Michael Mongie gives his thoughts on Liverpool’s players’ performances from the final game of pre-season against Athletic Bilbao.
With a week to go until the start of the Premier League, Liverpool hosted La Liga outfit Athletic Bilbao at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
It might just be my celtic roots talking but I really like the idea of ending each pre-season with a friendly in Ireland and judging by the support from the Irish Liverpool supporters, I’m not alone.
Klopp named a very odd starting lineup ahead of his side’s Premier League opener in a week’s time at Watford.
— Rousing The Kop (@RousingTheKop) August 5, 2017
With Henderson and Coutinho absent with illness and a minor back injury respectively, the German manager played James Milner in central midfield along with Emre Can and Marko Grujic.
Assuming that this is a look at what is to come at Vicarage Road, it strikes me as odd to leave both Georginio Wijnaldum and Ben Woodburn on the bench with either offering more in the way of creativity from midfield.
Regardless of what it means, here is how I think each player performed at the Aviva Stadium:
Simon Mignolet: 6 – Very little to do in the first half even though Bilbao scored but the Belgian can’t be blamed for his defenders messing up once again. Had slightly more to do after the interval and did well to deal with most chances that Bilbao created.
Alberto Moreno: 7 – Looks much more defensively sound than he used to. Played one short pass to Lovren but the intercepted ball had a lot to do with the Croatian being flat footed.
As can be expected from the Spaniard, his attacking output was brilliant again with the Bilbao ‘keeper saving well after Moreno linked up with Firmino down the left-hand side. His deliveries into the box were also very accurate.
Jöel Matip: 6 – While I have no qualms about Matip playing at the back for Liverpool, the Cameroonian has looked poor the past few games. Against Bilbao, he displayed an indecisiveness that will be punished this season in the Champions League and needs to be dealt with.
On the whole, he did alright but wasn’t up to the standards we grew to expect from him last season.
Dejan Lovren: 6 – What can I say? The Croatian was in limbo between being solid in possession and frantic without it. His complete lack of composure when facing quality attackers worries me for the season ahead with Liverpool yet to sign Virgil van Dijk or any replacement of his ilk.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 5.5 – Looked to be a pedestrian on the pitch with his movement not great. As his best traits are in the attacking department, it was odd to see very little attacking impetus from the youngster.
Emre Can: 6.5 – The German looked alright out there for Liverpool but failed to generate much from central midfield. He did well to break up play when asked to and used his strength to his advantage when dealing with Bilbao attackers.
James Milner: 5.5 – I have a lot to say about Klopp’s decision to play Milner in midfield but it must be said that the Englishman lacked any sense of creative impetus. While it’s not really a criticism of him, he wasn’t even on the penalty that Liverpool won.
Marko Grujic: 6 – Not a great game from the Serbian with his only memorable moments from the game being fouls on Bilbao midfielders – including one which resembled a rugby tackle.
Roberto Firmino: 8 – Although he only played one-half – as did all 10 outfielders that started – Firmino was outstanding for Liverpool. He scored the penalty that he won but that wasn’t what impressed me.
The Brazilian was quick in possession and one of the few Liverpool players that actively looked to make an impact on the game. His proactive style of play and the way he leads the press are reasons why Klopp constantly picks him.
Divock Origi: 4 – He was shocking. I think a 4/10 is being kind. He missed an absolute sitter from 12 yards after eight minutes of play and then after another eight minutes had passed, he headed wide from near point blank range.
With 7 days to go until the new season starts, Origi must know that he is doing poorly as far as forcing his way into Klopp’s plans is concerned.
Mohamed Salah: 6 – An uncharacteristically quiet game from the club’s record signing but let’s just hope he’s saving his best for next week’s game against Watford in the Premier League.
Andy Robertson (45′): 6.5 – Another tidy performance from Robertson who will challenge James Milner and potentially Alberto Moreno for the left back role this season.
Ragnar Klavan (45′): 6.5 – After picking up MOTM against Atletico Madrid midweek, the Estonian put in another good showing. Picked out a great pass to find Solanke in the box.
Joe Gomez (45′): 6 – Caught in possession a number of times and his passing was poor but on the whole, not a shocking performance.
Jon Flanagan (45′): 6 – Clattered into a few tackles but isn’t really at the level that Liverpool require.
Ovie Ejaria (45′): 6 – Another quiet game from the young midfielder but he did well to get stuck into tackles.
Georginio Wijnaldum (45′): 6.5 – The Dutchman was once again played in the holding midfield role alongside youngsters with Jordan Henderson out with illness. He did well to dictate play better than he usually does with a tendency to match the tempo of the game instead of changing it up to suit Liverpool’s stance in the game.
Ben Woodburn (45′): 7.5 – He’s 17 years old? The touch and finish for his goal would argue otherwise. The only player who outshone him in the second half was new signing Dom Solanke.
Sadio Mané (45′): 6.5 – Although he didn’t score or make an assist, the Senegal attacker did use his pace and composure on the ball to make space for his fellow attackers.
Dominic Solanke (45′): 8.5 (MOTM) – His game started with a great run down the wing and an equally good pick-out to find Ben Woodburn who finished brilliantly.
He topped his superb assist for Woodburn with a brilliant headered goal when Ragnar Klavan found him in the box with a lofted pass.
You have to ask yourself if Solanke has done enough this pre-season to edge out Divock Origi in the striking pecking order.
Ryan Kent (45′): 6 – He showed great intent to get past his man down the line every chance he got but what I was most impressed by was the fact that he took corners on both feet depending on which side it was.