Sadio Mane continues to struggle in Liverpool's fight for top four
With all the debate over dives, offsides, penalties and the numerous other contentious issues that came out of Liverpool's dramatic 2-2 draw with Tottenham last Sunday, very little seems to have been said and written about the game itself and the performance of both teams.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino claimed his side should have won the game and were "much, much, much better" than Liverpool. Frankly, that's utter nonsense. The Londoners deserved a point, irrespective of how they got it, but if Pochettino really believes his side were that much superior then he is deluding himself.
Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius made one routine save in the first half and penalties aside, only faced two serious attempts in the second. He pulled off a fine save to deny Son Heung-Min and was beaten by a thunderbolt from Victor Wanyama, which on most days would have ended up in the back row of the Kop.
Spurs did enjoy a lot of possession in the second half and it appeared as though they were bossing the game, but was that because they were so superior, or was it because that's how Liverpool wanted to play? Tottenham did very little with all that possession and ultimately they needed a stunning long range goal and a contentious penalty in order to get a point.
It's very rare Liverpool are forced onto the back foot like they were in the second half, and usually when it happens it's because Jurgen Klopp has chosen to play that way. His team had the lead, they have blistering pace up front and are at their most dangerous from counter attacks. As Klopp would say, "It makes absolute sense" to try to lure the opposition in before hitting them on the break.
Liverpool's players carried out the first part of the plan very well. Despite once again managing to concede a couple of goals, the defence was for the most part very good. That's usually the way. The defenders often perform well, both individually and as a unit, but it doesn't always result in clean sheets. It must be incredibly frustrating for Klopp.
In the recent win over Manchester City, Liverpool were outstanding in their collective defensive efforts for most of the game yet still conceded three goals and were hanging on at the end.
Klopp's strategy against Spurs (particularly after the break) seemed to be based around allowing the Londoners to have the ball in areas that are not dangerous. It was noticeable that Liverpool did not press high up the field in the manner we have become accustomed to seeing. Instead they kept a good shape in their own half and tried to exploit the high defensive line that Tottenham employ.
It worked in terms of restricting Tottenham's ability to create clear chances, but where Liverpool's approach surprisingly failed them was that for once they were unable to get it right on the counter-attack.
There were numerous chances to catch Spurs on the break in the second half and had the Reds been as devastating in that area as they usually are, this could have been a similar type of outcome to when they took Arsenal apart at Anfield back in August.
The obvious difference between now and then is the contrasting form of Sadio Mane. In the opening weeks of the season the Senegal man was dazzling and the link up between him, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah was irresistible at times.
Mane is stuttering right now and has been for some time. Every now and then he threatens to fire back into life (stunning goals against Burnley and City suggested he was about to regain his form) only to stall again.
Against Spurs he worked hard and never hid, but he appears to have become hesitant and is overthinking things in the final third, rather than playing off the cuff as he does when he's confident and performing well. You can visibly see him delay while he decides what to do and then suddenly the moment has passed.
Perhaps playing on the left isn't helping. It isn't an issue when he is on form and playing with confidence, but maybe it's worth moving him back to the right to see if that sparks an upturn in form. He may play more on instinct if he's in a position that is second nature to him. Of course that would mean moving Salah from the spot where the vast majority of his 29 goals have come from.
That isn't ideal but the Egyptian can play centrally or on the left too, as can Firmino, although he is not as effective in wide areas as he is through the middle. In the long term Mane should be fine on the left, but in the short term maybe Liverpool's front three could be used with more fluidity that doesn't tie Mane down to the left side.
Liverpool's top four hopes will be massively boosted if they can get Mane back to his brilliant best, and moving him back to the position where he is most comfortable and has had the most success might be the way to get him going again.
Dave Usher is one of ESPN's Liverpool bloggers and the founder of LFC fanzine and website The Liverpool Way. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.