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Football News: Football Comparisons 9 - Mane v Hazard v Sterling

Football Comparisons 9 - Mane v Hazard v Sterling
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Comparison 9 - Mane v Hazard v Sterling

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Three of the best left wingers to have played in the English Premier League, they are all quick and skilful creators and goal scorers. The problem is that all three play the position in totally different ways, for teams that play football in totally different ways.

Touch: While Sterling does have a very good touch, Hazard and Mane are on a different level. Hazard's is particularly sublime on his day. It can be a thing of beauty to watch at times.

Tackling: Mane is a clear winner in this facet of the game. He has shown an ability to tackle like an old-fashioned full-back when tracking back. Sterling has played at full-back as a youngster, but was never the best tackler, but he does try. Something that you cannot really say for Hazard, who tends not to work back at all if he can help it, let alone make a tackle.

Dribbling: This one is very difficult to pick a clear winner in, they are all excellent in their own way. Mane is all about tight twists and turns, sudden dragbacks and a drop of the shoulder and gone from a standing start. Sterling's dribbling is best at pace, when he is very difficult to stop because his feet are so quick and he can nip the ball away just as a challenge is attempted. Hazard is almost a mix between the other two. I really cannot call it.

Passing: I would call this as a tie between Hazard and Mane. They are both excellent at linking play and bringing in others or playing in a teammate. Sterling's passing can be a bit hit and miss, no doubt down to his striking technique on the ball.

Shooting: On this one I will have to give the win to Hazard. Mane and Sterling both score just as frequently, but Hazard's shooting technique is more refined, more consistent and would be the one I would choose to shoot at goal if my life was depending on the ball ending up in the back of the net. Last would be Sterling, who still suffers a bit from poor striking technique.

Heading: Mane is a clear winner in this area. He is very good in the air, with a good leap and timing which enables him to regularly beat much taller players to the ball. Hazard loses in this one, because he usually avoids even going for the header if possible. Sterling is brave but his heading is a definite weakness to his game.

Set Pieces: Hazard is the only regular set piece taker of the three and he is very good with them, so wins this clearly.

Crossing: Hazard's more consistent technique wins him this one too. It is more of a pass than a cross when he is out wide, as it usually finds its target. Mane is usually reliable, so comes second. Sterling is very hit and miss.

Defensive Awareness: Mane edges this one over Sterling, though Sterling has improved massively in this aspect of the game, he is still behind Mane, who is one of the best in the current game at protecting his full-back. Hazard is a long way off either, he very rarely tracks back and is not keen on doing so.

Movement: Again this is between Sterling and Mane, Hazard is more likely to wait for the ball than make a run to get it delivered where he can attack the box. Hazard wants the ball into his feet, he wants to get on the ball and make things happen. Both Sterling and Mane are excellent at making runs into space, looking for a ball to be played for them to run onto. It is very difficult to split them, so I am going to call it a tie. On their games, both of them are always a danger to the full-back with their movement. You regularly see both breaking through into space. So a draw it is.

Reading of the Game: This is an aspect that can be difficult to judge, as a lot of the time players are under very exacting instructions in the modern game. While Mane would seem to be the best in this aspect by a clear margin, Klopp is the only one of their managers that gives his players a large amount of freedom to think for themselves. In particular, Guardiola is extremely rigid and wants his players to display discipline following his tactical plan. That makes it impossible to judge whether Sterling's bad and good moments, in this area, are down to him or the plan that he is following. It is similar with Hazard, though it must be said he has shown little inclination to read the game defensively regardless of any plan. Despite that lack of inclination, it does not mean he would not be capable of doing so. Which leads me to the conclusion that this bit will have to be left open as an unknown.

Decision Making: I have to give this one to Hazard, by a clear margin, so long as it is only related to on the pitch decisions! Off the pitch you would not want him making decisions for you, particularly if it came to choosing somewhere to eat, unless you are happy with burgers every time. On the other hand, there are huge question marks around Sterling's decision making, which has to put him bottom of the trio.

Aggression: None of these three are particularly aggressive, but Mane is the one most likely to fly into a challenge or get in opponent's faces, which makes him the most aggressive. The other two could be said to be on the soft side in this respect, they are unlikely to get embroiled in disputes or smash into an opponent.

Composure: Hazard wins by a mile here. He tends to keep his composure no matter what is going on. In fact trying to get him wound up usually results in him just lifting his game. Mane can be riled up and is often targeted due to that tendency, though he is not the worst around, it is just that the two usually playing alongside him for Liverpool are much less likely to lose their heads than him. Sterling, on the other hand, has a tendency to fluff his lines when played in due to a lack of composure and his head can go when he gets targeted by opposing fans and/or players.

Concentration: This is a tough one to decide. All three, particularly this season, have shown that they can struggle with mental focus and lose their way. Hazard has shown a tendency to go missing for large stretches of a season, unless someone fires him up by hitting him with a hard tackle. Then he turns it on. Otherwise, at Chelsea he would be unplayable for a few games and then would fail to turn up for weeks or even months of the season. Sterling does a similar thing, but for him it is when the crowd get on his back, he seems unable to concentrate on the game and his touch becomes horrible. Mane is usually much more reliable, but he has had periods in his career when he is sulking over a move and stops concentrating on his game and it falls apart. I am going to edge this for Hazard over Mane, though it is close, and Sterling is a fair way behind.

Vision: Hazard wins this one hands down, on his day he has exceptional vision and could easily play as a playmaker if he chose. Mane can often get a little too head down and fail to spot the options available to him. While Sterling lacks vision, it is one of the weakest parts of his game.

Workrate: One thing you very rarely can criticise about either Mane or Sterling, is their workrate. Unless Mane is fighting for a move, when he has been known to down tools completely, even going on strike in the past. That for me means Sterling edges this one. Hazard, on the other hand, can be languid on his best days, but has long periods of not bothering to break sweat, which probably stem from his lack of physical fitness, due to lifestyle.

Professionalism: The clear loser here is Hazard, who really needs to learn the advantage of a good diet to improve his health and maybe he would pick up a lot less injuries. Mane and Sterling are much more professional in their approach, despite the nonsense in the tabloids about Sterling when he was first emerging. They are very close and only the disasters that were their attempts to move clubs in the past has shown a lack of professionalism. How much of that is down to bad advice is debatable, but they chose to follow the advice.

Acceleration: Mane shades this one, his acceleration from a standing start is just incredible. It is very close though as all three have the ability to accelerate away from defenders with ease.

Pace: A slight edge to Sterling here, again they are all very quick, but Sterling, despite his short legs and odd running style, is genuinely fast.

Strength: Mane takes this one, defenders often bounce off him. Hazard is also very strong, enabling him to hold off and ride challenges with ease. While Sterling is not really weak, his lack of bulk means he can be pushed aside.

Leap: A clear win for Mane, who is actually surpisingly strong in the air and probably should get a lot more goals with his head than he does. Both Hazard and Sterling have a good leap too, but they are just not quite as good as Mane.

Stamina: After a lot of thought, I will have to plump for Sterling. I really cannot remember ever seeing him look like he was out on his feet, no matter how much work he has done in a match. He always seems to have running left in him. Hazard is the loser here, though he is very good at saving his energy to use when on the ball.

Overall: It is difficult to produce a conclusion after this season! All three have struggled badly, for varying reasons but all three have also been incredibly effective and contributed a huge amount to trophy-winning teams in the past. If we were judging on this season, Hazard cannot get fit, Mane cannot hit the side of a very large barn from an inch away and Sterling has barely been able to get his shoes on the right feet, let alone play football to an acceptable level. Which leads me to the only possible conclusion, which is please let this season be over quickly so we can get back to some kind of normality!

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Suggested by FrankieSaysYNWA

Written by Tris Burke May 05 2021 15:05:21

 

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