After enjoying a fine scoring Bundesliga debut against Eintracht Frankfurt and adding two in the thrashing of VfL Bochum, it looked like Bayern’s summer signing Sadio Mané had hit the ground running in Bavaria and was set to replicate his Liverpool form and help Bayern fans forget about the departed Robert Lewandowski.
He clambered into the away end against Frankfurt to celebrate with the hardcore Bayern fans the honeymoon was in full swing. Against Barcelona in midweek Julian Nagelsmann substituted him after 69 ineffective minutes having left him out of the starting line-up to face VfB Stuttgart the previous weekend. The player was visibly disappointed with his display, which saw zero attempts on goal and his goal drought extended to four games. Is the honeymoon over?
Mané himself was understandably down after the games saying, “I’ve played on the left almost my whole life, so it wasn’t a problem for me. Of course, I can do much better than that. I know that.”
The raw stats do point to a decline in performance with his xG falling from 1.2 against Borussia Mönchengladbach and 0.9 against Bochum to 0.2 versus Inter in the Champions League and 0.0 against Barca. He is yet to provide an assist this season.
One theory as to the dip in form is linked with the troubles his former side Liverpool are currently facing. The Reds have struggled this season to get their normal high energy, pressing football going with potential fatigue being cited. Nagelsmann has also hinted at the saying about Mané, “He put in so much for Liverpool. He’s a new signing. He just needs to adapt. He was trying. I’m certain he will succeed for us. Everything I need to say about Sadio, I’ll say to him and not in the media. I already said during the week that I would like him to do certain things more.
The 30-year-old Senegalese forward made 51 appearances at club level across all competitions last season with Liverpool chasing an unprecedented quadruple until the closing weeks of the season. He was also involved in the mid-season African Cup of Nations.
The fatigue theory is one theory, but if that is the case only a regular rotation out of the Bayern starting line-up is going to cure that. There is another school of thought that Mané is just not the right fit tactically for Bayern. The club are trying to adapt to life without the talismanic Robert Lewandowski as the focal point as the number 9 in attack. Mané is not your traditional striker, but then neither is he a typical winger like Kingsley Coman.
“He is very self-reflective and knows when he has played well and when he has not played so well,” Nagelsmann said this week. “He is very humble and down-to-earth. He will be back to his best. This is normal after a move. He has my trust, and he will get a lot of goals and assists for us.”
The Bayern trainer is probably right. Mané possesses such quality that he is almost guaranteed to score goals and provide assists in the Bundesliga. Like anything as Bayern though, any slight dip in performance or failure to hit the heights leads to doubt and criticism.
The honeymoon period is possibly over, but there should be many more years of happy marriage to come. Don’t be expecting a quickie divorce anytime soon.