The Community Shield should reveal any plans Jurgen Klopp has for the first half of the season. The Liverpool boss doesn’t hide his intentions.
Liverpool face Arsenal in the Community Shield on Saturday. It’ll kickstart a season where the Reds are in a very unusual position – there’s no history to chase. They simply want to be the best team.
And while you can argue over the importance of the Shield itself, one thing is for sure – we’re getting our first look at Klopp’s plans. The boss has some ways to shake things up this season but, in all honesty, the first-team will likely look quite similar to the last two years.
Kostas Tsimikas is the only senior signing but he’s almost certainly backup to Andy Robertson. Thus it’s the youngsters that offer a variety of ways that Klopp can mix things around for the new season.
You can see our predicted lineup for the Community Shield here. We expect things to look a little similar to usual, but with changes at right-back and centre-midfield. No matter what happens, it’ll clue us into the season’s plan.
Last season’s Community Shield saw Klopp play his strongest available XI. And that was a clue to things in itself. Sadio Mane was missing with injury but other than that, it was exactly the team that would set records over the next 12 months.
And that was Klopp’s plan. Liverpool were keeping things the same as the previous year – no upheaval, consistency was key.
The year before, too, we saw the plans. Liverpool beat West Ham United 4-0 with the following XI – Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson, Gini Wijnaldum, James Milner, Naby Keita, Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Roberto Firmino.
Immediately we had some clues. First, Gomez was the preferred partner for Van Dijk. That’s something we’d see that year, right up until an injury in December. We also saw that Keita was deemed ready. Klopp would persist with the Guinean, although injuries and form changed the plans.
But the most notable choice was Fabinho on the bench. The Brazilian didn’t even come on and that was the start of a strange time for Fabinho at Liverpool. He didn’t play in the Premier League until late September and wouldn’t start in Liverpool’s preferred 4-3-3 until March.
Klopp wanted to bed him in and made that clear from Day One.
The seasons ahead
So what could we learn on Saturday? Well our lineup features three notable selections. The first being Neco Williams at right-back as Alexander-Arnold deals with an injury. If we’re right, it would suggest that Williams is a trusted first-team player from the start this year. He won’t be in ahead of the no.66 but starting him here means Klopp trusts him.
Similarly, we think Curtis Jones will fill in for Jordan Henderson in the middle. If that happens, it says two things. Firstly, we’ll see a lot of Jones this year. Secondly, we might not see much of Wijnaldum. Barcelona supposedly want the Dutchman and if Klopp leaves him out of the Community Shield, perhaps they want him soon.
We think Keita will start, too. It would suggest that Keita is firmly a senior, first-choice player this season after his fine form at the end of last year. Perhaps Klopp will persist once again.
Then there’s someone who isn’t in the lineup but will have a spotlight on him – Rhian Brewster. He’s scoring goals in friendlies but this will be a real test – if he comes on. If Klopp does use him for a decent length of time, we think he could be a part of squad this season. Potentially quite a prominent part.