Jack Hallows talks who’s had a successful summer pre-season campaign for Liverpool FC this year and conversely, who’s failed to impress.
Liverpool’s pre-season was largely a success on the field. Eight games spread across two continents in six weeks, 19 goals scored, four goals conceded, four clean sheets and a number of goal scorers.
Pre-season is always the most vital time for players to start stepping up and proving they’ve got what it takes to play a part in the coming season but sadly, it doesn’t always work out for everyone.
It’s clear to see who were the winners and who were the losers of Liverpool’s summer pre-season preparations so without further ado, let’s get into it.
The big winners
If anyone can be called a success story from Liverpool’s pre-season campaign, it’s the Reds’ new 19-year old striker. The young Englishman was exemplary across the summer, scoring three goals and looking a major threat every time he took to the field.
While his initial signing wasn’t met with the most excitable of reactions – understandable as half of the fanbase hadn’t actually heard of him by that point – his stock has certainly grown over the last six weeks and his movement, surprising yard of pace, quick feet and smart footballing brain have all impressed fans and pundits alike.
He’s proven he can find the net from distance with a fierce drive from outside the area against Crystal Palace and displayed predatory instincts with two super headed finishes against Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao over the last week or so.
When he signed, I fully expected him to spend the season on loan or playing Under-23s football, now I fully expect him to play a big part in the Reds’ domestic cup campaigns.
Another new signing, another successful summer.
While Dominic Solanke managed to get on the score sheet three times, he wasn’t quite the Reds’ leading goalscorer this summer, with record signing Mohamed Salah managing an impressive haul of four strikers in his six appearances.
The former AS Roma man went about justifying his price tag straight away with a debut goal against Wigan Athletic before adding to his tally with impressive finishes against Leicester, Hertha Berlin and Bayern Munich.
The Egyptian’s pace, technical ability and finishing skill – plus a natural left foot – are all major assets to Klopp’s front three and if he carries on this form throughout the season, he could be ridding himself of the ‘Chelsea reject’ tag almost as quickly as he can run.
He isn’t a new signing but he was compared to one by the manager after an impressive outing against Bayern Munich saw the Spaniard help Klopp’s Reds tear the German giants apart.
While he would’ve almost certainly started the summer high on most fan’s ‘first-to-be-replaced’ lists, the erratic left-back seems to have played his way back into Klopp’s plans and could even be in contention to start when the Reds take to the field at Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon.
With no team meeting the club’s valuation of £15m – so far – this summer and the Spaniard seemingly upping his game in recent weeks, he could just have earned himself another 12 months on Merseyside.
The unfortunate losers
Surely he’s got to go out on loan or something this summer?
The Belgian was a revelation at the end of his first campaign on Merseyside, playing a major role in Liverpool’s road to the Europa League final but despite following his breakout year with a haul of 11 goals across all competitions last season, Origi has continued failing to convince.
The Belgian often looks lost and isolated in Klopp’s system and his movement is far less natural than that of Solanke, Sturridge or Firmino. With all three of the aforementioned having impressed during the summer and likely forced their way ahead of him, Origi could face a long road if he is to return to playing consistent first-team football.
The talent is there, somewhere, but the application is certainly questionable. Failing to add to his single strike against Crystal Palace by missing a pair of fairly straight forward chances against Bilbao certainly didn’t help his cause.
With Moreno and Robertson now both attacking-minded, left-footed options at left-back and Liverpool’s best midfield not including the Englishman, Liverpool’s vice-captain may just have found himself being forced into a reduced role this season.
An impeccable penalty record and the vice-captaincy aren’t enough to earn you a starting spot in any Champions League level XI and for Milner and Liverpool it should be no different.
The 31-year old still has a lot to offer and it’s not as if he’s done anything wrong but it looks as if he is simply going to find himself a victim of his own utility-man reputation once again.
He’s not a loser in terms of his performances but sadly, Lallana will miss the first 2-3 months of the season with a thigh injury sustained during the Reds Audi Cup involvement.
The Englishman was a key player in Klopp’s midfield trio last season, with his two-footedness, game intelligence and dribbling ability all adding extra mobility and threat to the Reds’ supporting cast.
However, with Coutinho being moved deeper, Henderson of course the first choice in the ‘6’ and both Wijnaldum and Can impressing over the summer, Lallana could find it hard to force his way back into the side when he returns in a couple of months time.
On the fence
If Virgil van Dijk had already signed for the club, Lovren may have pipped one of Milner or Lallana in the biggest ‘losers’ of the pre-season.
The Croatian still looks shaky at best 90% of the time and failed to truly convince for much of Liverpool’s summer preparations. There were positive performances – such as his run out against Bayern Munich – but there were equally just as many combinations of poor bouts of decision making and rash defending just round the corner – his mistake against Bilbao the most notable.
Lovren is still more than capable of upping his game, we’ve seen that on numerous occasions but with his tendency to make high profile errors no nearer to being resolved, Liverpool surely need a replacement. Get one and his starting place could be under serious threat.
Another who failed to really convince was Jon Flanagan.
With Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Nathaniel Clyne competing for a single right back spot and Alberto Moreno, James Milner and Andy Robertson competing for the role of Liverpool’s left back, you wonder where ‘Flanno’ fits in.
I know that Klopp likes him and I know that he’s a proper Scouser but aside from one impressive outing against Tranmere Rovers, the Englishman really failed to make an impression. Perhaps that game helped him find his level?
Ward did nothing wrong this pre-season whatsoever and when he was finally called upon for his solitary outing – against Atletico Madrid during the Audi Cup – it was a real baptism of fire.
The Welshman made a superb finger tip save during the match to push the ball onto the bar, only to see his defenders react too slowly to clear their lines, resulting in the Reds going 1-0 down. Firmino equalled from the spot but this only meant that Ward was forced to endure the frustrations of a penalty shoot out which unfortunately for the Reds, they lost.
With Loris Karius and Simong Mignolet getting numerous run outs each, Ward will feel hard done by that he only got the one chance to impress and while he performed well against the Spanish side, one feels he probably won’t get the same chances this season as his two team mates.