Liverpool powered past Chester in their first pre-season fixture on Saturday, but was there an insight into Jurgen Klopp‘s mind for 2018/19?
While any first friendly game is predominantly all about the fitness, what can we take from the Reds’ opening 90 minutes at the Swansway Stadium?
Chester 0-7 Liverpool
Friendly, Swansway Stadium
July 7, 2018
Goals: Wilson 36′, 45′, Milner (pen) 48′, Sturridge 57′, 88′, Kent 60′, Ings 83′
Harry Wilson: Hungry like the Wolf
The 21-year-old scored seven and assisted a further four goals during his 13 league appearances for the Championship side while on loan last season.
The Welsh international’s 45-minute run-out at Chester bagged him two well-taken goals.
Under the blistering Cheshire sun, Wilson harnessed the power of Ian Rush to be the man in the right position at the right time — taking advantage of the excellent work around him.
To be a proficient striker at any level you need to anticipate where the ball will be, exploiting weaknesses in the opposition’s defensive unit.
Wilson did exactly this; yes the opposition may be from the sixth tier of English football but for a return to action in a red shirt the forward-minded winger couldn’t have asked for a better run out.
After his successful loan spell, Wilson may now be ready for an autumn around the first team.
While match action could be a rarity, the exposure to training consistently with the senior side could see him get an opportunity in the latter stages of ‘safe’ home games.
With Liverpool also looking to bolster their attacking midfield options before the August, it could mean a January loan move for Wilson to get the minutes needed.
Formation: Insight or a reflection of those available?
Klopp is no stranger to using pre-season to test new formations ahead of the big August kick-off.
Previous early summer lineups eventually led to a changing of the structure within his Liverpool side.
Chester gave an indication that 4-2-3-1 may be a future plan. Although, with many players still away on holiday, or World Cup duty, Saturday’s setup could be down to just who was available, rather than a striking new tactical mindset.
This combination could allow a three in front to consist of Salah, Mane and *insert new signing here*, with Roberto Firmino playing a traditional No. 9 role.
It would also allow the rotation of a number of players within the new system.
With Liverpool looking to fight once again on four fronts, the ability to rotate players through a system that aligns to their main strengths is key.
It will allow the Reds the impetus needed to challenge for the title, without the need to sacrifice a cup competition.
Naby Keita: We saw what we knew, and we liked it!
What a saga the transfer of the Guinean was; from a summer move, to next summer, to January and Trent, to we’ll just wait.
Klopp was desperate to capture the midfielder from RB Leipzig and after a quiet start to the second half, we quickly began to see why.
Deployed in the defensive midfield role—a position the 23-year-old played while at Leipzig—it was Keita’s task to break up the play, and that he did.
Quick into the tackle and exceptionally strong he, almost nonchalantly at times captured the ball and moved it on.
Be it in the final third or the defensive third, Liverpool’s new midfielder spotted the danger early on and cancelled it out.
Once again, this was at Chester and it should be expected for a player who cost £55 million, but for it to be on show immediately was not lost on those inside the stadium or watching at home.
Klopp spoke during the post match huddle that Keita was used to a similar style of play at Leipzig, in particular referencing his ability to quickly break up opposition possession.
Many will have seen Keita at Leipzig playing behind a front two, or at times on the wing—and on the odd occasion, as a deep lying playmaker.
This is his main attribute: the Guinean can play a variety of roles outside what many considered his primary one.
Liverpool fans should rightly be excited after a 45-minute glimpse of what the West African is capable of.
Welcome back, but for how long?
A number of players have reported back at Melwood but for how long will they be there?
The fixture against Chester saw a number of individuals linked with a move away from Anfield wear the red shirt once again.
Receiving the ball on the edge of the area, and with the slightest of back-lifts, the ball found itself on a wicked curling trajectory right into the bottom corner of the net. It was Sturridge at his very best.
However, with an unfortunate injury record it could be that his time at Liverpool is up…but then again, should Klopp wish to utilise a 4-2-3-1 this coming season, a forward who can lead the line and score will be an essential part of his plan.
Eventually he settled and was crucial in their survival bid to stay in the Bundesliga, impressing against FC Koln and in their relegation playoff.
The Belgian is in a similar situation to Sturridge; will Klopp opt to keep one, or sell both?
The backline: An interesting conundrum
The pairing of Gomez and Clyne was the most eye-opening; both could conceivably take these roles together at some point during the season if required.
As the pair have been absent due to injury it was pleasing to see a return to match action at the first opportunity.
Clyne looked especially sharp down the right flank during the first half, combining well with Wilson it became the catalyst for Liverpool’s route to goal.
Gomez, meanwhile, looked as assured as could be against the strength of the opposition attack.
Once the full squad return to Melwood it can be expected that both will revert to second-choice.
But like their midfield counterparts, the defensive unit now has a greater degree of flexibility and, crucially, should injuries happen then Liverpool have a the cover to avoid hampering their ambitions.