5 things we want to see from Liverpool this pre-season – with Salah firing and Gakpo in new role

As Liverpool return to the AXA Training Centre for the start of pre-season training under their head coach, the Arne Slot era brings new possibilities.

The Reds are back for pre-season on July 5, with a lot of change behind the scenes since they last trained at the AXA.

With Jurgen Klopp and many of his staff now departed and Slot appointed at the helm, there could be a very different feel about preparations for 2024/25.

Liverpool’s first of only four friendlies is not until July 27, meaning there are over three weeks for Slot to simply work with his players on the training pitch as he builds on the successful side Klopp left behind.

And with a new head coach in place, it presents an opportunity for different players to stake their claim and regular starters to prove their worth again.

Here are five things we want to see from Liverpool this pre-season.


New-look Salah firing

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 18, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mohamed Salah will return to Merseyside having undergone a drastic makeover, with the No. 11 shaving his head to spark rumours of a hair transplant.

With a new look could come an opportunity to reset, as though Salah came away with 25 goals and 14 assists last season, it was undoubtedly a difficult end to the campaign following one of the worst injuries of his career.

Among the players who will report to the AXA Training Centre for day one, Salah can look to make an early impact before flexing his muscle in the warmup games.

As he enters the final year of his contract at Liverpool with no guarantee of an extension, it is possible that this is the last season with the Egyptian at Anfield.

What better time to prove he’s still one of the best in the world?


Bajcetic finally back up to speed

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 5, 2024: Liverpool's substitute Stefan Bajcetic on the bench before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-2. (Photo by Ryan Brown/Propaganda)

Stefan Bajcetic will join Salah in the first crop of players back in training, having missed much of the last 15 months due to a number of fitness issues.

He was not involved in pre-season this time last year, and after a brief return in September was sidelined again and took in what Klopp described as “his pre-season.”

The 19-year-old should now be fully fit and ready to take part again, with the summer’s friendlies a perfect opportunity to find his feet.

Slot will begin pre-season without the likes of Alexis Mac Allister and Ryan Gravenberch due to internationals, which means there could be more vacancies in midfield.

Seeing Bajcetic back and settling in again would be one of the big positives of pre-season.


Gakpo in his favourite role

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 18, 2024: Liverpool's Cody Gakpo during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Though Cody Gakpo will not be involved until late in pre-season due to his commitments with the Netherlands at the Euros, Slot’s arrival is an intriguing one for the Dutchman.

Klopp was desperate to get the deal over the line with PSV Eindhoven at the start of 2023, but proceeded to use Gakpo in a variety of roles away from his natural position.

At PSV, and this summer with the Netherlands, Gakpo was hugely effective as a left winger, cutting onto his right foot as a constant threat.

It is a role that Gakpo eventually took up in the final weeks of Klopp’s farewell season, but now it should be his permanent residence under Slot.

That could, of course, have ramifications on Luis Diaz – but with the Colombian’s future still in doubt, it may provide a welcome solution.


More youngsters step up

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 20, 2024: Liverpool's Trent Kone-Doherty (L) celebrates with team-mate Kieran Morrison after scoring the fourth goal during the FA Youth Cup 4th Round match between Liverpool FC Under-18's and Arsenal FC Under-18's at the Liverpool Academy. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This pre-season is a step into the unknown, but one certainty is that it should serve as an opportunity for the next group of youngsters to break through.

Last summer saw Jarell Quansah, Bobby Clark, Ben Doak, James McConnell, Conor Bradley and Lewis Koumas among those to feature regularly, and they went on to play a valuable role in the campaign proper.

That should continue in Slot’s first pre-season, with the likes of Trey Nyoni, Amara Nallo, Carter Pinnington, Kieran Morrison and Trent Kone-Doherty perhaps in with a chance of minutes.

Even if they are simply involved in training sessions it would benefit the Reds in the long run, with Slot brought in partly due to his own faith in youth.

Who knows, we could even see a Quansah-sized leap from academy to first team again.


Slot’s new formation revealed

Arne Slot, Feyenoord (Getty Images, Via UEFA Handout)

The new head coach arrives with the expectation being that he adopts the same setup he used for the majority of his time in charge of AZ Alkmaar and more recently Feyenoord.

For the most part, Slot has used a 4-2-3-1 system throughout his managerial career, with the option of switching this to a more attacking 4-3-3 depending on the situation.

That will likely have been a key factor in the club’s decision to appoint him in the first place: unlike fellow candidate Ruben Amorim, who relies on a 3-4-3, Slot’s tactical ideals already suit the squad in place.

The likes of Dominik Szoboszlai and Harvey Elliott could even be a better fit for a formation built around a No. 10 than their previous role as No. 8s.

It remains to be seen, however, whether he sees the players available to him differently – and it won’t be until the friendlies get underway that we get an idea of his plan for the campaign ahead.