to rebuild.
One of the big questions facing manager Jürgen Klopp surrounds his traditional front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino. The trio have been a huge part of Liverpool’s success in recent years, but there have been signs lately that their powers are waning, particularly in the case of Mané and Firmino. Is the drop-off in goals last season a tell-tale sign that Liverpool are in need of some freshening up, or do Mané and Firmino still have plenty to offer?
In the case of Firmino, it’s always been true that his contributions to the team have been less about sheer numbers of goals and more about interplay and linking up with his forward partners. The Brazilian usually operates in a central role, but he often drops deep to pick up the ball and dictate play from deeper areas. However, it’s fair to say that Firmino’s performances as a whole have seen something of a decline over the last season or two. He has looked less sharp on the ball, and more prone to giving it away easily. His magic touches have not come as naturally, and there is a suggestion that he is no longer of the standard Liverpool require.
Mané heads into the new campaign off the back of a poor season last term by his high standards. Usually such a reliable goal-getter, he only managed 11 Premier League strikes in the 2020-21 campaign compared to 18 in Liverpool’s title-winning season. It would be wrong to write Mané off already. Every striker goes through dips in form in their career, and it will be interesting to see how the Senegal international bounces back come the start of the new season.
While Salah has not repeated the sensational form of his debut season, where he bagged 43 goals in all competitions, he is a consistent performer for the Reds, and has averaged 21 Premier League goals per season since. Those are solid numbers, and it’s clear that Salah still has a lot to offer, but there are undoubtedly question marks surrounding his teammates as the upcoming season draws near.
Diogo Jota was brought in last summer to provide competition for Liverpool’s front three, and his stellar contributions have helped make up for the shortcomings of Mané and Firmino. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Portuguese international commands a starting berth in the big games for Liverpool this season, as his good start to life at Anfield has undoubtedly bumped him up in the pecking order.
There are rumours on sites like Betdaq that Liverpool could still add another option up front before the transfer window closes, with Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappé linked with a big-money move to the club. It remains to be seen whether Klopp bolsters his striking options, but there’s no doubt that the German will be expecting big things from Mané and Firmino this season.