Caislin Boyle is curious about who can take advantage of Roberto Firmino’s absence from Liverpool’s pre-season tour of the United States.
With the intense transfer activity around Liverpool F.C this week, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that pre-season is well underway ahead of the West Ham opener on the 12th of August. After a visit to Ewood Park tonight to play Blackburn Rovers, the Reds head off to the United States to compete in the International Champions Cup against a raft of big names.
Sunday 22nd July sees the Reds take on Jürgen Klopp’s former club Borussia Dortmund, with fixtures against both Manchester clubs to follow on the 25th and 28th of July respectively.
The commercial value of these international tours is well known, with the club always keen to expand its fanbase around the far reaches of the world. However, it is also a prime opportunity for players to stake a claim – particularly this year, as World Cup commitments mean that many key players will not be on the tour.
One such player is our number 9, Bobby Firmino, who isn’t due to return until the second training camp in France.
There was a well-documented decline in quality when Firmino didn’t play last season, alongside which it was frequently highlighted that finding a top quality backup striker is not easy. Bobby’s stock rose to the point where many believe he was the most important player for the club last season.
Therefore, his absence matters in a summer where we have yet to buy to strengthen that particular area. But is it also an opportunity?
Firmino’s absence could be seized upon by one of the four other strikers at the club expected to go on the tour; Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi, Dominic Solanke & Danny Ings. While it’s an amusing coincidence that their first names all begin with the letter ‘D’, what is no fluke is their current standing within the club.
Of the four mentioned, only Solanke is very likely to remain this season. The other three strikers must take this opportunity to show their worth – to other clubs (in the case of Ings), and to Klopp (in the case of Sturridge and Origi). And while Solanke’s position at the club remains secure, he must demonstrate that he warrants more than Cup competition appearances this season.
All four players have featured in pre-season so far, notching a paltry three goals between them. Solanke and Origi are yet to get off the mark, with Sturridge and Ings netting twice and once respectively. It should be noted that all three goals came in a comprehensive 7-0 victory over a Chester side that was relegated last season.
That said this game was notable for a good performance from Daniel Sturridge, who looked sharp, hungry and in total ownership of his unerring ability to finish. Most fans would agree that he remains the most talented of our strikers, but his fitness issues often eclipse that talent.
This upcoming tour represents an opportunity for Sturridge to continue to build his fitness, and to assure the manager that he can be relied upon. Should he do so, there is absolutely no reason why he cannot prove to be an asset in his final season at the club.
Of our strikers, he is the most capable of fitting into the preferred system. Nobody would bat an eyelid at a front three of Salah, Mané and Sturridge. I’d like him to stay.
Danny Ings scored in that same fixture, but with a transfer request handed in, it’s clear that this tour is his opportunity to impress potential suitors. I sincerely hope he does so – an injury-blighted spell at Liverpool is still a spell at Liverpool, and he will leave the club a better player than that which walked through the door. Ings could be a key player for many other sides.
I have included Divock Origi in this piece because he is a striker who is likely to go on the American tour – yet I don’t believe he is capable of the performances required to convince Klopp that he can be an asset to the club this season.
Of the strikers’ performances thus far in pre-season, Origi’s has sadly been the most clumsy, disjointed and regressive. This is a player who clearly went backward whilst on loan at Wolfsburg last season and, frankly, it is not worth trying to elevate him to the required level.
The aspiration should be to use this tour to impress Klopp, yet the reality is probably that it will be his springboard to interest other potential buyers.
One of the reasons for my strong views on Origi is because I believe Dominic Solanke fulfills our quota for raw and occasionally-frustrating strikers. I don’t believe we require both at the club, and with the latter being three years junior, he is the player worth persevering with.
Solanke is yet to score in this pre-season and will want to use the American tour to change that. He won’t want a monkey on his back similar to that of last season, which saw him finally score his first league goal on the last day.
I believe that Klopp rates Solanke, and looks positively upon his hold-up play, in-game intelligence and potential. With Klopp largely favouring a 4-2-3-1 this pre-season, Solanke looks set to get more opportunities to show his worth for the upcoming season. After all, he took his chance in last year’s pre-season.
All four players will perceive a positive American tour as a huge plus; the International Champions Cup is comprised of quality opposition. Whether trying to impress Klopp, prospective suitors or merely themselves, each striker on show should grasp their opportunity.
For Origi and Ings, it may well be their last in Liverpool red. For Sturridge, the mammoth global Liverpool following may motivate him to display his unquestionable talent. For Solanke, he needs another positive pre-season to match last year.
The absence of our unrivaled number 9 opens the door for another, but which player will take it? It’ll be high stakes in the states.