The reigning English champions were expected to be in contention to retain their Premier League crown on the eve of the current campaign, but injuries and a lack of form has seen them plummet down the table.
Long-term issues to influential stars such as Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have hampered their progress and forced Jurgen Klopp to experiment with different defensive partnerships, but their struggles have spread to other parts of the pitch.
The usually reliable front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have also fallen way below their normal standards, however, Connolly believes one attacking player in particular has dropped off more than most.
He said: “Sadio Mane, I think, [has had] the biggest drop-off in the forward line this year, just in terms of production. I think it’s gone a little bit under the radar as everything else has bubbled to the surface.
“The centre-back situation, the injury crisis, VAR, everything else, Firmino has taken a tonne of the blame for what’s gone wrong this season, and what’s gone a little under the radar is that even with the same opportunities, even with the same average distance of shot, and every nerdy metric you want to go to, Sadio Mane does not hit the target as consistently, and he’s not scoring as consistently.
“So for them to get back into a top-four race and to finish in the top four, they need Sadio Mane, not even to be traditional Sadio Mane, just do what the expected output is.”
TIF Thoughts on Mane…
The standards that Mane has set for himself over the last few years have been extremely high, and therefore, some sort of drop-off was perhaps always likely to happen.
Nevertheless, the fall has been quite dramatic. Over the last two Premier League campaigns, the Senegal international has bagged 40 league goals in 71 outings. This season, he has managed just seven in 23 appearances.
There’s no doubting the 28-year-old’s quality, but his fall in form has certainly contributed to Liverpool’s underperformance this season.