Are Liverpool a one Mané team?

It’s a familiar refrain heard in football conversations around the world – ‘you’re just a one-man team!’

Ironically football is a team sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball made out of leather, enjoyed by millions, made in England, but transcends gender, race, religion and locality. Football is arguably the one thing that can foist global peace and unity. In many ways the statement above is a back-handed compliment – recognition by your rivals that your team has a great player. With that definition in mind, why would someone consider some teams a one man outfit? Are they insinuating that it’s played by one man…surely not, as that will be short of the stipulated requirement/rules needed to engage in this type of sport. In many ways he above statement is a back-handed compliment –recognition by rivals that one’s team has a great or extra ordinary player, often triggered by some kind of latent jealousy.

Football has evolved and keeps doing to the point now where so many roles now seem blurred, inter-twinned, a captain might not necessarily be the team leader, the motivator could also be anyone, the goalkeeper perhaps? Then there comes the man the team cannot do without, as his influence and style on and off the pitch is far reaching. In this regard a lot of Premier League teams have exhibited or have actually been labelled such, even though never officially. To mention a few Gareth Bale at Tottenham, Alan Shearer at Newcastle, Christian Benteke at Aston Villa, Kanu Nwankwo at Portsmouth, Steven Gerrard at Liverpool et al.

Liverpool FC is one team that immediately comes to your mind when this discussion kicks off. “You will never walk alone” being their motto, we now run down the Merseyside club and profile some of their players who stood head above shoulders over their teams mates and seemed to have ‘’walked alone” at Anfield earning them the title ‘’a one manE team”

Ian Rush

Simply the greatest goal scorer in Liverpool’s history. A prolific goal machine and all round player. He was Liverpool’s first defender when the opposition had the ball. He set an example to all his colleagues, not only in his scoring, but also in his willingness to tackle back. Rush rarely used to blast his shots – they’d just get placed right in the corner, Frank Lampardesque, you would say. “He wins the ball so often it provides a psychological boost for defenders,” said Joe Fagan. He scored no less than 47 goals in 1983/84 season and was awarded the Golden Boot for being Europe’s top scorer. Rush scored 207 goals in 331 appearances in his first spell at Liverpool and added 139 in 329 games in his second phase at the club following his return from Juventus. Ian Rush was a unique striker at a club that prides itself on great forwards. One of Liverpool’s and indeed the Football League’s greatest-ever goal scorers; only Roger Hunt has scored more League goals for Liverpool but all of Hunt’s 233 League strikes came in the First Division from 358 games, a fantastic goals-per-game ratio and still Liverpool’s hat-trick king with 17 to his name.

John Barnes

There has been no finer sight in football than John Barnes in his pomp gliding down the flanks in a football pitch, an awesome blend of strength and skill and vision. For talent and grace alone, he’s an automatic choice in any hall of fame; but his impact on the game went far beyond goals and silver. The positive influence he exerted on the club’s up and coming youngsters meant Barnes was the ideal man to succeed Ian Rush as captain in the mid-1990s, with the likes of Robbie Fowler, Jamie Redknapp and Steve McManaman all benefiting from playing and training alongside a true great. His sweet left foot was the downfall of many a team as Liverpool took football in England country to new heights, completing a record-equalling 29-game unbeaten run and, ultimately, clinching a 17th league title in 1987/88 season. Unsurprisingly, Barnes walked away with both 1987/88 PFA Player of the Year and Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the year awards. Barnes was a key cog in the 1990 title winning side at Liverpool and scored 22 league goals – his personal best for the club. Barnes was voted Football Writer’s Player of that Year. A rookie Jamie Carragher was breaking through into the team towards the end of Barnes’s career at Liverpool said that despite Barnes supposedly being past his peak by then, in his 34th year, he was still the best player at the club. “Technically, he’s the best player I’ve ever trained or played with, he was great with both feet, they were both exactly the same. I’d say he’s the best finisher I’ve ever played with- don’t forget he played with Torres, Fowler, Owen. You speak with the players from those great Liverpool sides and ask them who the best player they played with was and they all say John Barnes”. Team mate Peter Beardsley has since said Barnes at the end of the 1980s was “The best player I ever played with. For three or four years at the end of the ’80s, John was possibly the best player in the world. The game of the season was undoubtedly the 5-0 destruction of Nottingham Forest at Anfield, which showcased the wizardry of Barnes at his very best. He left Anfield on 13 August 1997, after 10 years, 407 appearances, 108 goals and four major trophies.

Steven Gerrard

Gerrard was an inspirational figure of astounding ability, the closest thing I’ve seen to a one-man team. With over 700 appearances in a Liverpool shirt, most would shrink under the weight of expectancy he had carried the Kop through. . Gerrard’s tactical intelligence and ability to read the game allowed him to break down the opposition’s attacking plays A versatile and well-rounded player who is regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation, Gerrard was capable of playing in a number of positions ranging from playing as an attacking midfielder, a holding midfielder, behind the striker, a right back and a right winger. In addition to his assists, Gerrard, naturally right footed, had the ability to score goals due to his ability to shoot from distance which he does so with both feet.
His greatest highlight was the Miracle of Istanbul, the match is widely regarded as one of the greatest finals in the competition’s history, and Gerrard was lauded as the catalyst for the second half comeback, a Man of the Match display which he got rightfully. First ever Liverpool player to score in 15 successive league campaigns, overtaking the record previously set by Billy Liddell. In October 2013, he became the longest-serving Liverpool captain, 10 years after his appointment by Gerard Houllier. Real Madrid’s coach and 3-times World Player of the Year, Zinedine Zidane, described the ex-Liverpool skipper as being the best player in the world. Gerrard won the 2009 Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year beating Ryan Giggs by just 10 votes and became the first Liverpool player to win the award in 19 years.

Fernando Torres

A one-man strike force who could bully defenders, leave players for dead and score any type of goal. Strong on the ball, good with his head, possess a powerful shots, with the ability to shoot with both legs, his predatory instincts set him apart from other world class strikers. Torres was truly sensational in his first season at Liverpool, scoring 33 times in 46 games including hat-tricks against Middlesbrough and West Ham United, winners against Inter Milan, Everton and Manchester City and a memorable Champions League strike against Arsenal. He became the fastest player in Liverpool history to score 50 league goals, after just 72 games- the next closest doing so in 80 games. It’s easy to forget that Torres scored an incredible 33 goals in his debut season in England—24 in the Premier League when you look at what Messi and Ronaldo is doing now, re-setting all the records in world football. The Spaniard’s first 100 games saw him hit 61 goals—more than Robbie Fowler, Ian Rush or John Aldridge, the fourth most of any Liverpool player. His influence on his teammates and field of play apart from his goals was spiced with a few assists.

Luis Suarez

El Pistolero’ signed from Ajax for £22.8million in January 2011, Suarez, of course, will need no introduction to any of the Liverpool faithful and football world at large. One of the most fearsome strikers in club football today, he recently broke the six-year domination of Messi and Ronaldo as the leading goal scorers In La Liga with 40 goals to his name and thus won his maiden Pichichi Trophy. The Uruguayan scored 82 goals in 133 appearances, with 32 assists during an unforgettable three-and-a-half-year spell at Anfield. He was the main man for the title push in that hair-raising season under Brendan Rodgers after so many years. Suarez became the first Liverpool player to score thirty goals in a season since Fernando Torres in 2007/08. Named the Football Writers’ Player of the Year in May 2014, shortly after receiving a similar award from the Professional Footballers’ Association, the ex-Reds striker also won the award for the Premier League’s golden boot in 2014, when he netted 31 goals in 33 games in an unprecedented season at Anfield. An all-round striker and player who can hold up play very well, it might interest you to know that he scored 53 goals with his right foot, 17 with his left, and 11 headed goals- 13 free kicks. Amazing stats right; a complete modern day player.

Liverpool fans are still hoping that he will come back to Anfield in a playing capacity and finish what he started there. But Suarez said…. ‘I have magnificent team mates (Barca), who make it easy for me, but I don’t want to take anything away from myself, you still have to score.

Could this be the reason he left and a testament in favour of the subject-was the load too much for him? And he prefers to share the burden with Messi and co presently. Does this not lay credence to the fact that Liverpool heavily relied on a single player to deliver the goods?

Sadio Mane

The Senegalese born striker was bought from Southampton who signed Senegal forward from Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg for £10m. The Senegalese international possesses an utterly deadly mix of pace, direct running, fitness, goal scoring ability and creativity while being just as dedicated to his defensive work rate.

Mané himself has scored 9 goals, created 33 chances and has 4 assists so far this season. For many he is the best bit of business Liverpool have done with Southampton over the last 5 years. In the 19 Premier League games Mané has played, Liverpool have won 13, lost one and drawn 5. Mane is the Reds’ top scorer this term, and only Daniel Sturridge has a higher shot accuracy in the squad, with the African’s 64% just bettered by the England striker’s 67%. In 22 appearances, Mane has netted 11 times, giving him a stunning 0.50 goals-per-match ratio – far greater than his teammates Adam Lallana (0.30).Firmino (0.33), Philippe Coutinho (0.28). Sadio Mane has been directly involved in more PL goals (15) than any other Liverpool player this season (11 goals, 4 assists).

His absence happened to coincide with the worst run of Jurgen Klopp’s reign at Anfield, food for thought. It is very clear to see that Liverpool’s attack is not as potent when the Senegalese player is absent from it, as when he’s present. One of Mane’s key attributes is pace. He runs the flanks that are reminiscent of John Barnes. These runs usually gives Liverpool the width to destabilises opponents and allows Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Lallana and Wijnaldum more space inside to do damage .Before Mané left for the AFCON, the Reds had played 24 games and won 17 of those. Ironically, of those 24 fixtures, the only two games they’d lost had been with him missing the entirety of the Burnley match and against Bournemouth –which they eventually lost 4-3. This translates to a 71% win percentage pre-AFCON and a 14% win percentage after AFCON. With Mané in the starting XI, Liverpool have averaged an incredible 2.6 goals per game, without him in the side, however, they’ve averaged one goal a game- Massive! The match against Spurs was his seasons best thus far, causing them havoc and terrorizing them. 50 per cent of their attacking play went down Mane’s side, as opposed to the middle of the pitch or the left — and Ben Davies, the Spurs defender, oh my, would be more scared of the name Mane than the devil himself. Spurs were in sixes and sevens

Could we say they were over reliant on these men; was it simply a case of the players being too good, the teams being mediocre or the coaches built their teams around them or maybe just, maybe plain simple good old luck they were there? Whatever it is, as the argument rages on some teams just can’t help looking or being over reliant on a particular individual to succeed.

But, really what does it matter as long as you keep winning?

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