Ethan Fanshawe discusses what Liverpool’s performances in pre-season mean for next season.
Pre-Season this year has been a bit of a mixed bag for Liverpool. Against the English teams at the beginning, results seemed to go in Liverpool’s way, looking at playing with the new signings and with the first games the players have played under Klopp’s “triple training system” and for the majority we played well.
Daniel Sturridge remained fit and uninjured after England’s Euros, whilst new signing Sadio Mane showed us a decent showing and was unlucky not to find the back of the net with a goal which was disallowed. Youngster Ovie Ejaria had fans excited as well showcasing his great ability on the ball for such a young player.
Then we hit the states.
Chelsea were up first. The game was alright for us, only for a poorly defended set piece which allowed Cahill to score a headed goal within 10 minutes and the players found that uphill climb a little too much, especially with Chelsea playing more defensively from that moment. This wasn’t the worst result we could have come out with, it is a result I actually was extremely happy with. Let me explain …
There are going to be defensive sides in the Premier League this season and whatever Klopp tried in that pre season game against one of the strongest forces out there now behind the mind of Antonio Conte, and whatever he tried clearly didn’t work as well he’d planned, so he will have looked at this and will have made improvements/changes which will help us in this season, because it will happen again! So it is better to do this now with stronger teams to get the tactics 100% right rather then fall short in the league because the tactics were exhausted.
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A good, convincing 2-0 win against our old rivals AC Milan came next with a goal from Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino. Overall, we played really well, with and without possession, with another new signing Georginio Wijnaldum, showing his versatility and tracking back to dispossess former red Suso. Good performance in which we deserved the win.
The most recent game, against AS Roma was a particularly interesting game for me. We came short at 2-1 with goals from old nemesis Edin Dzeko and former red target Mo Salah. In this game I felt Wijnaldum was a bit lost and misused which is half the reason he played ineffectively most of the game, Klavan lacked confidence at time too. Also having Mignolet back between the sticks certainly showed as evidence on the second goal. Another reason why this game was not one to worry is the actual setup of the back 4 when the second goal went in, it was hardly a starting back 4. Just like the Chelsea game this game came with “positives”.
The Salah goal was a goalkeeping and a defensive error, (I’m not going to go on about Moreno) one could say Mignolet can come and collect the cross or parry it away out of danger instead of back into field, but you can also question the defenders that are caught ball watching instead of worrying about the threat of the powerhouse in Edin Dzeko stood in between them both.
This was a defensive line up which won’t be starting in the league, but again it is better to make these mistakes in pre season when mistakes are easier forgiven rather than in the league where we can have NO excuses! Also a returning Emre Can in midfield, who is still reaching peak fitness for the start of the league was not at his best, nor was his counter part, captain Jordan Henderson, a particularly rusty performance from him but still coming off an injury ridden season. So give them time and the sloppiness in midfield will ease.
One final part of positiveness is the goal. Youngster Sheyi Ojo getting himself onto the scoresheet is extremely pleasing as we are lacking another left footed winger other than Moreno so his display and instinct to get the goal is encouraging.
Finally, I think 2 signings are still needed. A left back and a quality holding midfielder. Stay positive pre season should be for mistakes and finessing tactics. Back Klopp (and all his players!). Look for a more solid performance against Barcelona at Wembley. Believe. You never walk alone.