Jack Hallows enjoyed Liverpool’s start to their 2017 summer friendlies and he’s highlighted what he felt were the key aspects of the game.
God it’s good to have football back in my life.
It was only a friendly but I loved seeing the Reds back out on the pitch, smacking around Tranmere – no disrespect to the lower league side, I thought they gave it a solid go! – and banging in goals.
While the scoreline was impressive, there were definitely some other interesting points to take from the game.
Two starting XIs, one simple system
There’s been a lot of talk recently about tactical diversity and Klopp having a plan B to make changes when the 4-3-3 press-athon doesn’t work out but there were no such alternative systems on show today.
The Reds lined up in their fluid 4-3-3 that became the staple during the 2016/17 campaign in both halves with Sturridge leading the line in the first and Solanke in the second.
As can be expected due to how well the players are drilled in it, the system paid off majorly with the Reds’ sense of their teammates’ positions and movements key to their ability to break down a five man defence time and time again.
The success that the extra pace of Ojo and Kent provided were welcome precursors to what a partnership of Mané and Salah could offer this season as well.
Youngsters impress, regulars dazzle
Despite the XIs being so different in both halves, there was no evident drop off in quality as the Reds scored twice in each 45 minute period and created an equal plethora of chances.
Sheyi Ojo was replaced by Ryan Kent who begun where Ojo had left off, Pedro Chirivella was superb stepping into Grujic’s shoes, Joe Gomez looked just as composed as Joël Matip and Dominic Solanke if anything, looked more threatening than Daniel Sturridge.
Ben Woodburn even looked more confident from the spot than the penalty king himself, James Milner!
This bodes very well for the Reds’ coming campaign with Klopp desperate for silverware and the quality in his available squad depth could be a huge boost in his bid to lift one of the League Cup or FA Cup.
He now knows he has players he can rely on even if he has to make wholesale changes and that these youngsters are no longer just talents for the future but have gone well past taking the first steps towards becoming first-team regulars.
The less said about Lazar Markovic, however, the better.
Grujic loves a friendly goal
He just loves a goal in pre-season doesn’t he?
Grujic was one of the big stars of the 2016 summer pre-season, scoring a handful of goals – including THAT header against Barcelona – and impressing majorly before an injury curtailed the rest of his season, limiting him to a handful of substitute appearances and U23s football.
Given a start alongside Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson in the Reds first half midfield, the Serbian unleashed a sublime strike from 25-yards out into the far corner.
The midfielder looks to be a sublime talent and if he can stay fit, giving Klopp the opportunity to continue nurturing his potential, then he’ll be a real asset for the club’s squad depth this season.
His combination of physicality, silkiness on the ball and an eye for goal make him a real handful and given the right opportunity to develop he could be a real star in the making.
The captain returns
Another man returning to the team – perhaps under a larger microscope than his midfield teammate – was Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson.
The Reds captain had been missing with a mystery foot injury since late February and it was fantastic to see him finally back out on the pitch.
Jürgen Klopp spoke before the game of how excited he was to have the captain back and it speaks volumes for how important the Englishman is to the Reds fast-paced, high-octane brand of football. Henderson keeps the Reds ticking over in possession, pinging the ball around like a pendulum and his range of passing helps move the Reds up the field quickly and opens up gaps from deep.
Henderson keeps the Reds ticking over in possession, pinging the ball around like a pendulum and his range of passing helps move the Reds up the field quickly and opens up gaps from deep.
His tenacity in the tackle is matched by Emre Can to be fair to the German but Henderson’s agility and the way he recovers to help stop opposition attackers breaking is seriously impressive. If the Reds do sign Naby Keïta from Leipzig this summer, a midfield of the Guinean, Henderson and Coutinho would be seriously mouth-watering.
Alexander-Arnold starts ahead of Clyne
I’ve saved the most prominent for last.
One of the biggest talking points of the game was that Klopp started what looked to be their strongest available XI for the first half but with one notable omission. Nathaniel Clyne.
The 26-year-old was an ironed on starter last season, playing more outfield minutes than any other player for the Reds but his place was taken by promising 18-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold and it has to be said, the lad impressed.
The right back – who can also play as a midfielder – is brilliant going forward and possesses quick feet, a deadly final ball and is capable of surprising bursts of pace despite his lanky frame.
By comparison, Clyne was solid but unspectacular, as is often the norm for the Englishman.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise to me to see Alexander-Arnold really push Clyne for the starting right-back spot this season, especially if he continues his rapid improvements and rise to a first time regular.
What did you take away from Liverpool’s first game of the 2017 summer? Let me know down below!