Strikers struggle, Karius in spotlight – 5 talking points from Tranmere 2-3 Liverpool

Liverpool enjoyed a run out as they won 3-2 at Tranmere, at least in one half of the game, as a number of players were given the chance to impress.


Tranmere 2-3 Liverpool

Prenton Park
Pre-Season Friendly (2)

Goals: Camacho 8′, Ojo 27′, Lallana 33′; Smith 71′, Soukouna 80′


Fabinho & Keita to Start

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Tuesday, July 10, 2018: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' during the pre-match warm-up before a preseason friendly match between Tranmere Rovers FC and Liverpool FC at Prenton Park. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

To give fans an incentive to watch this traditional pre-season friendly against lower-league opposition, it was billed as the Fabinho and Keita show.

It was the first time the new signings had started together, and it may give some indication as to how the side will operate with them in it during the new season.

Fabinho started deepest, looking like Sergio Busquets (against Tranmere) as he patrolled the area between defence and midfield, often dropping between the centre-backs.

Despite the amount of time he was afforded by the Tranmere press, or lack of it, his passing was urgent and he always knew where his team-mates were without having to look up.

There was plenty of first-touch football from Fabinho, but ahead of him Keita fancied a dribble. He was crowded out by opposition midfielders, but always kept possession either by beating a man or finding a man.

Naby Keita of Liverpool during the pre season match at Prenton Park, Birkenhead. Picture date 10th July 2018. Picture credit should read: Matt McNulty/Sportimage via PA Images

His silky skills pose an attacking threat from midfield, and the way he plays the game he’ll regularly be on the end of a few fouls this season.

He may also be on the end of a few crosses, and showed his attacking intent by getting into the box to head a shot on goal.

With Jordan Henderson at the World Cup for longer than was envisaged Fabinho could be thrown in from the start, so his pre-season will be vital.

 

Comparing the Undercard

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Tuesday, July 10, 2018: Liverpool's Sheyi Ojo celebrates scoring the second goal during a preseason friendly match between Tranmere Rovers FC and Liverpool FC at Prenton Park. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

Pre-season offers chances to a number of fringe players, and Jurgen Klopp‘s decision to field two different sides in each half gave opportunities to plenty, even if not for the length of time they may have liked.

In the first half Ryan Kent and Sheyi Ojo impressed, with the latter getting on the scoresheet with a left-footed drive cutting inside from the right.

Kent’s pressing caught the eye and will have pleased Klopp, as will the performance of attacker Rafa Camacho, operating at right-back.

The Portuguese forward showed his versatility while playing in Steven Gerrard’s youth sides last season, and has now added another string to his bow.

He demonstrated his attacking prowess by opening the scoring following a run infield.

The second half felt more disjointed and Tranmere were able to come back into the game, so the likes of Harry Wilson, Divock Origi and Ben Woodburn weren’t able to show what they’re capable of.

The change in formation may have been partly to blame, but Daniel Sturridge still stood out in the hole behind the striker.

This could be a new role for him should he remain at Liverpool this season, and give him opportunities to appear in the side if Klopp goes with a 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-2-2 in certain games.

 

Calamitous Karius Strikes Again

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Tuesday, July 10, 2018: Liverpool's goalkeeper Loris Karius looks dejected during a preseason friendly match between Tranmere Rovers FC and Liverpool FC at Prenton Park. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

As far as the goalkeepers were concerned, Danny Ward had little to do in the first half but was alive when called upon just after the half-hour mark.

He readjusted his position to palm away a poorly hit shot. The fact it was mis-hit made it more difficult and the Welshman did well to react and make the save.

Liverpool’s current No. 1, Loris Karius, took the gloves at half-time and did little to restore confidence in his ability after his mistakes in Kyiv.

Unfortunately for the 25-year-old he continued where he left off in the Champions League final.

One poor ball forward went straight to the opposition, giving them a rare chance on goal, and he later spilled a well-hit Ollie Norburn free-kick, allowing new signing Jonny Smith to turn home the rebound.

Karius will constantly be reminded of his performance in that final, not least by opposition fans behind his goal, and moments like this will only increase the pressure on him.

On this evidence, regardless of how much support he has from Liverpool fans there will be doubts if the club go into the new season with the German between the posts.

 

Formation Changes

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Tuesday, July 10, 2018: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before a preseason friendly match between Tranmere Rovers FC and Liverpool FC at Prenton Park. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

Having sent his team out in a 4-2-3-1 against Chester, Klopp reverted to his favoured Liverpool formation—4-3-3—in the first half in Birkenhead.

It accommodated Fabinho and Keita, as mentioned earlier, and allowed Adam Lallana to operate in as the most attacking of the midfield three.

It was a role which the Englishman performed well, and he could well join the aforementioned pair in the starting lineup at the start of the new season.

The second half saw a formation change to a system which was used in the opening pre-season game against Chester.

James Milner was the deepest midfielder, with Ben Woodburn slightly ahead of him. Wilson tucked in from the left to join Origi up front, with Curtis Jones sticking on the left wing.

Sturridge’s role was the most interesting as he dropped into a central attacking midfield position behind the forwards.

He was able to demonstrate his range of passing and excellent touch, while also showing his ability to beat a man with ease despite a supposed loss of pace.

Klopp regularly tests out new formations in pre-season, and we could see this lopsided 4-2-3-1/4-2-2-2 once the season starts.

 

Lack of Strike Power

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Tuesday, July 10, 2018: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp gives a team talk to the second half substitutes in half time during a preseason friendly match between Tranmere Rovers FC and Liverpool FC at Prenton Park. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

Dominic Solanke started the game in the centre-forward position, and will take solace in the fact he’s getting his mistakes out of the way early.

An Andy Robertson cross put one on a plate for him, but he stuck out his right boot and sent the ball over the bar.

The fact he was in the right positions provides some encouragement, but his finishing once there wasn’t of the required standard.

However, there will be several more pre-season games in which to adjust his sights.

Divock Origi entered the fray in the second half and was also unable to get on the scoresheet as the team failed to find the net in the second 45 minutes.

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Tuesday, July 10, 2018: Liverpool's Divock Origi during a preseason friendly match between Tranmere Rovers FC and Liverpool FC at Prenton Park. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

The Belgian is another forward who has never quite convinced at Liverpool, but as with Solanke he will take comfort in the pre-season nature of these games, looking to improve in the coming weeks.

Though pre-season isn’t the time for snap judgements, the manager will be watching how these players on the outskirts of the squad are performing in each situation.

He may even be making his mind up on a few, at least in private.

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