In all the frustration and disappointment of dropping two valuable Champions League points thanks to the 2-2 draw with Sevilla on Tuesday, there hasn’t been enough praise given to the attack.
In Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah we have one of the most exciting front trios not just in the Premier League but in the world. All three are capable of moments of magic and brilliance and the two wide men are incredibly quick. They have gelled quickly and promise to get even better as the season progresses. Credit should be given to how well Salah has settled into the side since his arrival from AS Roma this Summer in a deal that is looking like better and better value. There have been conflicting reports over the fee paid to the Italian but it matters little when he represents such wonderful business at under the £40m mark in a market that got more and more crazy as the Summer went on. He has had a similar impact to the one Mane brought when he arrived from Southampton a year earlier. The duo have caused havoc already this season and it only promises to get more exciting.
Another reason to get excited about how good this threesome can get is that they will soon have Brazil international Philippe Coutinho pulling the strings behind them. After failing to get his move to Barcelona done before deadline day, the former Inter Milan man has returned to the squad and appears to be getting on with business. He may well look to secure a switch to the Camp Nou next Summer, but until then we will have him acting as playmaker to a highly fluid attacking trio and that can only excite supporters. Obviously we will have to wait a few more games until we finally see the four of them line up in the same eleven domestically thanks to Mane’s three-match suspension following his dismissal against Manchester City last weekend. But we could see them together in the next Champions League fixture against Spartak Moscow in just under a fortnight.
The inept defending exhibited by the defence has seen them take many of the headlines so far this season while the attack have looked sharp and exciting in most games. A clear case in point is the 3-3 draw away against Watford on the opening weekend of the season. The defence allowed the hosts to score three very avoidable goals as the attacking trio all grabbed a goal each in a game that showed just how exciting they were capable of being. Salah was a constant threat down the right, with Mane cutting in from the left and Firmino roaming around the centre showing why he is worthy of wearing the number nine shirt for the club.
If the Brazilian can add penalties to his tally this season he could easily notch twenty plus goals. He tucked away the one at Vicarage Road nicely, but he saw his second deflect off the post against Sevilla this week. If he is to continue handling those duties he will need to slot away his next one or further questions will be asked of him taking the spot kicks.
Before Mane was given his marching orders at the Etihad on Saturday, Liverpool were proving to be a threat to the City defence and Nicolas Otamendi was walking a fine line following an early booking. Salah could, and certainly should, have tucked away a great chance at 1-0 and that would have put a very different complexion on proceedings. Mane wouldn’t have subsequently been sent off, such as the chain of events would have been, and the pair could have continued to press City’s defenders into mistakes. It is a shame that the former Chelsea man didn’t slot that glorious chance home and it did highlight the work he still needs to do with his final ball and finishing. It is testament to his quality that he gets into so many promising positions, and he has already bagged his fair share of goals and assists this season, but he still needs to improve his decision making in the box. Hopefully that will come over time and all the signs are there that this trio are something for supporters to get very excited about.
It is a crying shame that our defence cannot match the quality of the attack ahead of them on the pitch, but it is fortunate for our prospects that we have such a threat at our disposal. It is a far cry from a few years ago when our attack consisted of Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert, Fabio Borini and terminally injured Daniel Sturridge. The England international remains a dangerous option to have from the bench and he has shown that he still has an eye for goal with his poacher’s goal against Arsenal a few weeks ago. Another England international in the shape of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offers us pace from the bench and his versatility will come in useful as the season unfolds. We also still have their international colleague Adam Lallana to return from injury and he too can lay on chances for team-mates as well as contribute some valuable goals.
Despite all the frustrations over our backline, there are still several reasons to be cheerful and our superb attack is certainly one of the top ones.