Moreno, youth and preparation – 5 talking points from Mainz 4–0 Liverpool

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Liverpool rounded off their intense pre-season schedule on a disappointing note, producing a poor performance in slumping to a heavy 4-0 loss against Mainz.

Less than 24 hours after blitzing Barcelona at Wembley, it was back to earth with a significant bump for Jurgen Klopp’s much-changed side in Germany.

A penalty from Daniel Brosinski and sharp finish from Jhon Cordoba put the Reds 2-0 down at half-time, and second-half goals from Yunus Malli and Yushinori Muto completed Mainz’s second pre-season hammering of Liverpool—having thrashed the Reds 5-0 a decade ago.

It was a flat performance from a heavily rotated Liverpool side, who saw Danny Ings’ late deflected goal from Georginio Wijnaldum’s shot disallowed for offside.

That summed up what was a poor afternoon for Klopp’s men, and one that provided a number of talking points.

 

Moreno Continues to Fail

SANTA CLARA, USA - Saturday, July 30, 2016: Liverpool's Alberto Moreno in action against AC Milan during the International Champions Cup 2016 game on day ten of the club's USA Pre-season Tour at the Levi's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Alberto Moreno is a man on a mission currently, trying to convince Klopp that he is still the right man for the left-back berth.

But the much-criticised Spaniard is going about trying to accomplish that completely the wrong way, as he took another sizeable step in proving otherwise at the Opel Arena—turning in an extremely poor display as part of a makeshift defence.

The 24-year-old was rash defensively, gave away numerous needless fouls, was beaten too easily a couple of times and, while composure is not a strength of his game, it was non-existent in Germany.

To his credit, he made one good recovery challenge as the home side broke in on goal alongside one positive forward burst, but overall he was worryingly poor and looked like a man struggling with confidence—and struggling to provide Klopp with the answers he’s wants.

With only James Milner—who stayed at home to nurse a minor injury—to call upon as cover, this is a serious concern for Klopp ahead of next week’s trip to Arsenal.

 

Two Games in Two Days a Task Too Far

MAINZ, GERMANY - Sunday, August 7, 2016: Liverpool's Joel Matip in action against FSV Mainz 05's Jhon Córdoba during a pre-season friendly match at the Opel Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Playing twice in as many days in different countries, with barely in any rest and kickoff less than 24 hours apart, this summer double-header always promised to be tough for Liverpool.

And it proved just that, with Klopp’s side dazzling when fresh against Barcelona at Wembley, before succumbing to a comprehensive loss in Germany with a second intense game proving just a step too far for the Reds.

Last season’s back-to-back wins against HJK Helsinki and Swindon Town will be pointed to that it can prove a worthwhile exercise—but a large reason it did then was that the squad was separated for each game.

Though Klopp made nine changes, the likes of Moreno, Emre Can, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Kevin Stewart and, for briefer periods, Wijnaldum, Marko Grujic and Roberto Firmino all featured in both matches.

As such, no one could physically replicate the intensity levels shown in London, but pre-season is all about fitness and pushing through barriers, which the Reds ultimately did across the games.

 

Defeat Provides Welcome Reality Check

MAINZ, GERMANY - Sunday, August 7, 2016: FSV Mainz 05's Jhon Córdoba celebrates scoring the second goal against Liverpool during a pre-season friendly match at the Opel Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Dismantling Barcelona at Wembley with a hugely exciting high-tempo, energetic display, Liverpool appeared all set for a strong domestic season.

Eighteen hours later, the Reds were on the receiving end of a harrowing defeat that provides Klopp and his squad with “an important lesson” in his own words, and a welcome reality check ahead of the opening Premier League clash at the Emirates.

The Reds saw some frailties exposed—particularly their defensive organisation and inability to defend the 18-yard box—and those who featured showed areas which need working on—including sharpness—ahead of the trip to the capital in seven days’ time.

With a period of training now available for Klopp before the opener, this wakeup call provides the perfect indication on where to work and improve on the training pitch—rather than going into the season thinking everything is great then falling at the first hurdle.

It’s never nice to be on the receiving end of a heavy defeat, but this one will at least provide focus and improvement for the real thing.

 

Youth Still Plays a Part

MAINZ, GERMANY - Sunday, August 7, 2016: Liverpool's Sam Hart in action against FSV Mainz 05 during a pre-season friendly match at the Opel Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A real positive of pre-season has been the amount of youth players blooded by Klopp throughout preparations.

Gearing up for his first full season in charge, it would have been easy for the German to focus on the senior figures at his disposal, but he has stuck by Anfield’s youth throughout, providing opportunities to shine.

Klopp did so again in Germany, fielding plenty of the Reds’ youth prospects and handing welcome first-team debuts to two more academy products in Sam Hart and Toni Gomes—which was a main positive of a poor afternoon.

It’s hugely promising for Liverpool’s future that Klopp trusted the likes of Ben Woodburn, Connor Randall, Cameron Brannagan and the debutants with minutes this close to the season, and each did as well as the situation allowed in a tough final friendly.

Providing youngsters with valuable experience for the season ahead, involvement will also hand a huge confidence boost for those who featured—and will hopefully inspire them to successful Anfield careers.

 

Result Bears No Marker

MAINZ, GERMANY - Sunday, August 7, 2016: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before a pre-season friendly match against his former club FSV Mainz 05 at the Opel Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While unquestionably a disappointing end to an extensive and largely enjoyable warmup schedule, it is crucial to retain perspective.

This result has no bearing on next weekend at all, other than helping Klopp in finalising his plans for that first real test at the Emirates—and a challenge it will be, with Liverpool’s long-standing poor record at the home of the Gunners.

If there is ever a time to be exposed and lose 4-0 it is at this stage of the season, with time still available to rectify errors and improve on the training ground, while also bolstering the squad which Klopp had admitted he is open to doing.

One thing for sure is that there is work to do, but now is the perfect time to do it with the big kickoff closing in.



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