Liverpool are reportedly planning talks with Andy Robertson over an improved contract, which would double the left-back’s current wage.
Robertson has established himself as a key figure on Merseyside since his £8 million move from Hull City last summer, taking a considerable step up.
Despite impressing at the KC Stadium, his move remained a calculated gamble for Liverpool, and after a slow start this has certainly paid off.
Now, his fine form is set to be rewarded, according to the Mirror, who claim he is in line for a new deal that would “see him pocket more than £60,000 a week.”
The Scot still has three years remaining on his existing terms, but the club are seemingly eager to tie him down for the long term to avoid a possible departure.
Liverpool are said to be “confident terms will be tied up quickly,” which would be another major boost after a summer that heralded some excellent business.
After addressing the deficiencies in Klopp’s starting lineup ahead of 2018/19, the Reds would be sensible in securing the futures of those already key to their success.
Though £60,000 a week seems relatively low for a regular first-team player at Liverpool, with Salah, Firmino and Virgil van Dijk earning more than double that, it does reflect Robertson’s low profile.
If the Mirror are to be believed, this would be another brilliant move by the club.
Though he primarily fills a specialist role in the Liverpool squad, Fabinho‘s tactical flexibility will have been key to his £39 million move.
Not since Javier Mascherano’s departure to Barcelona in 2010 had Liverpool been able to call upon a reliable, top-level defensive midfielder.
For a club whose modern-era successes were built upon a solid backbone in the middle of the park—before Mascherano, it was Didi Hamann—this was a clear deficiency needing attention.
Fabinho‘s outstanding form for Monaco makes him, at just 24, one of world football’s standout talents in the deep-lying role, and arguably ensures the fee paid to sign him is already a bargain.
Throughout the majority of pre-season, Fabinho took up duties in his favoured position for Liverpool, but in the final friendly of the summer he made a shift that amplified his worth.
Taking over at centre-back after the break in the Reds’ 3-1 victory over Torino at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp‘s plans for the Brazilian unfolded further.
Klopp’s decision to sanction Klavan’s £2 million move to Cagliari was arguably as informed by his belief in the developing Phillips as it was Fabinho‘s versatility.
Hours later, Liverpool’s new No. 3 was restored to the Brazil squad for the September international break—but this time, he was characterised as a full-back.
A natural defensive midfielder, well-versed in the role of right-back and considered a viable option at centre-back—plus a variety of other roles in midfield—the signing of Fabinho follows a telling trend in the Reds’ recruitment.
Like Naby Keita—who played both as a No. 8 and a left winger on his debut against West Ham last weekend—and Xherdan Shaqiri—who Klopp envisages playing out wide, in the No. 10 and the No. 8—Fabinho arrives to not only play a key role, but to provide Liverpool with genuine depth.
Fabinho‘s arrival helps facilitate Gomez’s move into his natural role at the back, as well as liberating Henderson from the engine room, providing Klopp with another industrious option further forward.
“If things were fixed with just one lineup and all the others were only needed when the rest are ill that would be the wrong way and we’d have no chance.”
The Sao Paulo native, like both Keita and Shaqiri, aids the manager in building a malleable, interchangeable squad.
Gone are the days of signing a big No. 9 and specialist wingers to provide the crosses, with Henderson the only survivor from Kenny Dalglish’s back-to-basics reign, and himself in a role indistinguishable from his early beginnings at Anfield.
Bar Lovren, Van Dijk and perhaps Andy Robertson—with Klopp describing the Scot last August as a “specialist” left-back—every outfielder in the current squad can play at least one other position or role.
For example, Alexander-Arnold has found a home at right-back, but has turned out in midfield; Wijnaldum has played as a No. 6, No. 8, No. 10, out wide and even at centre-back.
This is far from a revolutionary approach, but it is essential to Liverpool’s DNA under Klopp.
“We have enough players, now we have to see who fits which opponent best, then make the lineup,” the manager explained when assessing his centre-back options, with this applicable squad-wide.
While the Reds nominally line up in a 4-3-3, this can be interpreted as a number of different systems when looking down from the stands—3-4-1-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2—while any of Firmino, Mo Salah or Sadio Mane could be seen as the centre-forward at any given time.
Klopp himself described Mane as a “very offensive midfield player,” such is the ambiguity of a player’s role within his tactically flexible unit.
The same can be said of Klopp’s interchanging midfield, with Fabinho able to rotate roles with the likes of Keita and Wijnaldum, despite starting the game between the centre-backs.
He may take time to adjust, largely due to his ability—and the demand—to play a variety of roles.
But when he settles Fabinho can be expected to thrive, and give Liverpool another dimension.
With under two weeks left until the transfer window closes across the majority of Europe, Liverpool still have a host of peripheral players on their books.
But Klopp has stressed that if they remain on Merseyside for the first half of the season, he will expect them to push for a place in the squad:
“Whatever happens on August 31—I think that is the last [day]—there will be a specific point where it is clear that is the squad for the next four months until January.
“Who cannot be happy in these four months being part of the squad at Liverpool? I cannot help.
“What I can do is say everyone who trains to his highest level has a big chance to be an important part of the team and to stay in the team.
“There are more difficult things in life than not being in a match squad for a day. There are much more difficult problems in the world.
“You always have a chance to change the situation when you are part of the squad.”
This also serves as encouragement for those still considered an integral part of the squad but are currently on the fringes, such as Loris Karius and Alberto Moreno, as well as Klopp’s young hopefuls.Milner Feeling Vital in 17th Season
At 32, however, the midfielder is still feeling as vital as ever, and speaking to Premier League Productions insisted he is eager to play every game if possible—and help to bring silverware back to Anfield:
“I think I missed one game last year through injury and that was the last [league] game of the season. The body is definitely holding up.
“I feel very good and very fit—I want to play every single game. Obviously that’s not going to happen, I’m sure, and you need to rotate to be successful with the amount of games we have.
“And with the quality that’s in the squad, I’m sure that’s going to happen.
“But as long as I’m performing every time I step onto the field and making it as difficult as possible for the manager to leave me out of the side, I can’t do any more than that.
“The biggest thing for me is that I want to be successful at Liverpool: to win trophies and for me to be a part of that and contribute to that.”
Klavan’s £2 million move to Cagliari came as something of surprise, but with the manager putting his faith in Liverpool’s youngsters it should be seen as a sensible decision.
After spells in Estonia, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany and England, the 32-year-old is embarking on a new challenge in Italy.
“[Darjo] Srna advised me to come here, as I talked to him via Dejan Lovren.
“I’m certain we’ll do great things here and I am really fired up. The city is wonderful and so are the fans, I can’t wait to get started.”
It’s disappointing to see him leave, but Klavan clearly deserves regular first-team football.Adekanye’s Route to the First Team
The Liverpool U23s were held to a 1-1 draw by 10-man Tottenham on their first home game of the season on Friday, with Adam Lewis missing an early penalty to compound the young Reds’ frustration.
There were elements of positivity to take from the Anfield stalemate, however, most notably Bobby Adekanye’s brilliant display on the right flank, with the Dutchman scoring for the hosts.
For U23s manager Neil Critchley, this was vindication for his selection, and the 39-year-old told the Liverpool Echo how Adekanye can continue to impress higher up:
“I thought he was the best attacker on the pitch by a long, long way. He deserved to go home with the match ball, actually. I thought he was outstanding.
“Just his finishing, that little bit of end product [was missing]. But if you took him out of our team tonight, he’d have been a huge, huge miss for us.
“He was absolutely terrific, and if anybody deserved a bit of luck when he was through in the 88th minute, then it was him because I thought he was our best player on the night.
“For all his ability in beating people one-on-one and getting into good positions, he has to now add numbers and assists and goals to his game.
“If he can do that then people will really start to take notice of him.”
Still only 19, Adekanye could harbour hopes of breaking through under Klopp—and as the U23s’ only genuine wide threat he can aim to keep the spotlight on him in 2018/19.
Despite what the Holland captain described as an “almost complete” performance in Sunday’s dismantling of West Ham, the Dutchman knows there will be more difficult hurdles to overcome.
Liverpool finished 25 points adrift in fourth place last season having drawn 12 matches.
Van Dijk said it was those kind of results they needed to eradicate.
“The most important thing is that we look at ourselves,” he said when asked about competing with City.
“We know that right now we have a great squad. We have a lot of quality players. Everyone who plays for Liverpool has a lot of quality.
“It’s all about being consistent. We want to challenge for any competition.
“Of course, we want to challenge. I do not feel any pressure in that case but we play every game to win, that’s how our mindset is.
“It’s just one game. We had a good pre-season with good results and games where we’ve played very well.
“But we can do a lot better and it’s just the start. I think the key is we need to be very consistent and do it every game.”
“I was not really worried to be fair,” added Van Dijk.
“I’ve played a couple of games pre-season with Joe at centre-back and I have a very good relationship with him, a very good understanding outside of the pitch as well.
“We need everyone in the squad. It’s very important at our club. Everyone needs to be ready when we need you. Everyone realises this.”
If it all looked a little too easy for Liverpool in their 4-0 win over West Ham, this was thanks to hours of work on the training ground and two new signings.
The formation was the 4-3-3 which is now familiar under Jurgen Klopp, but the introduction of Keita, especially, plus an opposition who are still getting used to their new manager, made for an exhibition match where everything clicked into place.
James & Naby
The ease with which the plan was carried out was also thanks to the old guard, and 32-year-old James Milner put in a commanding midfield performance.
His inclusion was possibly down to Fabinho’s absence through illness, but any player will struggle to shift him from the lineup on this display.
Before delving into the statistics on the tactical side, it’s worth noting that Milner won two aerial duels and made two headed passes with a head which just last week required 15 stitches in a gash above his eye.
Though he was wearing a headband, the mindset required to not shirk this type of thing is typical Milner. The captain’s armband was now also a captain’s headband.
The rest of his game was on point too, as he made three key passes, completed 93 per cent of his passes and was involved more than any other player.
Milner had 122 touches and made two assists—if you count his corner which deflected into Daniel Sturridge’s path. 40 per cent of Liverpool’s attacks went down the right channel he occupied.
Keita was also excellent in a role on the left which mirrored Milner’s. The heatmaps below from SofaScore show their respective involvement, with Milner on the right and Keita on the left.
Both worked the half-spaces between the wings and the centre of the park, helping out the full-backs in attack and defence, ably supported by Georginio Wijnaldum who patrolled the central channel.
For a new player coming into the side who doesn’t speak the language, Keita’s ability to slot straight in, as if he’s been playing here his whole career, should not be underestimated.
“It is a similar style of play and similar position he played at Leipzig, and he had a lot of help from players around him today,” Klopp said of Keita’s performance, knowing that there is much more to come from the Guinean.
He completed 94 per cent of his passes, including five out of six successful long balls.
The Brazilian stopper only had a couple of routine saves to make, and was called upon to punch one cross clear, but on the ball there were no qualms, even when some of the passes back to him weren’t the best.The Shape of the Goals
Three of Liverpool’s four goals were scored from inside the six-yard box, even though designated striker Roberto Firmino only had one shot in the whole game.
This was due to his withdrawn role which saw the team form a midfield diamond in attack.
The in-game images below show the general shape during attacking build-up. The second one shows Firmino dropping deep to lay the ball back to Keita, drawing a defender with him before he turns and rejoins the attack.
The average positions, shown below from SofaScore, back up the screenshots, indicating that these weren’t one-off occurrences and that this tendency for the striker was part of the plan.
As the move begins for the opening goal, with an incisive ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold infield to Keita, Firmino is in his own half.
By the time Salah tucks away Andy Robertson’s cross, he is just a couple of yards behind the goalscorer, and had the ball come in at a different angle he would have been on the end of it himself.
This is something which was evident last season, but was even more prominent in the opening game of this campaign.
Sane and Mane are effectively the strikers, and it’s no surprise that these were the players whose names graced the scoresheet.
The work of Milner and Keita in their respective channels, or half-spaces, as mentioned above, allows Salah and Mane to work in the same channel further forward.
The basic formation shown at the top of this page splits the pitch into five, and the second and fourth segments are where these four players do their damage.
Firmino and Wijnaldum are key to occupying the middle, distracting defenders and assisting in the build-up play, while the work of Robertson and Alexander-Arnold in the wide areas is also key.
Four of the top five most common passing combinations were between the full-backs and the two half-space midfielders.
Trent may not have been on his game in terms of crossing, and Klopp called him over for a mid-game talking-to after one particularly wild attempt, but his general build-up play contributed to the bigger picture, as seen in that opening goal.
Robertson’s stint from the left channel was there for all to see, as he grabbed an assist for the first and played a big part in the second with his deep cross to Milner.
Meanwhile, both centre-backs played their part with direct passes out from the back.
Van Dijk completed 60/61 passes, and it was especially encouraging to see Gomez slotting nicely into the system, and playing some good passes into midfield.
More tactical trends will become evident as the season progresses, and it will be easier to focus on details as each game tells a different story.
But in this Anfield opener, Liverpool were able to display their overall plan thanks to an opposition who aren’t yet drilled in the ways of their new manager, Manuel Pellegrini, and a system of their own which has now been in place for multiple seasons.
One which they are aiming to perfect with the addition of new players, who still have much more to give in the coming games.
We round up the latest Liverpool news and transfer rumours on Monday, following the Reds’ emphatic 4-0 win over West Ham at Anfield.
The British transfer window may be over but Liverpool will still be looking to offload certain players before the European deadline on August 31.
“We will wait over the next few days to see if they will present an offer.
“Considering that the market will close in a few days, I imagine that we will have to do it soon if we want to make a deal everyone will agree to.
“The interest is not new. Napoli like Mignolet. They have previously enquired about his availability in other transfer windows.
“This will not be the last word on a move to them.”
Should a deal get done it will benefit all parties, with Mignolet replacing Pepe Reina in the Napoli goal, following the Spaniard’s summer switch to AC Milan.Milner Says Keita Will Only Get Better
Naby Keita enjoyed a debut to remember on Sunday, bossing the midfield and helping his new team to a routine victory at Anfield.
“He’s a good player, you can see that straight away.
“He’s only going to get better, so to come into a new team, a new style of play, and to do so well, you can only imagine how good he’s going to be in a few months’ time with more games and more time with the boys.
“He’s a ball-winner, [with] great drive and fantastic ability as well. He’s top quality, like all the signings we’ve brought in.
“It’s more competition, which is exactly what you want. You look at some of the boys on the bench today and those who aren’t quite fit yet, it’s a great squad and exactly what we want.”
The early signs suggest Keita is going to be a signing of unbelievable quality—someone who can spearhead Liverpool’s title charge.More Praise For Keita
Someone else who was impressed with Keita was Jamie Redknapp, with the former Liverpool man gushing over the 23-year-old’s performance in his Mail column:
“He is unlike any Liverpool midfielder in the Premier League era. Keita is a pocket rocket brimming with pace and energy but also blessed with technical ability.”
Meanwhile, Ex-Reds goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar has described Keita as the perfect man to take Steven Gerrard’s No. 8 shirt:
“I honestly believe he is the only player who can take that No. 8 jersey after Steven Gerrard—I think he’s the perfect player in that position.
“He’s a beautiful player and I’ve already seen the signs that he’s going to have a major impact on Liverpool this season and in the years to come.”Fenerbahce Keen on Klavan
Despite a paucity of fit centre-backs in Jurgen Klopp‘s squad, the Reds will consider offers for their fifth choice, whose contract is set to expire next summer.
And according to Fotomac, however, Fenerbahce are keen on snapping up the 32-year-old to bolster their defensive options moving forward.
Sporting Lisbon defender Merih Demiral is also a target for the Turkish giants, who hope to get one of the deals over the line before the transfer deadline.New Statistic Highlights Van Dijk’s Influence
Virgil van Dijk was at his imperious best on Sunday afternoon, as he continues to thrive in a Liverpool shirt.
Since he moved to Anfield, no player has recorded more clean sheets in the Premier League.
Liverpool haven’t conceded a home league goal since February, further summing up the impact Van Dijk is having.Loan Move “More Likely” For Ojo
Sheyi Ojo will struggle to be a part of Klopp’s first-team plans this season and a move away could still happen.
On Monday morning, the Liverpool Echo‘s James Pearce responded to a question on Twitter regarding Ojo’s future, saying “a loan [is] more likely at this stage.”
Ojo needs more football at this stage in his career, and with any kind of future at Anfield looking bleak, a move away would be beneficial in his development.
Liverpool will consider offers for fifth-choice centre-back Ragnar Klavan this month, in a surprise move from the club in the wake of recent injuries.
Gomez himself has struggled with fitness issues in recent seasons, and pre-season success story Nathaniel Phillips endured back trouble last term, leaving Van Dijk as the only truly reliable option.
However, with the manager looking to trim down his squad before the end of the European transfer window on August 31, he could sanction an exit for Klavan.
According to the Liverpool Echo‘s James Pearce, the Reds would allow Klavan to leave if they receive an acceptable offer.
The Estonian was signed for just £4.2 million in 2016, and has one year left on his current contract—though Liverpool have the option to extend this by a further season.
“Klopp isn’t actively looking to move on Klavan,” Pearce explains, adding “if the right opportunity doesn’t come up then he will remain a valued member of the squad.”
But with Newcastle United already making an approach before the English window closed on August 9, and Besiktas linked by Turkish outlet Fotomac, it is feasible he moves on.
Pearce suggests “a return to the Bundesliga before August 31 is a possibility.”
Klavan has proved himself a very dependable figure in his two seasons with the Reds so far, and it would be disappointing if he does leave.
Though he is the oldest player in the squad at 32, he is far from over the hill, and given neither Matip or Lovren are consistent in their fitness allowing him to move on with no replacement would questionable.
But Phillips’ ability to operate on the right of the defensive pairing, rather than in Van Dijk’s natural role on the left, may have swayed Klopp’s decision.
Liverpool have confirmed new squad numbers for Alisson, Fabinho and Rhian Brewster on the eve of the 2018/19 campaign.
Having worn it throughout pre-season, Fabinho will keep the No. 3 for the campaign, in a slight departure from his squad number at Monaco.
Brewster moves to No. 24 following his promotion to the first-team setup, inheriting the shirt last worn by Joe Allen.
Liverpool have now registered their squad for the Premier League season, though this is still subject to change with the European transfer window still open.Liverpool Squad Numbers, 2018/19
The 2018/19 Premier League season gets started on Friday evening, but what’s new to look forward to once the action beings?
Every year, numerous changes are made in the Premier League, whether it be related to personnel, rules or many other initiatives.
Here’s what’s new ahead of the upcoming season.3 New Teams
Rarely has there been such hype surrounding newly-promoted clubs, certainly in the case of Wolves and Fulham.
Fellow newcomers Cardiff City may not bring a lot to the party under Neil Warnock, but the other two have spent big this summer and play an attacking brand of football.
Whether it be Wolves’ Portuguese-heavy group of players or Fulham’s plethora of new arrivals, from Jean Michael Seri to Andre Schurrle, watching them is going to be a lot of fun.
From a Liverpool perspective, it will be interesting to see how former youth team product Conor Coady fares at the top level, with the 25-year-old captaining Wolves.Loads of New Signings
It hasn’t been the busiest of summers from the top clubs as a collective, but Liverpool have outperformed their rivals comfortably in the transfer market.
Elsewhere, Riyad Mahrez will only enhance City’s squad depth, Jorginho will be an excellent purchase for Chelsea and Arsenal should be strengthened by the likes of Bernd Leno, Sokratis and Lucas Torreira.
Everton went mad on deadline day, in particular, signing Bernard, Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes, while Wolves and Fulham’s spending has been well-documented.
West Ham are another team to watch, with Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko and Issa Diop making them strong contenders to finish seventh.
There are good new players to watch galore – more so further down the table, interestingly.7 New Managers
Nuno Espirito Santo and Slavisa Jokanovic masterminded Wolves and Fulham’s respective promotions to the Premier League – they will now get the chance to prove their talent in the top flight.
Warnock, meanwhile, is back to show that he can cut it in the Premier League, despite often failing to thrive as much as in the Championship.
Arsene Wenger’s exit brought an end to 22 years at Arsenal, with Unai Emery the man tasked with taking the club forward.
The former Sevilla boss has undoubted pedigree, but how tough will he find filling a void left by such a giant figure at the Emirates?
Maurizio Sarri begins life as Chelsea manager, with the Italian set to adopt a creative playing style not often seen at Stamford Bridge this century.
There is also change at Everton, with the dour Sam Allardyce era over, unfortunately, and the impressive Marco Silva now in charge.
Manuel Pellegrini takes the reins at West Ham.1 New Stadium
The north Londoners may have had a bizarre transfer window, signing nobody during the summer, but they have a new home to look forward.
Having played at Wembley last season – they face Fulham there on August 18 while work is completed on the new ground – they start life in the cleverly-named Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on September 15, against none other than Liverpool.
Wouldn’t it be great to spoil the party?New Ball
It doesn’t matter how old you are, the announcement of the new Premier League ball will always bring an element of excitement.
The Nike Merlin has been called the “most advanced yet” and while balls used to have 32 panels, this one has only four, which is a world-first.
Absolutely fascinating!New Rules
The Premier League have confirmed that, “a totting-up system similar to player cautions has been introduced this season for breaches of discipline during matches by managers or other members of team staff in the technical area.”
Although yellow and red cards won’t be issued, managers will be told of their misdemeanour immediately, with retrospective bans eventually coming their way.
Sanctions will be inflicted after four, eight, 12 and 16 warnings.
Where better to finish than getting you accustomed to the new referees that we can blame bad results on?
There are only two new faces added to the league – Simon Hooper and David Coote. You can picture them before you even see them!
The duo have refereed Premier League games before, but they are now officially promoted to being regulars.
Ahead of the kick-off of the 2018/19 Premier League season, test your knowledge of Liverpool’s fortunes on the opening day of the campaign.
But as we know opening day games are never simple, often provide shocks, always unpredictable and most definitely full of incident.
So with that in mind, how well do you think you remember Liverpool’s fortunes in opening day games?
Find out by taking the 10 questions below. Good luck!
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The Premier League transfer window is now closed for any further incoming signings ahead of the start of the 2018/19 season. So what did we learn?
A combination of business slowing down for several weeks due to the World Cup, along with the decision of Premier League clubs to bring their transfer deadline forward, has led to a frenetic final few weeks of the window for some.
The rush to get deals done before the new season kicks off has led to some hefty price tags being paid—such as Chelsea’s £71 million deal to sign goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao.
This broke the previous world record for a goalkeeper set by Liverpool’s £65 million move for Alisson Becker only last month.
Others have scrambled around desperately looking last-minute deals to no avail, such as Man United’s unsuccessful approaches for Harry Maguire, Toby Alderweireld, Jerome Boateng and Diego Godin.
Clubs may still sell players to clubs from foreign leagues up until the end of August.
But as managers hurry to ensure their squads are prepared for the upcoming campaign, here’s a look at what we’ve learned the summer transfer window so far.Those who did their business early were well planned…
While some clubs have been engaged in a last-minute frenzy to push deals over the line, others moved quickly to wrap up their transfer business earlier in the window in order to give their new signings time to settle.
Regulars minutes on the pitch has allowed those new arrivals to adapt to Liverpool’s style of play and develop an understanding with their team-mates.
Arsenal, too, were quick to make several signings under new manager Unai Emery, with Stephan Lichtsteiner, Bernd Leno and Sokratis all arriving by early July, and Uruguay midfielder Lucas Torreira joining shortly after his country’s exit from the World Cup.
It remains to be seen how Arsenal fare in the post-Arsene Wenger era, and whether these signings turn out to be successful.
But the fact they completed their business early on suggests a well-prepared approach to the transfer window, with Emery having a clear idea of which areas he needed to address.
While fans of both clubs might still feel they ought to have bought one or two extra players, the advantage of conducting their transfer business early on is that they avoided the need to panic-buy.
They had a stable squad to work with throughout pre-season—the benefits of which could be seen over the coming weeks and months.Those who didn’t could struggle…
Pre-season is supposed to be a time for optimism and excitement ahead of the new season, giving players a chance to stake a claim, while managers have the opportunity to experiment with various tactical ideas and give youngsters a platform to impress.
As we’ve seen at Liverpool, the emergence of Rafa Camacho and Curtis Jones has been one of the highlights of pre-season, as two academy players have demonstrated their ability to step up and perform at senior level.
At United, however, the mood hasn’t quite been so full of joy.
Jose Mourinho appears to be the most miserable man in football, going so far as to claim even he would not pay to come and watch his side play during their tour in the US.
Rather than voicing words of encouragement for his younger squad members, he proceeded to say he felt sorry for Alexis Sanchez having to play alongside such inexperienced players while his more established senior pros had yet to return from their post-World Cup breaks.
Coming out with laughably hypocritical and nonsensical comments about Liverpool’s spending this summer, Mourinho has also complained non-stop about how the board haven’t acquired the players he wanted.
He also chastised Anthony Martial for leaving pre-season in order to be there for his wife while she gave birth to their child.
Whether this turns out to be a full-on Mourinho third-season meltdown isn’t yet clear, but his demeanour could not be in starker contrast to the likes of Klopp and Pep Guardiola.
And despite his team’s second-placed finish last season, he has used the summer to spread a sense of impending misery and doom.Promoted clubs have shown serious ambition…
Two of the most impressive clubs in the summer transfer window have undoubtedly been Wolves and Fulham, who haven’t just recruited with the aim of merely surviving in the Premier League, but with genuine ambition to finish as high up as possible.
Given the players both clubs have signed, mid-table seems a highly realistic prospect.
Wolves romped their way to the Championship title last season with a nine-point lead, and have added two highly experienced, established Portuguese internationals in goalkeeper Rui Patricio from Sporting Lisbon and Joao Moutinho from Monaco.
With Moutinho alongside the gifted Ruben Neves—bolstered by deadline-day signing Leander Dendoncker from Anderlecht—Wolves boast arguably one of the finest midfield setups outside the top-six clubs.
The addition of Adama Traore from Middlesbrough for £18 million is also a hugely exciting one, and if the Spaniard can add consistent end product to his exceptional pace and dribbling ability, he could be an enormous asset this season.
Fulham, meanwhile, secured Ivorian midfielder Jean Michael Seri from Nice—who had been strongly linked to both Liverpool and Barcelona in past windows—as well as Andre Schurrle from Borussia Dortmund, a player with significant European pedigree despite a disappointing season last time out.
The permanent signing of Aleksandar Mitrovic, who excelled on loan last season, along with the loan signing of Atletico Madrid forward Luciano Vietto, provides firepower up front.
Meanwhile the arrivals of Alfie Mawson and Calum Chambers (loan) from Swansea and Arsenal respectively could form a highly promising centre-back partnership in front of Sergio Rico in goal.
It may take a while for some of these new signings to get going, but both sides have made a serious statement of intent in the transfer market.
They should now have more than enough quality at their disposal to consolidate their Premier League status this season.Tottenham could regret going empty-handed…
Despite Mauricio Pochettino’s words earlier in the summer about the need for investment in order for Tottenham to kick on to the next level, they became the first club since the transfer window was established in 2003 not to make a single signing all summer.
While Spurs have kept all of their key players, and have a squad which has now finished in the top three for three consecutive seasons, all of their rivals have strengthened.
There is a danger of stagnation in choosing to stand still and not to build on the significant progress already made in recent years.
There is also the added factor of many of Spurs’ most important players returning late to pre-season following extended breaks after the World Cup.
The likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Kieran Trippier, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Hugo Lloris will have had virtually no preparation time ahead of the new campaign, and may take some time to get fully up to speed.
Heung-min Son is also due to leave in order to participate for South Korea in the Asian Cup, depriving Pochettino of another key player for the opening weeks of the season.
Whether the stability from keeping a tight-knit core of players together will ultimately pay dividends will become clearer as the season unfolds.
But the decision not to invest a single penny in the squad throughout the entire transfer window is a significant and potentially costly one.Rafa Benitez was let down again…
After Benitez managed to lead Newcastle to a hugely impressive 10th-placed finish following their promotion back to the Premier League despite severely limited resources, owner Mike Ashley has not provided the funds for further investment to strengthen the squad and build upon the foundation put in place in 2017/18.
The re-signing of Brazilian winger Kenedy on loan from Chelsea is a wise move after his bright spell on loan last season, while Ki Sung-yueng bolsters Benitez’ midfield options to a degree.
A loan deal for Solomon Rondon from West Brom—with Dwight Gayle moving in the opposite direction—could well prove decisive as Newcastle’s most likely source of regular goals.
But the failure to address glaring weakness across the squad will have been an enormous source of frustration for Rafa and Newcastle fans, with a late move for Ragnar Klavan among those to have fallen short.
The Magpies are likely to face another almighty battle to retain their Premier League status this season.And Everton’s late surge could make them dark horses…
Everton have adopted a somewhat scattergun approach to transfers over the past few windows, and after the multiple failures of last summer’s business, appear to have salvaged a strong finish to the window with four new arrivals on deadline day.
Barcelona duo Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes—the latter on loan—were joined by Kurt Zouma, also on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea, and Brazilian winger Bernard on a free transfer from Shakhtar Donetsk in a late flurry of activity.
The arrivals of Mina and Zouma—along with Lucas Digne, who also joined from Barcelona—should certainly improve a dysfunctional and ageing back line from last season.
And while the £40 million outlay on Richarlison from Watford is a significant gamble, it is one which could revitalise a slow and stale attack should he have the desired impact.
Read our club-by-club opposition previews, getting the views of away fans on their club and their thoughts on LFC:
Arsenal | Bournemouth | Brighton | Burnley | Cardiff | Chelsea | Crystal Palace | Everton | Fulham | Huddersfield | Leicester | Man City | Man United | Newcastle | Southampton | Tottenham | Watford | West Ham | Wolves
Ings has joined the Saints on a season-long loan, with the deal to be made permanent next summer, bringing an end to a three-year spell at Anfield.
Much of his time with the Reds was, unfortunately, spent on the treatment table, with two major knee injuries limiting his prospects.
But a move back to the south coast, with his boyhood club, could spark a revival of his fortunes, having proved his fitness with the Liverpool U23s and first team last season.
For Klopp, sanctioning the move came with difficulty, as he told LiverpoolFC.com of his admiration for the 26-year-old:
“It is a very strange feeling saying goodbye to Danny. The biggest emotion is how much we will miss him.
“He is such an outstanding boy. Honestly, if you could bottle character and spirit, his would sell worldwide—he is so incredibly positive and full of energy.
“But we won’t just miss his character because he is a footballer who has all the tools.
“So we say farewell to a friend, but for Danny I know the best chapters in his personal story are still to be written.
“He is as fit now as at any point of his career I would bet and he just requires the opportunity.
“He has that opportunity and on behalf of his Liverpool family we say good luck Danny and we will miss you.”
Given even long-serving players are often waved off with little more than a three-line farewell message at certain clubs, this is a marker of Ings’ impact off the field.
This was clearly felt by his team-mates, with Adam Lallana leading those wishing him the best on Instagram:
Lallana’s assertion that “Melwood a poorer place for not having you with us” is a salient one, as the importance of dressing room unity can be overlooked.
Ings’ first injury came in Klopp’s first training session as Liverpool manager, and Joe Gomez suffered a similar fate when he also ruptured his ACL on duty with the England U21s in the same week.
The 21-year-old has already heralded Ings for his role in maintaining positivity as they underwent rehabilitation together, and he described him as a “top player and even better person” on Thursday:
Speaking in April, Klopp explained how this aided the harmony within the squad, saying “they keep the mood good” and “lead the group.”
It may have come as a wrench for Klopp to part ways with his No. 28, but with his prospects diminishing on Merseyside joining Southampton is the right move.
After impressing on the Clarets’ promotion to the Premier League in 2014/15, Ings earned a move to Liverpool, who ultimately paid an initial £6.5 million after a tribunal.
But two serious knee injuries hampered his progress at Anfield, limiting him to just 25 appearances in three years.
Despite interest from Crystal Palace and Newcastle United, Liverpool were unable to seal a deal for Ings until the last hour of Thursday’s deadline.
Ings has now joined Southampton on a season-long loan, and will make a permanent return to his native Hampshire on July 1 next year.
Liverpool will receive £18 million up front, with a further £2 million in add-ons, and negotiated a 20 percent sell-on clause in their deal.
A tumultuous period on Merseyside has set Ings back significantly, having made his England debut shortly before his ACL injury in October of 2015.
But joining Mark Hughes’ Saints could give him the opportunity to revive his career, and a move back to familiar settings should be a welcome one.
He departs Liverpool with the reluctant blessing of Jurgen Klopp, with the manager aware his opportunities were limited.
All the best, Danny.
Tottenham move into their new stadium in 2018/19, opening their account against Liverpool, but will they continue to improve under Mauricio Pochettino?
When we play them: September 15 (away); March 30 (home)
Last season: Drew 2-2 (home); Lost 4-1 (away)
Much of last summer’s concern for Spurs surrounded their temporary move to Wembley, but they ended up thriving at the national stadium.
The north Londoners continued to look one of the most complete sides in the country and their third-placed finish represented yet another strong campaign from Pochettino and his players.
Now it’s time for Spurs to adjust once more, at the unimaginatively named Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which will be another test of their credentials.
They don’t play there until they host the Reds on September 15, though, with three of their first five matches away and the clash with Fulham back at Wembley while work is completed on the stadium.
Opponents are likely to up their game at such an impressive new arena and it will take time for the players and the fans to adapt to their new surroundings.
On top of that, a frustrating summer has seen Spurs sign nobody to date, leading to supporters venting their anger at possibly falling away from the leading pack.
While Liverpool attempt to push Man City all the way, are they standing still?
The fitness of Harry Kane will again hold the key to their success, as will the form of the still criminally underrated Christian Eriksen.
Pochettino’s men have spent the last three seasons proving people wrong and staying in the top four—will this be the year they don’t quite have enough, with the manager and key individuals contemplating moving on at the end of it?Tottenham
Players in: None
Players out: None
Best XI: Lloris; Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Sanchez; Trippier, Winks, Eriksen, Rose; Alli, Moura, Kane
RUSS: I’m reasonably confident of a top-four finish but actually winning something will be hard once again, considering the competition at the top.
GEORGE: At time of writing, we’re the only remaining side in the Premier League to have not signed a single player.
Tottenham fans are worried with the season starting this weekend and remain hopeful of making a few new additions before Thursday’s deadline.
That said, we have so far kept hold of key men Danny Rose, Mousa Dembele and Toby Alderweireld and tied star man Kane down to a long-term deal.
With our rivals significantly strengthening over the summer, in particular Arsenal and Liverpool, it will be very difficult to achieve another top-four finish as we move back home to N17 and into a fantastic new stadium.
Overall, our first XI remains a very strong outfit and Lucas Moura, who starred during the pre-season tour of the US, could have a big impact this campaign.
With a few signings to add some much-needed quality on the bench, we can expect to see us challenge for a top-four finish again. The title is very much Man City‘s to lose though.
What are your aims for the season?
RUSS: We need a decent start at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
A title challenge and Champions League football is essential as well, to ensure we keep up our current momentum.
GEORGE: Our aims have to be to secure a top-four finish.
We will yet again have to settle into a new home which could take some time, but with Pochettino at the helm we have every right to believe we can push on again.
A title challenge could prove a step too far as Liverpool’s big summer of spending looks to have given them a real boost.
I’d settle for a top-four finish right now and a strong run at the FA Cup will be high on the agenda as Pochettino awaits that much-coveted trophy, to show for all his great work since coming to Spurs.
Who’s your man to watch?
RUSS: Davinson Sanchez. This is his second season in the Premier League, coming off the back of an excellent World Cup, and he has terrific pace and awareness.
This could be his season to shine.
GEORGE: My man to watch will have to be Lucas. After joining in January when it was very difficult to justify him a starting place, he’s seemed to have relished the chance of impressing management over the summer.
He joined Spurs from PSG with a great reputation and I have a feeling he will be a key man for us, especially as Heung-min Son is missing due to commitments with South Korea in the Asia Cup.
If he’s given a starting berth at Newcastle on Saturday, he could cement his place in the team early on.Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Away fans’ pubs: Are you joking? Ever been to Tottenham?!
One piece of advice for visiting fan: Enjoy the newest Premier League super stadium, including a bank of 18,000 seats.Liverpool
How do you rate Liverpool’s chances heading into the season?
RUSS: Liverpool have a very good chance of challenging, but for all of his planning and endeavours, it’s about time Jurgen Klopp won something.
GEORGE: I think they’ve bought very well and seem to have addressed positional frailties as well.
Therefore, with the already brilliant front three of Salah, Mane and Firmino, Liverpool fans should expect a title challenge and at least a top-three finish in the Premier League.
Last season’s Champions League finalists could also have a good go at Europe’s major cup competition again.
Who’s going to be the Reds’ Player of the Year, and why?
RUSS: Salah, but Andy Robertson a close second.
GL: Well Salah was above and beyond anyone else last season so it’s hard to look past him again, as it is for Spurs fans to look past Kane’s heroics.
Therefore, if Van Dijk keeps fit he could be imperative in deciding the success of Liverpool’s season.
He could also pop up with some vital goals during the tighter games this season.
TIA’s Spurs Predicted Finish: 5th (Average of the TIA writers’ predictions)
Where Russ and George say Spurs will finish: 4th/5th
Where Russ and George say Spurs will finish: 2nd/2nd
This is part of our club-by-club opposition previews this summer, getting the views of away fans on their club and their thoughts on LFC. Read them all here.
We round up the latest Liverpool news and transfer rumours on Wednesday, following the Reds’ winning end to pre-season against Torino.
The English transfer deadline may be imminent but Liverpool still have potential outgoings on the cards, with Simon Mignolet, Divock Origi, Pedro Chirivella and Lazar Markovic among those surplus to requirements.
Another is Danny Ings, who has been told he can find a new club, with first-team options set to be bleak for him at Anfield this season.
Better get your skates on, Danny!Alisson Thanks the Fans
Alisson made his unofficial home debut for Liverpool on Tuesday evening, faring better than he did for Roma at Anfield last season, when he conceded five goals.
The Brazilian may have been unable to stop Torino’s Andrea Belotti from heading home but he cut an assured figure throughout and took to his Twitter account on Wednesday to thank the fans for their input on the night:
“Great atmosphere last night. Thanks for your support!”
The skipper says competition for places can only be a good thing, however, adding that there is a hunger within the squad that can only bode well.
“There’s competition everywhere. All over the pitch we’ve got two or three players in the same position,” Henderson told LiverpoolFC.com.
“Everyone is pushing each other on in training to start. And if you don’t start you have to be ready to come on and make an impact.
“I have only been back for a couple of days but I sense how hard the lads have worked and they are right up at the standard that they need to be at to go flying into the first game of the season.”
Henderson only returned to action on Tuesday evening so it is unlikely that he will start the Premier League opener this weekend.
A place on the substitutes’ bench seems more likely.Alexander-Arnold’s Praise For Fellow Youngsters
Such is his level of maturity, it is easy to forget that Trent Alexander-Arnold is only 19.
The right-back, who impressed against Torino, has spoken to LiverpoolFC.com about the impressive progress of youngsters such as Curtis Jones, Nathaniel Phillips and Rafa Camacho this summer, urging them to show patience:
“They know themselves that it is difficult and it’s going to take a lot of hard work.
“It’s going to take a lot of patience because it doesn’t happen straight away. But I think the lads that have come in and showed themselves this pre-season have been exceptional.
“They have really done the academy proud on and off the pitch the way they have conducted themselves.
“When I came back, all I heard was good things about them from the senior lads. So, the academy have really shown again that they are doing something right.”
Alexander-Arnold couldn’t be a more perfect role model for these players, having broken through from the academy and become a regular under Jurgen Klopp.Grujic Set To Stay?
Someone for whom talk about his future has gone quiet is Marko Grujic, with a loan move back to Cardiff City failing to materialise.
The young Serb is willing to fight for his place at Liverpool, according to the Liverpool Echo‘s James Pearce, and he may now stay at the club this season.
Pearce does, however, state that, “a foreign loan hasn’t been ruled out later in the month,” with an exit before Thursday’s Premier League transfer deadline highly unlikely.
Though Klopp’s midfield options are stacked heading into 2018/19, Grujic would certainly add another interesting candidate.
Predicting how Newcastle will fare in 2018/19 is a tough task, with so much depending on whether Rafa Benitez stays put amid turmoil at St James’ Park.
When we play them: December 26 (home); May 4 (away)
Last season: Won 2-0 (home); Drew 1-1 (away)
Like any newly promoted team, the Magpies were tipped by some to head straight back down to the Championship last season, but many ignored the fact that they possessed a genuinely top-class manager.
Benitez worked wonders at St James’ Park with a squad littered with Championship players, eventually guiding them to very respectable a 10th-place finish.
It was a great achievement considering the resources available and the continued issues that exist behind the scenes with owner Mike Ashley.
This summer has been another one of frustration, with Benitez at loggerheads with the board with regards to getting more transfer funds.
Newcastle have strengthened to an extent, though, with centre-back Fabian Schar a good signing from Deportivo de La Coruna and former Swansea City man Ki Sung-yueng an underrated player who will add guile in the middle of the park.
With other clubs around them investing more, however, it could be a struggle, and keeping hold of captain Jamaal Lascelles is vital.
Benitez is never one to stand for being mucked around and it has been speculated that he is considering his future – and you couldn’t blame him if he did walk.
If he goes early in the campaign, relegation will suddenly look far more likely. Should he stay, the former Liverpool manager should work his magic once again.Newcastle United
Players in: Martin Dubravka, Ki Sung-yueng, Fabian Schar, Kenedy, Yoshinori Muto, Salomon Rondon (loan)
Players out: Mikel Merino, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Chancel Mbemba, Matz Sels, Jesus Gamez, Massadio Haidara, Jack Colback (loan), Dwight Gayle (loan)
Best XI: Dubravka; Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett; Ritchie, Shelvey, Diame, Kenedy; Perez, Rondon
We spoke to Alex Hurst from Truth Faith fanzine (@tfNUFCfanzine) to hear his thoughts on the season ahead, both at St James’ Park and Anfield.How optimistic or pessimistic are you for the new season?
At the time of writing, the club have made a profit on player trading which is depressing.
Lowly release clauses have been met and free transfers incoming. Last season’s momentum is being wasted by an owner who seems to despise his own football club.What are your aims for the season?
Rafa, in his last season here, has been blunt and downgraded expectations to simply survive again. So that’s about it for us.
Who’s your man to watch?
Ayoze Perez got 10 goals last season, with nearly all of them coming in 2018.
If he continues that form he will be a star for us this season.St James’ Park
Away fans’ pubs: The Trent House next to the ground.
One piece of advice for visiting fan: Stay as long as you can. Newcastle is a great night out with hundreds of bars.Liverpool
How do you rate Liverpool’s chances heading into the season?
I think Liverpool will be Man City’s main contenders for the title, as many are predicting.Who’s going to be the Reds’ Player of the Year?
TIA’s Newcastle Predicted Finish: 14th (Average of the TIA writers’ predictions)
Where Alex says Newcastle will finish: 12th
Where Alex says Liverpool will finish: 2nd
This is part of our club-by-club opposition previews this summer, getting the views of away fans on their club and their thoughts on LFC. Read them all here.
After Liverpool rounded off pre-season preparations with a 3-1 win over Torino at Anfield, we round up the statistics from the Reds’ summer schedule.
Victory against the Serie A side on Tuesday night completed another gruelling but promising pre-season for Jurgen Klopp’s squad.
Before attentions fully turn to that opening clash, here’s a numerical look back at Liverpool’s pre-season exploits.Overall
Games played: 9
Goals scored: 27
Goals conceded: 8
Players used: 38Appearances
Jordan Henderson, George JohnstonGoals (Mins Per Goal)
Daniel Sturridge – 6 (61.6)
Mohamed Salah – 2 (90)
Sadio Mane – 2 (76)
Gini Wijnaldum – 2 (76)
James Milner – 2 (203)
Harry Wilson – 2 (45)
Sheyi Ojo – 2 (135)
Roberto Firmino – 1 (90)
Virgil van Dijk – 1 (395)
Xherdan Shaqiri – 1 (135)
Alberto Moreno – 1 (389)
Adam Lallana – 1 (315)
Danny Ings – 1 (90)
Lazar Markovic – 1 (90)
Ryan Kent – 1 (90)
Rafael Camacho – 1 (318)Assists – (Mins Per Assist)
Andy Robertson – 4 (105.2)
Naby Keita – 3 (98.6)
Daniel Sturridge – 2 (185)
James Milner – 2 (203)
Mohamed Salah – 2 (90)
Xherdan Shaqiri – 2 (67.5)
Sheyi Ojo – 2 (135)
Roberto Firmino – 1 (90)
Sadio Mane – 1 (152)
Alberto Moreno – 1 (389)
Divock Origi – 1 (244)
Curtis Jones – 1 (385)
Rafael Camacho – 1 (318)
Dominic Solanke – 1 (361)
Ben Woodburn – 1 (315)
(*Assists include penalties won)Minutes Played (Per Game)
Fabinho – 454 (50.4)
Andy Robertson – 421 (46.7)
James Milner – 406 (50.75)
Joe Gomez – 397 (49.62)
Virgil van Dijk – 395 (56.4)
Nathaniel Phillips – 393 (43.6)
Alberto Moreno – 389 (43.2)
Curtis Jones – 385 (42.7)
Daniel Sturridge – 370 (41.1)
Nathaniel Clyne – 366 (53.6)
Dominic Solanke – 361 (45.1)
Loris Karius – 345 (59.7)
Rafael Camacho – 318 (39.7)
Ben Woodburn – 315 (45)
Ragnar Klavan – 315 (45)
Adam Lallana – 315 (45)
Naby Keita – 296 (48.7)
Sheyi Ojo – 270 (45)
Divock Origi – 244 (40.6)
Pedro Chirivella – 190 (38)
Mohamed Salah – 180 (45)
Alisson – 163 (81.5)
Sadio Mane – 152 (49.2)
Gini Wijnaldum – 152 (50.6)
Xherdan Shaqiri – 135 (45)
Caoimhin Kelleher – 120 (40)
Joel Matip – 108 (36)
Marko Grujic – 100 (33.3)
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 91 (45.5)
Lazar Markovic – 90 (45)
Danny Ward – 90 (45)
Ryan Kent – 90 (45)
Harry Wilson – 90 (45)
Danny Ings – 90 (45)
Roberto Firmino – 90 (45)
Kamil Grabara – 75 (37.5)
Jordan Henderson – 20 (20)
George Johnston – 2 (2)
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is not concerned by his defensive options heading into the opening weekend of the season, despite being able to field only one senior centre-back in the 3-1 friendly win over Torino.
In the second half at Anfield midfielders Fabinho – who missed an early penalty – and Marko Grujic both filled in as Van Dijk only played 45 minutes but Klopp is not worried ahead of Sunday’s visit of West Ham.
“I think (Joe Gomez) is OK. It is nothing serious but it was not possible tonight as he played on Saturday,” said Klopp.
“Dejan (Lovren) is in but he’s not had a long holiday (after the World Cup final).
“For Raggy (Klavan) and Joel it is probably not good enough as they are not fit for the weekend but we don’t need 12 centre-halves.”
Goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri all made their Anfield debuts for Liverpool with the latter impressing with an assist for Daniel Sturridge to score the third goal after Roberto Firmino and Georginio Wijnaldum had given the hosts a 2-0 lead.
Alisson was not able to keep a clean sheet after being beaten by Andrea Belotti’s close-range header but his departure late on saw Loris Karius warmly welcomed back to Anfield by fans after his two costly errors in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.
It was a moment which pleased Klopp as much as the performance.
“I was not surprised to be honest but as a human being I was hoping for it and I loved it,” he added.
“We showed tonight a really nice face and that helps, not only Loris but the others as well that they see this is a very special place. It was a really big gesture.”
Klopp has not ruled out captain Jordan Henderson featuring on Sunday despite only returning to training at the weekend.
“I am not sure but it is Hendo. In his first session he looked like he trained the whole three weeks completely,” said the Reds boss.
“He was in a really good shape so we thought a few minutes tonight would be possible.
“He is a very important option but I have no clue what we will do at the weekend.
“Hendo needs a pre-season but not as much as the others as he has not had long off.”
Liverpool rolled over Torino 3-1 at Anfield in the final game of pre-season, and Jurgen Klopp will now take his decisions over a first competitive starting lineup.
Goals: Firmino, Wijnaldum, SturridgeBobby’s back… but he has competition
Roberto Firmino’s return gave Liverpool a boost in Dublin, but here in his second appearance he was much more heavily involved.
A goal and an assist showcased the Brazilian’s quality in the final third, and there were plenty of instances of good link play, excellent first touches and generally impressive movement throughout his 45 minutes on the pitch.
Firmino will, of course, be the Reds’ first-choice centre-forward this season, and deservedly so after a stellar 2017/18 campaign.
But a big difference for Liverpool this term can be that there are finally alternatives, giving Klopp the chance to rest his main man when needed and still ensure the team has a threat in attack.
The No. 15 has been perhaps the Reds’ best overall performer, equal parts creative and a goal threat himself, and it’s great to see him returned to this level.
Given Firmino’s game time this summer stands at just 90 minutes, it would be just reward for Sturridge if he was handed a starting role on the opening day, allowing Firmino more time to get up to speed.
Finally, the Reds have depth in attack.Phillips’ first big test
Nat Phillips was last man standing in terms of the youngsters of pre-season still being called upon for the starting lineup in this last friendly.
Up against Italian international striker Andrea Belotti, it was comfortably the biggest test of his fledgling career, and a difficult hour or so will show him just what he’d be up against on a regular basis at senior level with the Reds.
Phillips has impressed across the summer, but the Reds have generally been so superior that the defence have only been troubled intermittently; here it was the same, but a much better striker was on show for the opposition.
Belotti bullied Phillips aerially somewhat and his clever movement saw him escape the young defender a couple of times, though his recovery runs were good in other moments.
A game of learning, still, and a reminder of the step-up in quality needed to go from U23s to seniors.Reds’ style allows emergency reinforcements to be considered
There’s a simple reason why the Reds can run these types of risks with players out of position: their dominant and aggressive style of play.
Grujic wasn’t asked to hold a line on the edge of his box, repel constant deliveries and make last-ditch tackles; more win aerial battles high upfield and redistribute the ball fromd deep.
Essentially, just what he does in a deep midfield role, but without cover behind.
It’s not ideal as a regular solution, but it’s good to know for the manager that he has options if the Reds are left short at the back again as they were last term.
With several senior centre-backs showing injury proneness in previous campaigns, it could be the case again in 2018/19.Jones is ready, right now
If Nat Phillips still needs a little more time to learn and grow into the role at first-team level, Curtis Jones is already there.
He might not be starter material for a team with title aspirations, but this talented teenage midfielder has the technical ability, the determination and the tactical understanding to play a part already.
On the ball he barely puts a foot wrong, whether playing high upfield or as the last man in the centre of the park, but that difference in positioning also highlights his ability to understand the game and not take risks when it would leave his team open.
A lunging tackle against Torino might have seen red in league play, but we’ve all seen that kind of exuberance from young midfielders at Anfield before.
That determination to win back possession is a necessity, even if it must have a little more control at times.
Jones must surely be in Klopp’s thoughts to play a part across the season, even at just 17 years of age.The Anfield crowd
Finally, it was great to see the Anfield supporters fully involved on the night, and not just at the end of the match.
Sure, it was enjoyable and heartening to see the players giving out gifts to the fans at full time, but beforehand those in the stand also played their part.
Captain Jordan Henderson was well-received for his first appearance, and Sturridge’s late goal received perhaps the biggest cheer of all. Clearly, all supporters want to see him back doing well.
Players and fans in harmony, just as the manager hoped for: it’s almost as if we’re a single club again.
Liverpool face Napoli in Dublin on Saturday, but another Serie A side, Torino, visit Anfield for the final friendly of the summer.
The long build-up toward the new season started in the north-west and will finish on home soil, with Jurgen Klopp explaining that this will be a very different occasion to normal home matches.
While the Reds face West Ham at home on the opening day of the season, which will be the usual mix of tension and excitement around a competitive league match, the Torino game is altogether the opposite.
A chance for fitness, yes, as the players build up to the new campaign—but also an opportunity to give back to the fans.
As the boss explained to Liverpoolfc.com, those not involved in Dublin will start against the Italian side, while it’s also the chance to experience Anfield for the first time for some.
“From one point of view, we needed another game because it was clear a lot of players would come back later. We will see who can start against Napoli.
“Those who can’t start against Napoli will start against Torino. It will be a mix-up.
“For all the new players it will be the first time in the stadium and it’s very important that you get used to all these things.”
While Naby Keita et al will indeed be getting their first taste of the Anfield atmosphere in a Red shirt, the manager has laid out why the Torino match will be different.
An opportunity to have both sides of the clubs come together is the “main reason” for the game, according to the boss.
“But actually the main reason was that it should be the people’s game. We planned it a long, long time ago – it was still last season when we said we wanted to have this game, to make it possible for all the people in Liverpool to come to Anfield.
I only heard about it but it’s obviously difficult to come to Anfield, to get a ticket and all that stuff.
A game in midweek but in the summer holidays should be an opportunity, against a really good opponent – it’s a really important game for us, it’s not ‘some game’ – to show up with our supporters.
We will do things around the game we usually don’t do.
I will go somewhere on stage for a short interview before the game, the World Cup players will do the same. After the game we will sign shirts and stuff like that, all these things that aren’t possible in a purely competitive game.
It’s a really important game for us but it’s still a pre-season game, so we want to combine it.
I really hope that the people use that to come and we have a first really nice coming together and start a very important season for us, and create from the first day again a very special atmosphere.”
After the exertions and excitement of last season, it’s surely guaranteed that fans will be eagerly anticipating the 2018/19 campaign.
A good start against West Ham is imperative—but before that, a chance to ensure everyone is on board and pulling together, as the Reds wrap up their pre-season campaign against two Italian sides.