SINGAPORE - Friday, July 15, 2022: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp after the Standard Chartered Trophy pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at the Singapore National Stadium. (Handout Photo by Full Circle PR)

No 4-2-3-1 & Klopp banks on youth – 6 things we’ve learned from Liverpool’s pre-season

Pre-season is now over and Liverpool are into the final stretch ahead of their Premier League opener at Fulham, so what have we learned from the past month?

The Reds kicked off their summer preparations on July 4, with the first group reporting to the AXA Training Centre for fitness checks and ball work getting underway soon after.

For those involved in post-season internationals, the return date was pushed back to the following week, when the likes of Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Trent Alexander-Arnold flew with the squad to Asia.

Since then, there have been six friendlies including the Community Shield, all building up to the opening clash with Fulham on August 6.

Jurgen Klopp has already maintained that the foundation work does not end here, of course, but from now on, every result is crucial for Liverpool.

Here are six things we learned from Liverpool’s pre-season.


No 4-2-3-1 after all

SINGAPORE - Thursday, July 14, 2022: Liverpool players during a training sessional at the National Stadium, Singapore ahead of the Standard Chartered Trophy pre-season friendly match against Crystal Palace. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In the buildup to pre-season, and in the wake of deals for Nunez and Fabio Carvalho, there was much talk of a possible change in formation.

After training had begun, even, Klopp explicitly referenced “the new system” and batted away questions over a new signing in the middle of the park by claiming “we might only need two midfielders.”

That led to a belief that Liverpool would switch to a 4-2-3-1 setup, with Nunez a traditional No. 9 and Carvalho more often than not playing as a No. 10 for Fulham.

But over six warmup games there were no major tactical changes – the 4-3-3 is and almost certainly will remain the go-to formation.


Bad timing for injuries

SINGAPORE - Friday, July 15, 2022: Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain goes down with an injury during the Standard Chartered Trophy pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at the Singapore National Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There is, of course, rarely a good time for a player to pick up an injury, but this pre-season has been a particularly frustrating one for many.

Calvin Ramsay and Kaide Gordon both missed out on vital weeks to not only adjust to the squad but also make their mark, while Alisson and Caoimhin Kelleher are now short of match fitness heading into the campaign proper.

For Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a “serious hamstring injury” is a bitter blow to his chances of proving he is worthy of a new contract.

There have been others, too, with Diogo Jota, Kostas Tsimikas, Naby Keita, Curtis Jones and Ibrahima Konate all forced to play catch-up.


Klopp is banking on youth

LEIPZIG, GERMANY - Thursday, July 21, 2022: Liverpool's Fábio Carvalho (R) celebrates with Harvey Elliott (L) after a pre-season friendly match between RB Leipzig and Liverpool FC at the Red Bull Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For all the talk of a new signing in midfield, there is a clear sense that Klopp will instead provide more opportunities for the youngsters in his ranks.

“If we bring in a player just for that,” he explained, “we immediately make it more difficult for Harvey, Curtis and Fabio.”

That was telling as Carvalho (260) and Harvey Elliott (272) clocked more minutes on the pitch than any other outfielder over pre-season, with James Milner the only other player to feature in all six games.

Much of their minutes came in attack, of course, with the competition for places in the middle of the park already limiting Jones’ exposure.

But it can only be considered a positive, with the likes of Stefan Bajcetic, Bobby Clark, Isaac Mabaya and Luke Chambers also making an impression over the past month as they look to step up in the future.


The results really don’t matter

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA - Wednesday, July 27, 2022: Liverpool's James Milner during a pre-season friendly between FC Red Bull Salzburg and Liverpool FC at the Red Bull Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Across the six games, Liverpool picked up victories over Man City, RB Leipzig and Crystal Palace, as well as defeats to Man United, Salzburg and Strasbourg.

But though the Community Shield can now take its place in the trophy cabinet, for Klopp and his staff, those results will mean little.

Instead, the little improvements in terms of fitness and form, as well as the bedding in of new ideas on and off the pitch, are paramount during pre-season.

“We have to get through this period, we need it,” Klopp insisted after the 1-0 loss to Salzburg.

“It’s a long season with a long break in between and another pre-season, stuff like this, really strange. We have to make sure we are ready for that, and not for tonight.”


Don’t worry about Darwin

2JK4EME Darwin Nunez of Liverpool scores the third goal for Liverpool during the FA Community Shield match between Liverpool and Manchester City at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England on 30 July 2022. Photo by Scott Boulton. Editorial use only, license required for commercial use. No use in betting, games or a single club/league/player publications. Credit: UK Sports Pics Ltd/Alamy Live News

The expectations were understandably high as Nunez joined his new team-mates for the tour of Asia, but it was no surprise when he struggled to make waves against United and Palace.

A record £85 million signing for the biggest club in England, the scrutiny over the No. 27’s misplaced passes and tired legs was fierce among rival fans.

But, rightly, the belief within Klopp’s staff and squad did not waver.

The manner in which Nunez responded, though, may have defied expectations, as less than a week on from the win over Palace he came off the bench to score four goals in 45 minutes against RB Leipzig.

Another game-changing cameo with a goal and assist against Man City only strengthens the belief that, while it may still take time, there should be no worries over Nunez.


The hunger is still there

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, July 30, 2022: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott celebrates his side's third goal during the FA Community Shield friendly match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at the King Power Stadium. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After a campaign that saw Liverpool play every game possible and then lose out to Man City in the league and Real Madrid in the Champions League, there could have been fears over a loss of desire.

Sadio Mane, for one, opted to leave in pursuit of a new challenge, the FA Cup and League Cup completing the set of major trophies for the No. 10.

But with the likes of Milner, Konate and Joe Gomez hailing the influence of Liverpool’s trophy parade, and both Klopp and Salah signing new long-term contracts, that was clearly not the case.

The Reds came out the blocks fast in the Community Shield against City, with it apparent that, glorified friendly or not, there will be no let-up in England’s new marquee rivalry.

It may not have been the perfect pre-season – if there ever can be on – but expect Liverpool to go all out for glory again in 2022/23.