Jack Hallows highlights five things he felt were key talking points in Liverpool’s pre-season friendly draw with Wigan Athletic.
Mohamed Salah starts… and scores!
Liverpool’s record signing Mohamed Salah made his first start for the club after receiving clearance to play when he finalised his work permit on Wednesday and the Egyptian enjoyed a successful first 45 minutes in a Reds shirt.
The pacy winger had a quiet half as a whole but with practically the last kick of the first half was teed up unselfishly by Firmino to tap into a welcoming, empty net and tie the scores up.
Impressively, the Egyptian already showed an adept understanding of Firmino’s movement and linked up well with the Brazilian, dovetailing both right and central to take up pockets of space when provided.
All in all, a successful first outing for the Reds’ £36.9m man.
Firmino struggles despite return of Brazilian link up
Despite the return of his Brazilian best mate and his role in assisting the Reds first goal, Roberto Firmino certainly wasn’t at his best against Wigan – hardly surprising given he’s probably only just gotten all of the alcohol out of his system after what looked to be a seriously enjoyable summer.
The Brazilian’s first touch was off at times and his passing wasn’t as precise as we know it can be. That miss was also unforgivable, especially for a player meant to be the Reds’ undisputed first choice striker this season.
It i, however, worth remembering that Firmino was fairly poor in the Red’s pre-season last summer as well until his fitness levels got back to the standard required but he still managed to put together an impressive campaign.
Lallana and Coutinho return and impress immediately
The Reds’ starting XI was bolstered by the return of star duo Adam Lallana – who started in his now familiar floating 8 position in Klopp’s midfield three – and Philippe Coutinho who started on the left-hand side of a thoroughly exciting front three.
Coutinho looked a class above for much of his 45 minutes on the field and the Brazilian’s pressing, passing, quick feet and smart reading of the game was impressive for a player getting his first run out since early June.
Lallana wasn’t quite on the same level as his South American teammate but still managed to impress more than most of the Reds. The Englishman saw a diving header well saved by the Wigan keeper while his usual Cruyff turns were on full display.
Fluidity of Tranmere disappears
The Reds were superb against Tranmere on Wednesday with the Reds managing to produce a performance of equal intensity and fluidity across both halves despite fielding completely different XIs for each 45 minutes period.
Against Wigan, however, the Reds were dominant but poor for much of the match and the fluidity of Wednesday’s game disappeared for the most part.
It is worth noting, however, that Klopp switched up both XIs, omitted certain first-team stars – Nathaniel Clyne the most notable – and experimented with different tactics – Gini Wijnaldum as a holding midfielder in the first half was a true eyebrow raiser.
The Reds 4-0 win over Tranmere and 1-1 draw with Wigan were both entirely different games and it’s hard really to take huge amounts of concrete information out of the pair of glorified training sessions other than it seems Klopp will persist with a 4-3-3 system.
Who makes the squad for Hong Kong?
Klopp has a real tough decision to make ahead of the Reds trip to Hong Kong.
The German will be hoping to give as much game time to whatever his initial first XI winds up being – excluding of course the Reds’ Senegalese speedster Sadio Mané who is still continuing his injury rehabilitation – while further figuring out who does and doesn’t have a future at the club.
Whoever the German ends up taking, he’ll be hoping the tours of Hong Kong and Berlin will provide more of an insight into what’s to come this season as he begins to settle on a first-choice XI, finalise some more new signings who start to join up with the squad and the sheds the deadwood from the club.