MS TECHNOLOGY ARENAFOURTH // Liverpool closed their German training camp with the second pre-season friendly of the summer against Greuther Fürth. Jürgen Klopp once again took the opportunity to test a wide range of his players as they played out a 4-4 draw.
Luis Díaz opened the scoring midway through the first half with a fine finish after being denied moments earlier. A mix between Adrián and James McConnell headed the hosts level shortly after the restart, before a superb Darwin Núñez double looked to have secured another win for the Reds on their travels.
However, Fürth hit back, with a goal from Lukas Petkov and a finish from Armindo Sieb giving the hosts an unexpected lead. However, Mohamed Salah was late on to ensure the Reds avoided defeat.
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There was still no sign of either Jordan Henderson or Fabinho as the pair close in on a move to Saudi Arabia, while there was another notable absence from the squad.
Dominik Szoboszlai sat out the game after picking up a knock in training, but there was a return for Alisson Becker as Liverpool’s number one was back in goal after missing the opening game of the summer against Karlsruher.
The starting XI took a much more familiar role, although Conor Bradley continued at right-back with Trent Alexander-Arnold again starting in midfield, while Ben Doak took Mohamed Salah’s usual place in the side as Diogo Jota was chosen ahead of Núñez after his two goals last week.
Here are the six things Liverpool.com discovered as the match unfolded.
Klopp continued his Trent Alexander-Arnold experiment from the first game against Karlsruher, as the academy graduate started in the number six role in midfield, with Conor Bradley taking on the hybrid right-back role.
Much has been made over the years about Alexander-Arnold’s suitability for a permanent midfield role and Klopp appears to have warmed more to the idea in recent months. With Fabinho and Henderson now seemingly out of the picture, it has been the perfect opportunity to take a look at Liverpool’s number 66 in a more advanced starting position.
And his new role, however temporary it may prove to be, is particularly timely, with recent reports suggesting the Reds are preparing a bid for Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich (who, as of transfers).
Whether there is anything to the report remains to be seen, but the Germany international would be ideal for the hybrid role going forward and would offer an alternative option as Liverpool look for a successor to Fabinho. Perhaps Klopp has just shown where his transfer priorities lie now.
Another midfield option
Pre-season is of course the time to experiment and Klopp is certainly using his opportunity.
The second pre-season game saw another midfield tweak, with Dominik Szoboszlai not risked as Cody Gakpo started at number eight.
It’s a role not new to the Netherlands international as he played it against Brentford during the final run-in last season and he certainly looked a good fit then.
And he showed his versatility once again, protecting the ball in his own half to free up space further forward and get Liverpool into attack.
It is no wonder that Gakpo is seen by many as the perfect successor to Roberto Firmino and he showed why, regardless of position, he should have a place in the side in the new season.
Salah’s long-term successor
Hopefully, Liverpool won’t have to think about a departure for Mohamed Salah anytime soon, but the fans would certainly feel a little more secure with some backup for the Egyptian king.
Given the work needed in midfield and defense this summer, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that we’ll see Liverpool go after another forward in the transfer market, meaning Klopp may have to look closer to home to support Salah, and he may already have his long-term successor in place.
There is a lot of excitement surrounding Ben Doak at Anfield and you could see why in Germany. The former Celtic youngster looked to be a real livewire on the right, and while his final product may not have been quite on point, at 17 he certainly has plenty of time to work on it.
With Liverpool playing in the Europa League in the new season, opportunities may arise for some of the club’s younger players to stake their claim and in Doak, Reds fans will have something very exciting to look forward to.
Press machine in full effect
Among the many problems of last season, Klopp particularly bemoaned his side’s pressing efforts as he summed up why his side had struggled.
“It’s a general problem, not a midfield problem,” he said via ECHO. “The defense starts up front, if you don’t defend there then the midfield has no chance.”
Part of that problem no doubt lay in the absence of Luis Díaz and Diogo Jota for most of the season – Pep Lijnders doesn’t call the latter a ‘pressing machine’ for nothing.
And we saw exactly the kind of impact the pair can make when in the side, forcing their German opponents into mistakes at the back and creating chances from normally innocuous situations.
Granted, they will face tougher opposition, especially as the season gets underway in earnest, but the early signs are encouraging.
There were an eyebrow or two raised among Liverpool fans when Caoimhín Kelleher was not named in the squad as there has been some speculation about his future.
The ECHOs Ian Doyle settled some nerves when he explained Kelleher’s absence on social media, reporting that it was ‘just a matter of playing time being shared around’ after Alisson and Adrián missed the game against Karlsruher.
However, those nerves would have frayed again when Adrián’s poor pass to James McConnell shortly after the start of the second half led to Fürth equalizing.
The Spaniard later made amends by starting the move that saw Darwin Núñez put Liverpool back in front, but there can be no doubt that if Kelleher is to move on, Liverpool will need to find a new number two for Alisson.
Second half madness
It seemed a foregone conclusion as Darwin Núñez’s double put Liverpool 3-1 ahead just before the hour mark.
However, Fürth had other ideas as it stunned Liverpool with three quick goals to put the Reds behind and leave Klopp thinking a little more about his transfer priorities.
Joe Gomez admittedly played at right-back here, but the madness of the second half showed that Liverpool cannot afford to neglect strengthening their options at the back for too long.
The priority may be back in midfield, but the Reds demonstrated once again why a new centre-back is needed to offer backup to Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konaté.