Connect in the back of the net

The Liverpool we all know and love has returned.

The Reds’ pre-season performances sent us rocketing back to the start of the last campaign, where they were a severe threat to anyone competing for the title. The friendly competitions saw LFC lift the Premier League Asia trophy and make the final of the Audi Cup where they were just beaten by Atletico Madrid on penalties.

Although pre-season counts for next to nothing, it’s great to see the team in their shipshape form once again.

Injury plagued the squad heavily at the start of 2017 but the boys look fresh and determined to give this coming season their all. Despite regular hospital goer Daniel Sturridge picking up yet another injury and Adam Lallana due to be out for three months, fans aren’t worried one bit about the upcoming fight.

 

Dangerous duo

Sadio Mané’s return to the pitch has made a giant impact, especially when teamed up with new arrival Mohammed Salah.

The two African wingers are lethal to our strike force, racking up five goals and an assist between them. Their style of play being so similar is a very dangerous asset – their speed and dribbling skills combined are a defender’s worst nightmare.

Mané’s injury put a terrible strain on the team as they tried to adapt without the prolific goal scorer. Liverpool found their feet eventually but it was too late to continue to challenge for the title.

Fortunately he seems in better shape than ever and he’s ready to show us what we’ve been missing out on all these months.

 

Putting faith in the youth

New wonder signing Dominic Solanke has been one of our best players this pre-season.

Despite only making a few appearances, his presence on the pitch has been hard to ignore. Tallying a very impressive three goals and two assists, Solanke is proving himself to be a real game changer.

With Sturridge only hoping to be well enough for their first Premier League clash, we’ll wait and see if the striker actually makes it through training without breaking something. So whilst we hold our breath, we’re likely to see Roberto Firmino as the first choice forward against Watford.

Danny Ings’ return is very unlikely and with Divock Origi falling back into very messy performances, Solanke may well be the favourite to start alongside Firmino.

The teen has gone beyond Origi’s skill level and linked up well with the rest of the team. I think the U20 England champion and teammate Ben Woodburn could well be the junior Phil and Bobby dream team.

 

Origi out?

The 22-year-old Belgian was a player I thought Liverpool were extremely lucky to have.

After his impressive five goals in five appearances last season, fans were calling for him to replace Sturridge as the first choice striker – myself included. However, his goal scoring streak ended and his quality on the ball diminished. His performances went quiet and sluggish with the odd good game in amongst a bunch of mediocre ones.

Pre-season hasn’t changed his on-and-off temperament, it seems. Liverpool’s closing friendly against Athletic Bilbao was a grand showcase of errors from Origi.

After Klopp changed the entire squad for the second half, more embarrassment ensued for Divock. Subbed off for Dominic Solanke, the Belgian watched the new forward net a superb header and line up Woodburn’s goal for him.

Fighting for a spot in the squad against ever improving Firmino, up and coming Solanke and a potentially fit Sturridge is going to be extremely difficult for Origi. If he spends too much time out of the first team, the Belgian may look to move elsewhere to secure guaranteed game time.

I’d like to see him stay with Liverpool but with little to offer at the moment, we can’t afford to wait around for his form to improve. Especially with three sharks hungry for their own chance to be the top striker.

Perhaps a transfer would be the best option for Origi – and if Moreno can get teams coming in for him, the Belgian will breeze into a new club.

 

Continued defensive issues

Although there’s been a lot to praise the Reds about, there’s also a lot that needs to be addressed.

With a strike force as powerful as Liverpool’s, a defense of equal skill is compulsory. Obviously it’s no secret that this isn’t the case.

Defense was Klopp’s biggest headache last season; conceding a huge amount of goals which contributed to unnecessary tie games and losses.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the source of the problem, as the back four have kind of an interlinking system. But the likes of Nathaniel Clyne and Dejan Lovren are names often flagged up during criticism.

Clyne can be a solid player, but the majority of the time he produces a pretty mediocre performance. By slipping under the radar he gets away with being an overall average player and talk of replacing him has never really cropped up.

Trent Alexander-Arnold isn’t first team material yet but hopefully with experience and some discipline, he could snatch Clyne’s place from him.

Lovren’s repetitive issues with marking and blocking aren’t fresh news. The Croatian has been sloppy for a number of years – but after his crucial goal during the Liverpool v Dortmund game in the Europa League, fans seem to let certain things slide.

It isn’t the first time he’s netted a goal or two either. Whenever his name appears on the score sheet, it’s like his lack of defensive talent is forgotten about. Securing van Dijk would be a dream end to this transfer window – seeing Lovren benched or potentially even sold.

This is also a major problem with most of Liverpool’s defenders. Scoring goals. I never thought I’d be complaining about a player scoring goals for my team, yet here I am.

Clyne’s protege TAA is particularly guilty for forgetting what position he’s meant to play. He is amongst others including Moreno, Lovren and sometimes Clyne himself that prioritise sprinting into the box rather than preparing for the counter attack and clearing the danger.

With three quarters of the defense on the attack, Mignolet is left looking very exposed with the defensive midfielders working double time to diffuse the threats.

The likes of Leicester play this to their advantage – they wait for the defenders to join the race to goal and then play a long ball through to a lurking Jamie Vardy. With Vardy sitting deep ready to take on the keeper, it only takes one good pass for him to finish it off.

Our defense is extremely predictable, and other clubs are starting to figure it out. Unless something changes, smaller clubs will continue to dominate us and we can kiss goodbye to any Premier League glory.

 

Transfer rumours

Nobody is sure what’s happening with all the transfer talks flying about. Virgil van Dijk has absolutely had enough at St. Mary’s and has confirmed he won’t play another game in a Southampton shirt.

Whether Klopp can clinch the deal though is another story. Chelsea are also competing for the Dutchman and their business this transfer window has been good so far. I just hope VVD’s passion to play at Anfield will be enough to seal the deal.

Barcelona are adamant Coutinho will be in La Liga before the season starts. But with a fresh £90 million offer firmly rejected, it’s looking like the only way they’ll be taking him is in a duffel bag in the middle of the night.

Stories of whether he wants to stay in Merseyside are changing daily. It’s unconfirmed whether he wants to move or if he’s perfectly happy where he is. I’m betting it’s the latter.

His pre-season performances have been impeccable as always. No tantrums or training bust ups have occurred and he assisted two great goals and scored one of his own.

Looks like the little magician will be wearing a liver bird on his chest for at least another year.

 

Written by Georgia Goulding

Follow Georgia on Twitter @gjgoulding

Check out her excellent football blog: Football, Findings and Fiction

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