Liverpool’s 2018/19 campaign is underway after a 7-0 win over part-time outfit Chester on Saturday, as Jurgen Klopp cast his eye over 22 players.
The Reds played a different XI in each half of the match, with the likes of Loris Karius, Nathaniel Clyne and Dominic Solanke starting from kick-off and the boss making a full 11 changes at the break.
New signings Fabinho and Naby Keita played a half each, while a handful of returned-from-loan players also featured including Divock Origi and Ryan Kent.
Klopp won’t take too much from a 45-minute run-out apiece, but every game is an opportunity to impress, especially for the younger and fringe players before the seniors get involved.
Here’s a look at who impressed and who struggled on the first outing of the summer.
Difficult as it might be to impress in just three-quarters of an hour of football, a few did showcase how they were ready to go for a new campaign.
It’s also worth noting that most of the better football came in the second half, perhaps as Chester tired somewhat, but a handful of individuals stood out in the first half as a result of the overall play being a little poor.
Clyne’s driving runs down the right was a feature of the first half and a return to fitness and form for him will be key this term.
Trent Alexander-Arnold might have done enough to be first choice, but he’ll still have spells where he struggles or needs resting, especially considering how long his first full campaign has turned out…and is still going on, over in Russia.
Curtis Jones also impressed, coming in off the left side and looking to either run at the defence or link with those ahead of him.
After the break, Naby Keita made an instant impression, with his ability to win back possession a particular highlight.
Both in the centre of the park and much higher upfield, Keita was quick into the challenge and always looking to drive forward when possible—and could easily have scored his first goal as a result.
He did help force one of the goals after a tackle on the edge of the Chester box, and that’s something we should expect to see a lot more of.
Must do more
For a first match in a red shirt, Fabinho won’t have too many fond memories; he struggled to impose himself and his passing was wayward.
Ben Woodburn was similarly slack on the ball at times, but perhaps both midfielders have mitigating circumstances on this occasion.
Thrust together as a pairing, no third man behind them, it’s a different role to what Woodburn has operated in previously at first-team level, and of course they’ve never played alongside each other either.
In the second half, Ryan Kent scored a fantastic goal, but offered little else aside from that.
This will be a critical pre-season campaign for him after two disappointing loan spells last year and this wasn’t the best start.
A makeshift defence in the second half shouldn’t be criticised too much, but Rafa Camacho didn’t really offer the same runs that Clyne did first half or Andrew Robertson did on the opposite flank.
Strikers in action
With Klopp deploying essentially a 4-4-2 in each half—perhaps more of a 4-2-3-1 first half—there was plenty of central game time for four forwards.
Dominic Solanke was the slightly deeper in the first 45, Origi ahead of him, while Danny Ings and Daniel Sturridge played after the break.
Neither were tremendous in the opening half of the match, though the Belgian did offer some incisive running in the channels and gave a few opportunities to play through-passes from deep.
In the box, however, both he and Solanke were lacking in touch and control.
After the break the spaces were exploited rather ruthlessly by Liverpool and it’s clear Sturridge—on a technical level the best of the quartet in any case—made the most of that.
His link play was good as well as his finishing, though it’s notable he came deep rather than running behind more often than not.
Young wingers battling it out
As mentioned, Kent didn’t enjoy the most beneficial of outings despite his superb goal in the second half, and the two other wide men—arguably all three fighting for one spot this year at Anfield—were the better performers.
Harry Wilson scored twice in the first half from the right, while Sheyi Ojo operated that side in the second half and was heavily involved.
Wilson’s big positives weren’t just his finishes, coolly taken though they were, but his movement: he offered the ‘Salah’ run of darting in on the diagonal behind the defence, but also a much later run into the box from the second line, following up initial attacks to find space in dangerous areas on more than one occasion.
He’s got to keep doing it as the level of opposition steps up, but this was a good start from the Welshman.
Ojo, too, showed good footwork, pace and movement and can be confident of getting another chance to impress.