5 things we’ve learned from Liverpool’s pre-season so far

Jurgen Klopp‘s squad have been together for nearly two weeks, with games now supplementing regular training sessions, but what exactly can we take from the last fortnight?

Liverpool started their pre-season with a 34-man squad, but it has been an ever-changing one thanks to those returning from international duty and those leaving the club.

Marko Grujic, Taiwo Awoniyi and Harry Wilson all have a new place to call home, while Diogo Jota, Andy Robertson and Neco Williams have all been added to the fold.

It leaves six senior faces to return as the new season draws closer, but with three fixtures now under the Reds’ belt and training picking up in intensity, there’s plenty to draw from what we’ve seen so far.


Konate hitting all the right notes

GRÖDIG, AUSTRIA - Friday, July 23, 2021: Liverpool's Ibrahima Konaté during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and FSV Mainz 05 at the Greisbergers Betten-Arena. (Pic by Jürgen Faichter/Propaganda)

At 6ft 4, you knew Ibrahima Konate would bring a presence to the team but seeing him in the Liverpool red has provided a real taste of what we can expect going forward.

With 75 minutes played to date, the 22-year-old has showed off his rapid pace that has drawn comparisons to Virgil van Dijk‘s style in that he seems to glide across the pitch.

Against Mainz, Konate was pulled into the opposition’s half but just moments later was back in his penalty area clearing the ball without having looked to break a sweat in the process.

It’s a trait that is in line with how Liverpool play and was missing for much of last season due to the long list of injuries in the position, and his addition to the squad is a valuable one.

He looks almost certain to start at Norwich alongside Joel Matip and that we’ve already seen a willingness to drive from deep, pick out a pass and match that with quick defensive reactions is a big tick.

There’s plenty more to come and that’s what is so exciting.


Ox not hitting the No. 9 grade

GRÖDIG, AUSTRIA - Friday, July 23, 2021: Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looks dejected after missing a chance during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and FSV Mainz 05 at the Greisbergers Betten-Arena. (Pic by Jürgen Faichter/Propaganda)

While it was not the first time we’ve seen Oxlade-Chamberlain in this position, the suggestion that he is an “option” for the false nine role was a surprise.

That Liverpool do not and have not had an understudy to Roberto Firmino speaks volumes and as Klopp’s most-used player of all time, filling his shoes is no easy feat.

The Brazilian needs competition and the line that a forward is a top priority this summer could go in some way to supplying that, but currently, he will have little to worry about with the No. 15.

It’s a small sample size, but his natural instinct isn’t to make those runs into the box as he instead occupies the space just outside and it leaves Liverpool short in the area.

It isn’t to say time on the training track can’t mould him into the position with greater success, but at first glimpse, it’s not one that creates the needed danger and attacking spark.


Elliott and the youngsters

GRÖDIG, AUSTRIA - Friday, July 23, 2021: Liverpool players celebrate after an own-goal gave them a 1-0 victory during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and FSV Mainz 05 at the Greisbergers Betten-Arena. (Pic by Jürgen Faichter/Propaganda)

It’s always an exciting time to see how the next crop of youngsters are coming along and Harvey Elliott and Kaide Gordon have left an impression, as well as Owen Beck.

But it is 18-year-old Elliott who continued to look at home in a midfield position that you would not consider a natural one for the youngster.

And yet, his confidence and ability to quickly read the game shone through and it’s that fearlessness and hint at unexpected moments that present an opening for him this season.

We’ve only had a small glimpse, but he is doing all he can to show Klopp that he can carve out a place in the squad for the coming season and contribute when it matters most.


Understudy’s and points to prove

GRÖDIG, AUSTRIA - Friday, July 23, 2021: Liverpool players line-up before a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and FSV Mainz 05 at the Greisbergers Betten-Arena. (Pic by Jürgen Faichter/Propaganda)

Aside from the aforementioned Oxlade-Chamberlain, it’s a big year ahead for Kostas Tsimikas and Naby Keita and if pre-season alone is any indication, signs look promising.

It’s been stop-start for Keita since he arrived at Anfield in 2018, where hope builds for what he can provide before another injury cruelly takes it away.

It was similar for Tsimikas as injury and Klopp’s desire for consistency limited his opportunities to just three starts across seven appearances last season.

Both have since shown promising early indicators, with the No. 8 looking sharper and with renewed vigour to make a mark, while Tsimikas has shown off his pace, competitiveness and ball delivery.

That Klopp could call upon either throughout next season to have an influence will be a valuable string to Liverpool’s bow with silverware firmly on the agenda, and that they both have a point to prove can only aid in the matter.

Early indicators don’t read so kindly for Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi, however.


Patience for Van Dijk and Gomez

“They look really good, they do everything… We have to be patient. We prepare for a full season, not a pre-season game,” Klopp explained on Friday.

There is, of course, expected excitement and anticipation for when the pair can finally return to the team but understandably the Reds are not risking anything.

After more than nine months without a competitive game, there really is no rush to inject them into a pre-season match when there is nothing on the line – but it could come at Anfield for either of the outings against Athletic Club and Osasuna.

It means they will be unlikely to be ready for the season opener, with that honour to go to Konate and Matip, but if it means they have stronger foundations to extend deep into the campaign then patience is most definitely the word.