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

Ox and Elliott’s new roles, Konate’s bow – 5 talking points from LFC’s opening friendlies

Liverpool kicked off their pre-season with a couple of 1-1 draws in two 30-minute games against Wacker Innsbruck and Stuttgart in Austria on Tuesday night.

Liverpool 1-1 Wacker Innsbruck
Origi pen 5′; Ronivaldo 17′

Liverpool 1-1 Stuttgart
Mane 21′; Forster 6′

After eight days in the Austrian sun – and some thunderstorms – Liverpool finally began their public preparations for the new season, as Jurgen Klopp’s men were involved in two 30-minute fixtures against Whacker Innsbruck and VFB Stuttgart.

So as the Reds dusted off the cobwebs, what did we learn from the outings?


1. Kaide Gordon – teenager catches the eye

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

Kaide Gordon is only 16 years old but made his first senior outing for Klopp’s side and certainly caught the eye in the first game vs. Innsbruck.

Signed from Derby County in January, he recorded seven goals and three assists in his time with Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s under-18s side last campaign as he made an immediate impact at Kirkby.

A tricky, direct, and confident winger, Gordon’s eagerness to impress was noticeable right from the off as he was desperate to get on the ball and show what he could do.

Gordon’s acquisition was seen as a shrewd piece of business from those at Anfield and here he showed exactly why he is so highly thought of.

His best chance of the game came after a combination down the right-hand side before some nimble footwork saw him carve open his own chance, but he was denied by a strong wrist from the ‘keeper.


2. A promotion for Trent?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 23, 2021: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold during the final FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0 and finished 3rd in the table. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Trent Alexander-Arnold repped the captain’s armband in the evening’s first friendly, potentially revealing that he could be set for an in-house promotion this summer.

Following the departure of Gini Wijnaldum this summer, Klopp will not only have to identify someone to fill the on-field void of the Dutchman, but also his off-field commitments.

Wijnaldum was one of Klopp’s ‘four captains’ alongside Jordan Henderson, Van Dijk and James Milner.

Liverpool do have whole host of options who could step in the leader’s ring, with the likes of Andy Robertson and Mohamed Salah both captains of their country. But allowing Alexander-Arnold to learn off such senior figures so early in his career could set him, and Liverpool, in perfect stead for years to come.


3. Ibou’s bow

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)

Ibrahima Konate was handed his first outing as a Liverpool player in the second of the two games, as Liverpool drew to Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart.

And although the former RB Leipzig defender wasn’t required to do much defending, there were small glimpses of what he could offer the Reds in the future.

As expected, Liverpool spent the majority of the game on the front foot as they enjoyed large spells of possession. For Konate, this suited him perfectly as it allowed him to bring the ball out from the back and show his offensive skills.

He also displayed a quick turn of pace which will no doubt benefit Klopp in the upcoming campaign as he continues to deploy a high defensive line for his side.


4. A duo that do exist…

Ben Davies and Kostas Tsimikas have been at Liverpool a combined 18 months but have made zero league starts for the club.

Tsimikas, who was almost the forgotten man during his first season at Anfield, impressed many onlookers as he looked to show exactly why he was brought in as Robertson’s deputy a year ago.

Covid and injures halted the Greek defender’s progress last term, but if Tuesday evening’s performance was anything to go by then he will be ready to kick-start his Anfield career.

Tsimikas defended well and, like Robertson, made his presence in the final third of the pitch, including a nice assist for Sadio Mane‘s goal.

For Davies, he didn’t have too much to do defensively but he will have been glad to have buried his own personal hatchet and have pulled on a Liverpool shirt for the first time.

Meanwhile, there was no room for Nat Phillips in either of the squads and the reasoning for that is yet to be revealed. This week it was reported that Brighton had identified Phillips as a potential replacement for the seemingly Arsenal-bound Ben White.

But the Bolton-born defender was pictured watching both games with some of the other names who failed to make the squads, squashing any immediate questions about his future, for the time being anyway.


5. ‘New’ roles for Ox and Elliott

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

Like every pre-season, different tactics and roles are also implemented and experimented with as managers look to widen their tactical horizons and gain the upper hand on rival teams.

Here, it was no different for Klopp who deployed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Harvey Elliott in two completely new positions.

Oxlade-Chamberlain carried out the role of centre-forward in the absence of Liverpool’s No.9 Roberto Firmino, and he looked rejuvenated in his new role as dropped deep in Bobby-esque fashion with the aim of feeding Mohamed Salah and Mane on either wing.

It’s yet to be seen if this is a position that will stick with the former Arsenal man or if it is only a filler – but Klopp said post-match that it was “an option.”

All things considered, it certainly wasn’t a bad audition from Oxlade-Chamberlain.

And likewise for Liverpool’s teenage sensation Elliott, who found himself lined up alongside James Milner and Naby Keita in Liverpool’s midfield.

Given the skill set that Elliott possesses, the role was perfectly suited for him as he was able to operate from deep in a similar manner to Phillippe Coutinho, as he positioned himself in the pockets of the German side.

Elliott’s short-term future seems to be up for debate at the moment but following a sensational season at Blackburn Rovers last year, adding another element of versatility to his game will only enlarge his chances of playing his football at Anfield next term.