As Jürgen Klopp admitted, Liverpool’s defense needs to improve or face “real trouble” in the new Premier League season.
A 4–3 loss to Bayern Munich took them to 10 goals conceded in four pre-season games. Whether it’s general sloppiness in individual duels, being dominated in the air by set pieces or tactical vulnerabilities, it seems Klopp took the long flight back from Singapore with more questions than answers.
Admittedly, pre-season is never a true barometer, but the way Liverpool conceded their four goals certainly annoyed the manager.
Serge Gnabry used a hole on the Reds’ right wing twice in the first half, to score one and then run free to beat Leroy Sane.
And it all comes down to the Trent-Alexander-Arnold riddle. As reported on these sites yesterday, the Englishman is loving his new role in midfield and it’s usually a pleasure to watch him there with the ball – but it has a knock-on effect on defence.
Right back, Alexander-Arnold roams in the central areas alongside Curtis Jones, as he regularly did against Bayern. However, too often he failed to return to his defensive position, leaving the three remaining defenders unprotected.
The first half was similar in the Reds’ 4-0 win over Leicester. The Foxes had three good chances at 0-0, with Ibrahima Konate passing twice as he struggled to plug the gaping hole in the Liverpool defence. Joël Matip also had problems in the first half last night.
“The first goal, Trent and Joel have to react better,” Klopp said. “The two were standing on both feet. I don’t think we could have avoided the pass.
“It was about half an hour into the game and we could feel the intensity even then. The second half was similar with Joe Gomez and Ibou Konaté. It’s not about speed, it’s about mindfulness, checking the situation, there is no pause in football.”
Klopp added that in terms of positive performances he had seen enough to work on – and it has to be said that pre-season is never a cause for panic. Also note that several Bayern goals were clearly offside.
Liverpool briefly feared summer signing Alexis Mac Allister suffered a nasty injury after he screamed in pain and limped off the pitch at the end of the first half, but after the game Klopp played down the fears regarding the blow in midfield. and said it was removed as a precaution.
Another question bugging Klopp will be the continued saga over who to start in the No 6 role at Chelsea on the opening weekend of the season. Curtis Jones played both Singapore friendlies in the holding role after the unplanned exits of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson.
The 22-year-old Liverpool player is a decent footballer with possession. On several occasions against Bayern, Jones received the ball in front of his own goal and looked close to losing possession, but then broke free, turned and launched an attack.
But is he physically and defensively strong enough to play big games there? Sometimes Jamal Musiala and Alphonso Davies passed him easily.
“Curtis is definitely one of the options, it’s no secret that we are looking for new players to join us,” Klopp said this week.
One question that might have been somewhat answered in this outing against the German champions was ‘who leads the line against Chelsea?’
Cody Gakpo started in the No 9 role and scored Liverpool’s first goal in a game-winning performance that showed why Klopp loves him so much.
The Dutchman started and finished the game after just two minutes, when he collected the ball at the halfway line, played a quick back and forth with Diogo Jota and then finished well with his weaker left foot.
Luis Diaz also played well and scored in the second half and he is another player set for a big season after a frustrating campaign last term that was wrecked by injury. On the Colombian, Klopp said: ‘Pre-season is massive for everyone but for Lucho especially.
“We won’t be as tired as we are today during the season. But there will be times when you will feel the intensity and you still need to make the right decisions. You will be punished if you don’t. It’s part of the pre-season experience.
“Give me another hour and I’ll look back and see it (the defeat) as a very good lesson and I’ll be even happier that I made the mistakes today than in 10 days (against Chelsea).”