Did We Learn Anything From The Chester Friendly?

It’s a funny thing, writing about pre-season friendlies. In the grand scheme of things they really don’t mean anything and are little more than glorified training sessions, yet we all pore over them in an attempt to read the tea leaves about the forthcoming season. We look at the players and wonder whether they’re playing to get into the manager’s plans or doing so to earn themselves a move somewhere else. Liverpool’s pre-season is no different, especially given a few of our players remain either in the World Cup or on their well-earned break in the aftermath of their country’s inclusion in the tournament. It means that the squad used in these early warm-up games is a bizarre hybrid of youth players, lads who have been away on loan, lads who haven’t been able to break into the first-team, new players and others who are fairly certain they know that their position in Jürgen Klopp’s best XI is pretty much secure.

Looking back at Liverpool’s match with Chester over the weekend, therefore, doesn’t really tell us anything of substance. That said, reading the tea leaves is exactly what we’ve grown used to doing as supporters and so it’s still a fun exercise. Many will have watched the England match on Saturday instead of tuning in to watch the Reds, which is entirely understandable. However you feel about the national side, and personally I’m entirely indifferent, this is the first time that they’ve reached a semi-final since 1990 and the best chance that that England have had to win a World Cup in most people’s lifetimes. Wanting to watch them in a quarter-final rather than a makeshift Liverpool team is entirely understandable. For the record, I watched both matches side-by-side and drew some conclusions from each. As far as England is concerned, anyone who thought it would be a tough match against Sweden hasn’t been paying attention and they really should be reaching the final. When it comes to the Reds, I’m going to go into a little bit more detail.

Sturridge Will Get A Decent Move

It’s easy to get seduced by the idea of Daniel Sturridge and a resurrected Liverpool career. He’s arguably one of our most gifted out-and-out strikers since the days of Michael Owen, yet his career has been blighted by injury. The extent to which most of us feel as though he could’ve been a record-beater if he’d remained fit cannot be over-stated, such is his natural ability on the football pitch. On Saturday he showed once again exactly how good he is in front of goal with two beautiful finishes, yet he also demonstrated why his future lies elsewhere. He’s unquestionably lost a yard or two of paces thanks to all of his injuries in recent years and that was always one of his finest assets. His work off the ball isn’t good enough for a Jürgen Klopp team, though shouts that he’s ‘lazy’ are idiotic and little to do with how he plays football.

The friendly against Chester allowed him to show what he’s best at – putting the ball in the back of the net. It will attract suitors who will look at what he can do when he’s on the football pitch and be seduced into thinking that he’ll be able to reproduce that magic for them on a regular basis. In today’s market, the £15 million that the Reds are reportedly asking for him is buttons, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see someone pay it. The question mark is around whether or not the player would want to take a drop in wages in order to move on. There have been suggestions that he wants to stay and fight for his place but I think an acknowledgement from the manager that he’s not part of his future plans will see him move on. He’s been stunning to watch when he’s in full flow, it’s just a shame we haven’t been able to see that often enough.

There’s Life In Moreno Yet

The thing that many football fans don’t realise is that not every single player in a squad needs to be a world-beater, even if you hope to win the Premier League. How many Manchester United players have we all said are bang-average for years? Ferguson won titles with the likes of John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Brian McClair, Mikaël Silvestre, Anderson and Nani. Having solid players that can perform reasonably well when called upon is exactly what you need in your squad if you hope to compete, but you also need those players to be willing to be your second-choice. They’re not easy to come across, with many supporters believing that if a player is willing to be a second-choice then they’re not good enough. It’s a real catch-22 for managers, which is why I think Klopp is more than happy to keep Alberto Moreno as our back-up left-back.

Two season ago I was as ready as anyone to see the back of the Spaniard, but back then he was playing for us every week and his worst habits were being exposed. The reality is that he’s a perfectly decent player to come in when he’s needed, adding to the attack thanks to his pace and willingness to get forward. He wasn’t exactly up against Barcelona at the weekend and I would absolutely rather see Andy Robertson playing regularly for us than Moreno, but he demonstrated exactly why the manager isn’t yet ready to bin him off altogether. He lacks brains sometimes, but as long as we’re not depending on him every week then it won’t be a problem. There aren’t many absolutely amazing left-backs about, so when you add in the fact that we’d likely be looking for one to play second-fiddle to our Scottish maestro it’s no massive surprise that there hasn’t been much talk linking us to one yet this summer. I don’t think Moreno will be going anywhere.

Nathaniel Clyne Can Still Play Football

Speaking of full-backs that most of us had forgotten existed, it was great to see Nathaniel Clyne putting in a decent shift on Saturday. We’ve all been blown away by what Trent Alexander-Arnold did last season, standing up to the plate when he was called upon and putting in some absolutely blinding performances. Yet we should remember that he’s still a teenager and asking him to do that every week without any kind a relapse is unlikely to do either him or the club any favours. I think he’s got a brilliant future and reckon he’ll be a Liverpool captain one day, but that doesn’t mean that we should be running him into the ground so early in his career. The good news is that Nathaniel Clyne demonstrated on Saturday that he’s still got what it takes to be a part of this Liverpool team and that there’s no reason to go off in search of a right-back. It’s entirely possible that the manager could even use him on the other side of the pitch if the season calls for it, given that he’s played at left-back for us in the past.

He was the former England number one, lest we forget, and is arguably the most defensively sound of all of the options we have in the right-back slot. He’s no slouch getting forward either, even if some people decided before he got injured that he was poor in the final third. The manager knows how to get the most out of his players and will undoubtedly be working with Clyne on his attacking moves during the pre-season. It’s possible that Trent will be heading to the World Cup final if England are able to get past Croatia, so the presence of Clyne in the squad will give the manager some relief. I don’t think anyone envisions that Joe Gomez is a long-term option for the right-back position, with the former Charlton man likely to be used as centre-back cover more regularly in the future. Clyne and Trent alternating on the righthand side of defence depending on the opposition will give us quality in numbers, which is exactly what we need.

Karius Has His Work Cut Out To Win Over Doubters

Before I wrote about Loris Karius in any detail, I want to make something absolutely clear: I want Liverpool to buy a new goalkeeper this summer. I don’t dislike the German and don’t for one second buy into the conspiracy theories around his concussion, instead believing that it’s entirely true and explains a lot about what happened in Kiev. I hope we keep hold of him as our second-choice and that he’s able to rehabilitate himself in the weeks and months to come. I also think that he’s a much better ‘keeper than many of our fanbase realise, performing excellently in the buildup to the Champions League final only to make two mistakes on the biggest stage possible. The reason I hope we buy a new goalkeeper is absolutely nothing to do with him and everything to do with the way our fans are reacting to every single thing that he does, up to and including his social media post showing him getting ready to return to the club after a brief summer break.

An eagle-eyed ‘fan’ spotted that Karius allowed the ball to trickle between his legs during the warmup and posted it to social media, suggesting that it was another ‘blunder’ that proved he wasn’t good enough. Forgetting the fact that that’s just an idiotic thing to do, if someone is going to make a judgement on a goalkeeper based on a warm then we’ll never be happy with anyone. Oftentimes they don’t even bother trying to save shots, letting them glide past them. Sadly, the guy received 9,000 RTs and more than 15,000 Likes, so he got the one minute of fame that he was hoping for. Countless people on social media have decided that that’s enough and think the manager is wrong for backing him, forgetting that Klopp always backs his players publicly even whilst trying to replace them privately. For many, the friendly against Chester was an exciting even because of the debut of Naby Keita. For me, it’s just proof that too many in our fanbase have made their minds up about Karius and there’s no way back for him.

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