Five talking points from Liverpool's pre-season so far

Five talking points from Liverpool's pre-season so far

The Reds have already completed five pre-season matches, winning three, drawing one and losing one.

Matt Addison

With more than half of Liverpool's pre-season fixtures completed, the clock ticking down as we head towards the 2018/19 campaign.

The Reds have played Chester, Tranmere, Bury, Blackburn and Borussia Dortmund so far, and still have to face Manchester City, Manchester United, Napoli and Torino before beginning the Premier League at Anfield against West Ham United.

With preparations well underway, these are the stories that have dominated pre-season to date.

Returning sharpness

Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana have been two of Liverpool's best players so far this July, despite spending most of last season unavailable.

Sturridge featured sporadically before heading to West Bromwich Albion on loan in January, where he failed to pull up any trees in a struggling team, while Lallana made only one league start for Liverpool, against Burnley.

Both have clear quality – Sturridge is among the best players in English football when fully firing, although that rarely materialises, and Lallana was arguably Liverpool's player of the season in 2016/17 – and keeping them fit could be crucial as Liverpool chase silverware.

The sharpness that they have both showed in pre-season will be a big boost to Jurgen Klopp, as too will the return of Nathaniel Clyne.

With Trent Alexander-Arnold not coming back into the fold until a week before the season starts, he will begin the season at right-back, and getting the minutes under his belt now is incredibly important - it is easy to forget in his absence just how good he is.

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New signings impressing

Naby Keita and Fabinho are the new signings who have already returned to training ahead of the new season, and both have looked more and more at home with each game that has been played.

Keita exploded into life against Blackburn and Borussia Dortmund having begun a little more slowly but has shown glimpses of how truly exceptional he can be.

With Mo Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino in front of him, his incise passes and determined bursts forward from the centre of the park will become even more effective; it promises to be a deadly combination.

Further back in midfield, Fabinho been solid although he has yet to be fully tested against a consistently top-class opponent.

Some of his passes have gone astray at times, but there are obvious signs that the holding midfielder can prove to be an astute purchase.

Both players will add quality to the Liverpool midfield, with Xherdan Shaqiri another player who has arrived. He will join the team shortly while they are in the US.

Forward line concerns

Firmino is the undoubted number one central striker in Liverpool's team, but one of Dominic Solanke, Divock Origi or Sturridge had the opportunity to make a mark, with Rhian Brewster, who recently put pen to paper on a new long-term contract, out injured.

Someone needed to step up in the forward line to make themselves the clear second choice and there can be no question over which one has laid down a marker.

Neither Solanke nor Origi have taken their chance, with both doing nothing to suggest they should be in and around the team next season.

Neither have scored a goal or offered anything in terms of the attack across all five games. Solanke, at 20, has time on his side and is likely to be kept around, but for Origi, this could be the end of the line.

After a disappointing spell last season at Wolfsburg, where he only mustered six goals in the Bundesliga plus one more in the relegation play-offs, he really needed to prove a point this summer, but has done nothing of the sort.

Relying on Sturridge to stay fit and be sharp when he is needed would be a risky ploy, but then so would expecting Origi or Solanke to offer sufficient quality.

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Confidence-stricken Karius

The key question for Loris Karius was whether he would be able to overcome his Champions League calamity, and with all the scrutiny in the world hanging over him, the answer has been a resounding no.

He spilt a free-kick against Tranmere which led to a goal and pushed the ball straight into the path of Jacob Bruun Larsen against Dortmund when he should have done better with the initial effort from Christian Pulisic, and every time he does something right there are ironic cheers from the crowd.

It is impossible not to feel for him, but at the same time, Liverpool have correctly been ruthless. Alisson has come in for a world-record fee and he will be in goal when the Reds face Napoli in Dublin on August 4.

The question now is whether Karius will stay and be Liverpool's second choice or not. Ideally, he needs to go somewhere abroad, to be taken out of the firing line, or there will be further long-term damage to his career.

That will largely depend on who they can get in, with Danny Ward already departed. Simon Mignolet possibly will leave in search of games too once he returns, while Kamil Grabara is highly thought of, but perhaps not ready.

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Young players step up

On a more positive note, young players such as Rafa Camacho, Curtis Jones and Nat Phillips have been a credit to the Academy staff who have brought them through the system.

Jones, in particular, has received rave reviews for his confident and classy performances at the age of just 17.

It might well be that Ben Woodburn is allowed out on loan because Jones has shown enough to prove that he can be relied upon.

Camacho has been confident, too, starting the pre-season at right-back and now playing on the right of the front three as he prefers, while Phillips has looked assured, especially when lining up alongside Virgil van Dijk.

Whether any of them are in the 18-man squad on the opening day is highly doubtful, but none have done themselves any harm in terms of future chances.

Should Liverpool draw a lower league team in the early stages of the EFL Cup, for example, all three would have realistic hopes of being involved, provided they do not go out on loan.


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