Dylan Gerstley identifies five talking points from Liverpool’s third pre-season game against Wigan .
Liverpool took on Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium in a pre-season friendly. Jürgen Klopp fielded a strong first XI for the start of the match but as is the case in most friendlies, the players only played 45 minutes.
Karius played the full game along with Joel Matip, who was required to play because of the defensive injury crisis at the club. Connor Randall also played the full game.
The first half was interesting for fans as it marked the return of Phillipe Coutinho in a red shirt. The magical Brazilian continued where he left off at the Copa America with stunningly quick feet and incisive movement. This game shows just how important the midfielder is and he was unfortunate to not get on the score sheet. The first half team put in a decent shift but lacked the cutting edge against a Wigan team that sat back and defended deep.
The second half was when the Reds started firing on all cylinders. Lucas Leiva came close to opening the scoring several times before Lazar Markovic played a clipped cross into Danny Ings who found himself with plenty of space and time to take a touch and slot home. The English striker was influential throughout the half with intelligent movement, and quick, one touch passing. Academy player Ben Woodburn, just sixteen years old, doubled the scoring with a wonderfully composed finish. The young attacker found himself in a channel between two defenders that allowed him to run onto a lovely ball and finish at the near post.
The Academy is Productive and Promising
The end of last season and this preseason have shown that many youngsters at Liverpool could make the move to Melwood. Kevin Stewart is an athletic, imposing central midfielder that has shown himself to have the defensive ability to provide cover for Lucas Leiva. Ovie Ejaria is a dynamic, technical midfielder who shows intelligence and composure beyond his 18 years. He may not be making the biggest fuss, but with his vision and technique, Ejaria may be the most promising of the crop.
Ben Woodburn is perhaps the most dangerously hyped academy player the club has seen in years. The 16 year old has scored 2 goals in 2 games, and while that is certainly a great ratio, it is the poise and intelligence of the youngster that has fans giddy with excitement. His movement is incisive and his composure to find the net in two different games points to a maturity beyond his experience. He certainly is one to watch.
Jordon Ibe Has a Replacement
Ryan Kent has shown pace and immense skill on the ball in his cameo appearances this pre-season. The wide midfielder has the trickery to beat players on the dribble and the courage to shoot. His finishing needs some work but the early signs show him to be a great asset in wide positions. Kent can fill Jordon Ibe’s boots as a wide option off the bench during the season but can also provide depth and competition in training sessions.
New Players Look Promising
Joel Matip is incredibly experienced and his talent has shown through so far in preseason. The Cameroonian is technically adept and dribbled all over the pitch on more than one occasion. Though Wigan is not the stiffest opposition, his skill is delightful to watch and exciting for Klopp and the team. Seeing him limp off at the end of the half was worrying but apparently the injury isn’t too serious.
Danny Ings, while not exactly a new signing, has returned from a long injury layoff that kept him out for almost all of last season. The English striker is a special striker as he has a goalscoring knack that just cannot be taught. His movement is smart, quick, and positive and helped the youngsters find space for themselves. His pace is a constant threat and his technique and vision shone through with his intricate one touch passing plays. Ings could be the English striker Liverpool fans actually see this season considering Daniel Sturridge’s injury record.
The first half team may not have opened the scoring but Coutinho dazzled with his trickery and skill. Sadio Mané was also bright in his running, showing off his pace and winning free kicks. The new arrival should have scored from a few yards out but it was still a positive performance. Roberto Firmino was also incredibly mobile and energetic. The Brazilian ran down channels and tracked loose balls all half. More exciting than their individual play was their linkup. The attackers have excited Liverpool fans everywhere for the start of the season and their linkup play is proof that excitement is well warranted. The three attackers should have their movements even more polished by the start of the season, making Liverpool a dangerously clinical team to play against.
The preseason continues with Huddersfield on Wednesday and Chelsea on Thursday. The club all head out to the United States after wrapping up with AC Milan on Sunday. The start has been promising but at the end of the day it is just a great exercise for the boys and the youngsters.