Ethan Golding looks to put a positive spin on an otherwise tough summer for Liverpool and highlights three things he can’t wait to see this season.
Amidst the doom and gloom of missed targets, an injured Adam Lallana and the undying rumour of Coutinho to Barcelona, here are 3 things that we can all be excited about this coming season.
Mané & Salah Out Wide
Speed, quality, ingenuity, assists, goals, left, right, Mané, Salah. If we thought it was special watching Coutinho one side and Mané the other was good, we may very well have trouble comprehending our wide options this season.
For 45 magnificent minutes against Bayern Munich, we were treated to a glimpse of our new look front three. Ruthless pressing from Firmino, which has become typical of Liverpool’s new no.9, resulted in a quick counter and a quintessential Mané sprint finish.
Not too long later and Mané was running forward again, a neat back heel to Moreno and dangerous cross later, and the ball was in the net once more as Salah found himself running into space at the far post.
You may be surprised by this but it’s actually very difficult to articulate the brilliance of Liverpool’s two forward options. Fundamentally, they are both just very, very good at football.
Although Salah arrived at Anfield the long way, he has arrived here a far better player than the one that Brendan Rogers had tried to sign. If he keeps his development continuing at this rate then he may very well become world class. His versatility and positive attacking play means he’s always likely to score a goal or create for others.
Mané, on the other hand, looks to have found a new level somehow, despite not being involved for most of pre-season. We caught a glimpse of what he could do last season, being the leading goalscorer for most of that time, but from the looks of it we haven’t seen anything yet.
Mané on the right always looked good, but on the left he was a different animal entirely.
Given Bayern were not at full strength and do seem to be struggling this pre-season, he was the best player on the field by a long way, a field on which played Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Ribery, David Alaba, James Rodriguez and, briefly, Thiago Alcântara. He made Renato Sanches look every bit the 19-year-old that he is.
The only thing that’s more exciting than Mané on one wing and Salah on the other, is if Mané was wearing the number 7 on his back (no I will not let this go!).
No more AFCON interruptions
Tying in nicely with reason to be excited number one, is the fact that the Africa Cup of Nations will no longer be taking place during January. Last season, the loss of Mané to the AFCON and the confusion surrounding Joel Matip’s international playing status threw a serious spanner in the works of Liverpool’s season.
This, however, will not be happening this year and nor will it be happening in any future seasons. This means that we won’t even have to imagine the nightmare of not only losing Mané in during a New Year’s fixture list, but Salah too.
Not only this, but it means that there is one less risk involved with signing any other African International players, e.g a certain Guinean centre midfielder whose name may or may not rhyme with Taby Geita.
It’s a simple reason but often those are the sweetest.
3. Depth At Full-Back
Last year had us biting our collective nails at the prospect of either Nathaniel Clyne or James Milner picking up an injury. The revelation that is Trent Alexander-Arnold did somewhat ease the anxiety surround the RB role, and now Trent even looks to be first choice.
There was no break out Academy left back to put us at ease last season. Had Milner picked up a knock, with Joe Gomez out the majority of last season we would have been looking to Alberto Moreno; after the Arsenal display, nobody wanted to see that.
This year, however, it seems that an injury to either fullback will not be the end of the world. Clyne is set to miss the opening game of the season, at least, as it stands and I challenge you to find a single Liverpool fan that is unhappy with the prospect of TAA starting in his absence.
Beyond Trent, Gomez has looked a more than capable 3rd choice right back as well as steadily improving in his preferred centre back position.
On the far side of the back four we still have a defensive minded full back in the form of James Milner and pushing him for a starting birth is our new Scottish left back Andrew Robertson.
Robertson has given a good account of himself this preseason, showing a natural instinct for getting forward, an instinct which may have been quelled during his time at Hull but is sure to be encouraged now that he is at an attacking team.
Though he seems to be an attacking full back, he has not shrugged off the defensive work and like Trent and Salah on the right, Robertson seems to be building a promising understanding with Sadio Mané on the left.
Further beyond both Robertson and Milner, Alberto Moreno has impressed many Reds fans of late. Whether his performances against Bayern Munich and Athletic Bilbao have saved his Liverpool career or simply raised his price remains to be seen.
In the event of a Moreno departure, Joe Gomez is also capable of filling in the left full back role and add in Jon Flanagan, even if it is just for the time being, and Liverpool seemed to have stumbled upon quite an arsenal of full back talent for the up and coming season.
I for one, am truly excited.