Liverpool’s 2020/21 pre-season was brought to a fitting conclusion following Jurgen Klopp’s team 7-2 victory against Blackpool at Anfield yesterday.
It was the final opportunity for players to get some well-earned minutes in the tank ahead of the Reds’ upcoming Premier League title defence in just six days time.
There were a number of encouraging performances as Klopp weighs up his options ahead of Liverpool’s inaugural league clash with newly-promoted Leeds United next Saturday.
Here we analyse which three Liverpool stars have warranted a claim to be one of the standout candidates to be named in the manager’s starting XI under the Anfield lights in a week’s time.
Liverpool’s standout beneficiary of pre-season following what has been an outstanding few weeks for the Japanese international.
Minamino, 25 followed up his Wembley heroics with another goal for his Liverpool collection – he also provided the assist for Roberto Firmino who put the Reds ahead for the first time against Neil Critchley’s Blackpool side who initially went 2-0 up.
Against Arsenal last weekend, Minamino came off the bench to be stationed alongside Liverpool’s front-three in a 4-2-3-1 system that allowed the former RB Salzburg star more time and space to break between forward lines.
Klopp opted for an alternate approach against Blackpool as Minamino was deployed behind Firmino in a No.10 position that hasn’t really been seen at Anfield since the departure of Philippe Coutinho.
Both Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold were missing on international duty which meant Klopp needed more creativity from his midfielders.
When Liverpool had their backs to the wall, Minamino stood up to the mark to provide the Reds that spark that was missing in the opening 20 minutes that saw Klopp’s side fall two goals behind.
Minamino played provider and beneficiary to Firmino as both attack-minded players scored and provided for Liverpool.
Considering the season is just a week away, Minamino’s performance was a timely reminder that Klopp certainly knows what he is doing when it comes to the club’s transfer approach.
It was quite the sight to see Joel Matip back on the pitch following a knee injury the Cameroonian defender sustained during the Merseyside debry clash at Goodison back in June.
Incredibly, Matip only featured in nine of Liverpool’s 38 matches en route to the club’s 19th league title last season.
When he has played, the 29-year-old has been utterly outstanding alongside Virgil van Dijk with injuries ultimately what has cost Matip his place as the Dutchman’s preferred central defensive option.
However, his performance against Blackpool was a timely reminder that when fit he is a classy option for Klopp to utilise given his composure on the ball and exceptional reading of the game.
Matip can also chip in with the goals on occasion for Liverpool with the former Schalke star on the scoresheet at Anfield yesterday to inspire the Reds to a remarkable comeback after his towering header was converted on the stroke of half-time.
It also is telling that the last time he was fully fit and available for selection against Everton two months, it was Matip that was given the nod over Gomez to feature in the German manager’s XI.
While Klopp may not want to risk anything given this was Matip’s first game in over two months yet if he is able to stay fit there is no reason for the player to stake a claim against Joe Gomez as the best option to partner Van Dijk in central defence.
One player who could give Klopp a new dynamic against Leeds and someone who would offer Liverpool a sense of unpredictability is none other than Curtis Jones.
Jones’ adventures with the first-team have so far been utilised in midfield. He sits Klopp’s midfielder trident while trying to burst forward into the opposition box similarly to Naby Keita.
The West Derby talent can also operate as a left midfielder/winger for the U23s, for one. He has an act for scoring goals from that position and a 4-2-3-1 allows for that role. In the 4-3-3, the left-winger is usually a quicker player who looks to attack with pace.
But in a 4-2-3-1, the out-and-out striker dictates that the wide players can focus a little more on play in front of the defender – which plays to Jones’ strengths.
But he also looks like a natural fit for a potential no.10 role, too. Jones is technically well ahead of his age and capable of getting beyond the striker into the box or helping to move the ball around between the opposition lines.
If Klopp does want to switch up the tactics at Liverpool and throw off Marcelo Bielsa next week, Jones could become an ideal option. There would be three roles for him – one in the 4-3-3 and two in a 4-2-3-1.
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