Is Luis Diaz the perfect replacement for Sadio Mane?

Luis Diaz Mane

The arrival of Luis Diaz could breathe new life into Liverpool’s attack- so what does it mean for Sadio Mane?

Liverpool’s acquisition of Luis Diaz came as a surprise. The Reds generally don’t dip into the transfer market unless absolutely necessary or when an opportunity presents itself. In Diaz’s case, it was the latter. Other Premier League clubs had inquired about Luis Diaz and he was available for a cut-short price. Liverpool then swooped in and signed the Colombian.

But his arrival has put question marks over the future of Sadio Mane. Sadio Mane is a model professional, an electric forward and a human being like no other. The Senegalese forward has scored heaps of goals and was responsible for some truly astounding moments in a Liverpool shirt. Like Liverpool, he is at a critical juncture in his journey. His place in the starting eleven is threatened and, his response will determine his future.

The Senegalese forward will be 31, when his contract expires in the summer of 2023. His form in the last 18 months has taken a nosedive as well. Therefore, Liverpool might look to offload Mane and make additions elsewhere in the squad.

However, how does Luis Diaz match up against Sadio Mane?

Luis Diaz vs Sadio Mane

Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane are stylistically very similar forwards that play on the left flank. Both of them are fast, like to cut inside and dribble past defenders to either score themselves from a distance or, create a chance for their teammates. Additionally, both of these forwards are amazing in 1v1 situations. So, where’s the difference?

Sadio Mane’s best season for Liverpool arguably was in 2018-19. In that season, Mane scored 26 goals and 5 assists in 50 appearances with 0.64 non-penalty expected goals and assists per 90. Additionally, Mane had 1.29 shots on target per 90 and 2.63 total shots per 90. In contrast, he has 0.70 non-penalty expected goals and assists per 90 in 2021-22. He has 1.10 shots on target per 90 and 3.26 total shots per 90 in this current season.

From the above data it can be inferred that even though Mane has shown more attacking intent, he has been wasteful. His relatively poor shots on target compared to his total shots, illustrate this trend. His performances on the pitch tell a similar story. Although Mane’s form declined sharply in the 2020-21 season, he has been on a downward trajectory since the end of the 2019-20 campaign.

This is where Luis Diaz comes in.

Luis Diaz’s Numbers

The Colombian forward has averaged 1.57 shots on target per 90 with 3.74 total shots per 90 in 2021-22. Consequently, he has scored 14 goals and assisted 4 times this season. Although, both Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane have scored 24 goals and assisted 9 times since the start of the 2020-21 season, Diaz is on an upward trajectory. Furthermore, Diaz’s has better numbers in dribbles and final third passes. Diaz has averaged 3 dribbles per 90 at a 63.5 per cent success rate while Sadio Mane only averaged 2.1 dribbles at a 55% success rate during the same period.

One question that might hang over Diaz, would be his impact and experience at the highest level. Where Sadio Mane has the ability to carve chances out of nothing and turning routine movements into dangerous attacks, Diaz looks a bit dull in this aspect. Also, this instinctive ability to steal goals doesn’t come easily and few forwards are so dynamic in attack like Sadio.

(Stats via FBref, WhoScored)

Verdict

Although the quality of the league and opposition must be considered, Luis Diaz is fast becoming a forward that resembles Sadio in his prime. Sadio Mane being the fierce competitor that he is, won’t go down without a fight. Ultimately raising the bar in Liverpool’s attack. However, a sale in the summer transfer window looks to be the most likely outcome.

But until then, Liverpool fans can enjoy watching five amazing forwards compete for three spots. Indeed, it is a salivating prospect.

Who knows, Sadio Mane might even stay beyond 2022….

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