Ever since Jurgen Klopp was appointed Liverpool manager he has stressed the importance of having time with his squad on the training pitch. With pre-season being the ideal opportunity for the German to set-out his masterplan for the forthcoming season, let’s take a look at five areas we should be keeping a close eye on this summer.
Over the course of the past two preseason’s Klopp has had with the squad, it has become pretty apparent which formation the boss would be looking to implement for the upcoming season. Despite having a variety of players available to him, Klopp has rarely strayed from his favoured 4-3-3 formation in our pre-season friendlies. However, with the club looking to add a number 10 – whether that be Nabil Fekir or someone else – could we see the boss evolve away from his preferred system thus far? Maybe a return of the 4-2-3-1 which he used in the 14/15 season and more recently on the final day of the season against Brighton. Or will we see the 4-2-2-2 once again after its brief outing away at West Ham last year? Either way, I don’t think we’ll have to wait long to see what the boss’ favoured formation will be as he often chooses a system in pre-season and sticks with it.
The Goalkeeping situation
After a disastrous end to last season, Loris Karius will be hoping to start this season as Liverpool’s number one. Despite links to various goalkeepers the Reds are yet to sign one this summer, therefore, it looks as though Karius will be Klopp’s first choice for the foreseeable future. If this is the case it will be vital Karius is able to rebuild his own confidence and trust with his teammates which means every game in pre-season will be a massive test for the German and a small hurdle overcome if he performs well. Should Liverpool sign a goalkeeper, will he be an obvious upgrade on Karius or will he be recruited to provide competition to him. The number one position has definitely been the most talked about area since the Champions League Final, so it’ll be intriguing to see how the situation develops over the course of the next month or so.
Liverpool’s new look midfield
With both Naby Keita and Fabinho reporting back for training on the first day, excitement has understandably risen over the potential midfield partnership the two could develop. On paper they look like the complete duo, Fabinho – a more defensive minded midfielder who can break up play, recognise danger and build attacks, alongside Keita – the all-action midfielder who can break lines through both his dribbling and passing ability whilst possessing an eye for a goal without shirking defensive responsibility. If Klopp is to play a two-man midfield then there’s no doubt he has identified these two gems as key to his system so let’s hope they can develop a dynamic and effective partnership in pre-season because their potential as a pair is scary.
Klopp’s faith in youth
With several first-team members still absent due to their participation in the World Cup, a number of players who have progressed through the club’s academy will be given another chance to impress. Although their time to make an impression on Klopp will be running out, players such as Ben Woodburn, Sheyi Ojo, Ryan Kent and Harry Wilson have all shown a lot of potential over the past couple of seasons when given an opportunity. All except Woodburn have been out on loan and should hopefully come back with a point to prove having developed their game away from Melwood. Liverpool still looks extremely short of options in wide positions which is why Ojo, Kent and Wilson should feel confident of laying down a real marker to Klopp. Wilson is the only player that hasn’t really been given a proper chance by Klopp but after a successful loan spell at Hull lasts season where he scored 7 goals and created 3 assists in 11 starts, the Welshman will be hoping he gets the opportunity to show his quality not just in training but in the first few pre-season matches. Should one of these players hit the ground running this summer then it may force Klopp to give them a chance in the first team squad heading into such a long season which will require a squad full of quality and depth? The development of Trent this season has demonstrated the boss is willing to give youth a chance if the ability is there. Many of these lads may not get the opportunity to impress Klopp again so they have to do everything they can to force themselves in the German’s thinking for the coming season.
The right-back position
If the end of last season is anything to go by then it looks as though Trent will be Klopp’s first choice right-back this season and it’s hard to argue against that. The Scouser demonstrated to us that he has all the attributes to become a top class full back should he continue learning and developing at the astonishing rate he has thus far. Having said this, Trent won’t be able to play in every game next season, therefore, Nathaniel Clyne has the opportunity whilst his teammate is away in Russia to stake his claim as the go-to man should Trent need resting or taking out of the firing line. After coming back from a long-term injury, Clyne looked extremely rusty at the end of last season so it will be crucial that he has a full pre-season to gain momentum and confidence heading into the 18/19 season.
Joe Gomez was the man used to steady the ship in this position last season but suggestions are that Klopp is looking to develop him as a centre-back. Personally, I don’t think Gomez is ready to play CB in the league or Champions League, however, playing him in this position in the domestic cups could be the perfect stage for development. If Klopp is planning on moulding Gomez into a CB then he has to have game time in this position in pre-season to learn what’s required of him. It’ll be interesting to see what Klopp does as Gomez will probably still have to rotate with Clyne at right-back because of the limited options until Trent returns.