Jack Hallows provides an insight into some of the interesting talking points from Liverpool Football Club’s recent pre-season tour of Germany.
A hammering of Hertha Berlin. A drubbing of Bayern Munich. A hotly contested, solid effort against Atletico Madrid.
The Reds scored 7 goals in their 3 games in manager Jürgen Klopp’s home country, conceding just once and the signs were generally positive.
It may only be pre-season, but Liverpool’s squad gave us a lot to be excited about over in Germany.
Mané + Firmino + Salah = guaranteed goals
The only glimpse we actually got of this exact attacking trio was in a lightning first half against Bayern Munich to open Liverpool’s Audi Cup participation.
Mané gave Rafinha nightmares down the Reds’ left-hand side, Salah fared just as well down the right, while Firmino, playing through the middle – where he should hopefully stay this season – provided the glue that stuck Liverpool’s attacks together.
The first goal against Bayern was the perfect example of what this trio will hopefully bring to Liverpool this season as Firmino robbed Tolisso in the centre of the park and sprung a quick counter attack.
He had Salah to his right but on this occasion, he opted to slip through Mané who was in acres of space to his left. Touch, steady, shoot, goal. Simple as that.
Looks like counterattacks could be a huge weapon for the Reds this season.
Virgil van Dijk, or a suitable alternative, needed
While the Reds only conceded the one goal on their pre-season tour of Germany, it was still clear that the Reds need another top level centre half in their ranks.
While Joe Gomez is a promising prospect for the future, neither he or Ragnar Klavan should be relied on as the first choice alternative to Dejan Lovren or Jöel Matip this season. Heck, Lovren should be the one sitting on the bench as the third choice centre back if we’re truly going to challenge for top honours this campaign.
While Matip possesses class, cool temperament, solidity and pace, all of Klopp’s other options only possess a selection of these traits while van Dijk has them all in abundance.
The talk of the Dutchman making the switch to Liverpool simply won’t seem to go away and with the window closing in just over three weeks, it’s probably time Liverpool took a risk and submitted a formal bid. Our chances of silverware might just depend on it.
Coutinho and the Liverpool midfield
It’s still unclear what Klopp’s first choice midfield three is going to be this coming campaign, although, having fielded Henderson, Can and Coutinho together against Bayern, one might think this is probably pretty close.
However, the likes of Lallana and Gini Wijnaldum were surely some of the first names on the team sheet by the end of the 2016/17 campaign and it remains to be seen how Klopp’s selection process pans out.
With Coutinho slotting back into that deeper, playmaking role and Henderson a shoe-in as Liverpool’s captain, that leaves just one available space for three players.
Lallana is too attacking minded and lacks the physicality to be fielded alongside Coutinho, Can and Henderson often struggle to find a good balance when playing together and that then only leaves Wijnaldum, who struggles at times to deliver strong performances away from home.
All have their perks and all have their flaws and now it’s down to Klopp to find the right balance.
Goalkeeper battle hots up
The Germany tour saw most people convinced that Liverpool’s goalkeeping situation was going to be at very most, a two horse race between Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet.
Danny Ward, however, provided a timely reminder of his abilities when called upon against Atletico Madrid, making one or two stellar saves among smart distribution and solid sweeping efforts.
While I still fully expect Karius and Mignolet to be called upon more often than the Welshman, it’s nice to know that he’s going to be pushing them all the way this season and who knows, if he is picked for domestic cup fixtures and performs well, he could even end up as the club’s no.1.
Firmino the new penalty king?
With James Milner no longer on the field, Roberto Firmino stepped up to take the spot kick that Divock Origi had won against Atletico while also being the first to take in the penalty shootout.
The Brazilian coolly slotted his first effort into the bottom right-hand corner, before switching it up entirely with his attempt in the shootout, firing an unstoppable shot high into the top left corner.
While Firmino is expected to be a mainstay this season one again, I’d be very surprised to see Milner playing as many games as he did last campaign – especially with the arrival of Robertson, who has impressed in his few outings so far.
If Milner does become relegated to a squad role, then the Reds do need a new spot kick taker and while Mané used to take them for Southampton, Firmino looked confident against the Spanish giants and could be a handy option.
Four or five penalty goals would probably also go a long way this season towards ending many Liverpool fan complaints that he doesn’t score regularly enough to be the starting striker.
The fullback dilemma
It would see that Klopp no longer has a dilemma on just the one side of his back four.
Both Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold were used in the role of right back during Nathaniel Clyne’s absence and while both offer completely different things – Gomez offers height, composure and physicality while ‘TAA’ offers pace, attacking incisiveness and possesses a far better cross – they could be very hard to separate when it comes to picking the starting line up for Watford on August 12th.
Similarly, on the other side, Alberto Moreno was fantastic against Bayern Munich, James Milner is the Liverpool vice-captain and Andrew Robertson has just signed for £8m and looks a bargain so far.
It’s nice to have depth in both positions but it provides a serious headache for the manager and personally, I’ll be very interested to see which pairing line up alongside Dejan Lovren and Jöel Matip in just over a weeks time.