For so long now, the burning question surrounding Liverpool’s upcoming title defence has been whether the squad is adept enough to replicate the same performance levels as last season.
Jurgen Klopp has remained consistent that major club additions will not be a priority this summer and instead he will look to bolster the depth of the squad via internal solutions.
Against RB Salzburg on Tuesday, the German manager demonstrated just that after the Reds fought back from 2-0 down to salvage a draw against the Austrian champions.
Depth of squad vindicated
It was Klopp’s youngsters and fringe players who stepped up to the mark to rescue what was a rather unconvincing display from the club’s senior stars who were miles off the pace during Liverpool’s second pre-season match of their tour of Austria.
Liverpool, to a man in the first-half – were guilty of sloppiness in their approach. Both of Salzburg’s goals came from Liverpool’s own undoing as the Reds were quickly punished at the hands of Patson Daka who scored two goals in the opening 15 minutes.
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Fabinho was guilty of giving the ball away for the first while Joe Gomez also gifted away possession cheaply as complacency and a lack of urgency saw Liverpool punished early on.
To Klopp’s credit, his substitutions and the depth of his squad came to the fore in the second half as his players showed great character and spirit to get back into the game.
Rhian Brewster was the star of the show after his impressive brace made it three goals in his last two Liverpool matches to demonstrate to Klopp that his 2020/21 credentials potentially will be best served at Anfield.
With 11 goals in 22 Championship appearances last term, Brewster’s renewed swagger in front of goal has certainly showcased no signs of slowing down.
It added further indication – if it was needed – that Brewster is someone who can be a useful weapon in the attacking arsenal next season.
Nat Phillips also performed well in the heart of defence following Virgil van Dijk’s removal after the Dutchman sustained a head injury.
The returning loanee was a commanding and assured figure for the Reds alongside Gomez and then Billy Koumetio to thwart Salzburg on numerous occasions.
Marko Grujic was another second-half substitute who showcased his qualities to Klopp. The Serbian international utilised the ball well and almost set up a potential winning goal after his superb run late on eventually found Harvey Elliott who was denied by Salzburg goalkeeper Carlos.
This was the perfect hard-fought battle that will have done Liverpool’s fitness levels a world of good.
Rustiness and mistakes are inevitable at this stage, though the guts and guile on display to respond showcases that the motivation levels ahead of next season remain the same.
This was not the usual retreat for Liverpool and still they have showcased numerous physical gains in just a 10-day period.
Getting up to full match sharpness in such a short amount of time is impossible, but the experience gained from a fully charged Salzburg side will certainly have helped Liverpool ahead of Saturday’s Community Shield clash with Arsenal.
The tempo and speed of the opponent was something Liverpool clearly weren’t used to following Saturday’s procession against Stuttgart.
It was a reminder of how quickly the ball must move; shape must be maintained and the physical and mental drain that should be expected from next season.
Ultimatley it was a tough day for Klopp’s team, but one that will undoubtedly serve them for the better in the short, medium, and long term.
For so long, Liverpool’s senior stars have rarely had to rely on their teammates to get them out of jail during difficult periods yet on this occasions the bulk of Klopp’s squad demonstrated their value.
It was a timely reminder that this Liverpool squad has an abundance of options and will ensure that Klopp can leave the Austrian training camp satisfied with his player’s overall exertions.
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