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Szobo and Mac positions hinted – 5 talking points from Liverpool’s opening friendly

Liverpool kicked off their pre-season campaign for 2023/24 with a win as they beat Karlsruher 4-2 in Germany.

The Reds opened the scoring just two minutes in as Darwin Nunez capitalised on a fortunate deflection to sweep home a first-time finish inside the box.

But the hosts were level before the break thanks to a phenomenal strike from Lars Stindl, and then took the lead following the restart through Sebastian Jung.

However, substitute Cody Gakpo finished from a Joe Gomez knock-down midway through the second half before Diogo Jota won it at the death with a tidy close-range finish.

And there was still time for the Portuguese to get on the scoresheet again, passing home a one-on-one after darting in behind.

 

Henderson closes in on departure

DONESCHINGEN, GERMANY - Monday, July 17, 2023: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson rides a bicyle to a training session during the club's pre-season training camp in Germany. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The biggest news of the day emerged before Liverpool had even kicked a ball in the first friendly of their pre-season schedule.

Jordan Henderson‘s omission from the matchday squad offered a rather large hint that he was on the brink of a move to Al Ettifaq in the coming days – news that was later confirmed by This Is Anfield.

With that transfer now set to be completed imminently, the captain has already made his final appearance in red.

 

Trent tries out holding midfield

KARLSRUHER, GERMANY - Wednesday, July 19, 2023: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold during a pre-season friendly match between Karlsruher SC and Liverpool FC at the Wildparkstadion. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool fans hoped that Klopp’s starting XI for this game would offer clues as to how he is going to set his team up for the season ahead.

Would he stick with the shape that allowed Trent Alexander-Arnold to inspire huge improvement during the run-in? Or would he try out something entirely new?

Unfortunately, the answer was not forthcoming, with Alexander-Arnold instead deployed in a more traditional holding role for this first friendly.

And it would be unwise to read too much into that decision given that it was largely necessitated by the absences of Fabinho and Henderson.

 

Nunez makes perfect start as No.9

KARLSRUHER, GERMANY - Wednesday, July 19, 2023: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez celebrates after scoring the first goal during a pre-season friendly match between Karlsruher SC and Liverpool FC at the Wildparkstadion. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After a mixed first season as a Liverpool player, Nunez is under huge pressure to deliver on his potential this time around.

And a goal in his first outing of the new campaign will certainly do him no harm in terms of confidence as he looks to kick on.

It was not the prettiest of strikes – initial hesitance and a fortunate bounce playing a big part in the chance arising – but the Uruguayan has never been the smoothest of technicians.

Still, that will matter little if he continues to bang the goals in going forward.

 

Gakpo shows no signs of slowing down

KARLSRUHER, GERMANY - Wednesday, July 19, 2023: Liverpool's Cody Gakpo celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during a pre-season friendly match between Karlsruher SC and Liverpool FC at the Wildparkstadion. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Of course, if Nunez is going to pick up significant minutes in his preferred role this season, then he will first have to dislodge Gakpo.

The Dutchman established himself as Klopp’s favoured centre-forward following his arrival in January, with his understanding of the defensive aspects of the position playing a huge part.

But he of course combines that with a genuine goal threat, as evidenced by a well-taken finish in this game.

If Gakpo keeps this up in pre-season, then it will take an awful lot for Nunez to start the new campaign as Liverpool’s first-choice No.9.

 

Hint over Mac Allister and Szoboszlai roles

KARLSRUHER, GERMANY - Wednesday, July 19, 2023: Liverpool's Dominik Szoboszlai during a pre-season friendly match between Karlsruher SC and Liverpool FC at the Wildparkstadion. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Eagle-eyed supporters have noticed that clips from Liverpool’s pre-season training sessions appeared to show their two latest additions assuming somewhat surprising midfield roles.

Rather than Alexis Mac Allister being deployed on the left and Dominik Szoboszlai on the right-hand side as might be expected, it seems the two new arrivals have been flipped by Klopp.

And, despite the fact that the two players did not feature in the same half against Karlsruher, that set-up continued here; Mac Allister played on the right in the second half and Szobozslai on the left in the first half.

Potentially, the manager views these as the pair’s long-term positions – it will be interesting to learn exactly why in the coming weeks.