3 things we learned from Liverpool's 2023/24 pre-season campaign

Dan Vassie
10 months ago

A dominant 3-1 victory over Darmstadt on Monday night signified the end of an action-packed pre-season schedule for Liverpool

The club now gears up for competitive action against Chelsea in just five days' time.

After completing tours in Germany and Singapore, as well as a final fixture against Darmstadt back in the UK at Preston North-End's Deepdale Stadium, one thing has become abundantly clear; expect goals this season, and a lot of them.

In just five fixtures across pre-season, fans watched the ball hit the back of the net 29 times – 18 scored, 11 conceded, and an average of 5.8 goals per game.

So while there likely won't be quite as many goals in competitive games, Liverpool's attacking brilliance and defensive frailty means that supporters should expect to see plenty of blockbusters and thrillers this season.

But what else has pre-season taught us? Here are some things we've learned over the past month.


READ MORE: 7 big questions for Liverpool ahead of the new season

LIVERPOOL'S YOUTH IS IN SAFE HANDS

One of the most promising aspects of pre-season was to see Liverpool's next generation of academy stars flourishing and staking their claim to a place in the first-team this season.

Almost every year there is a young breakout star in Merseyside. Last season was Stefan Bajcetic, the year before that Harvey Elliott, and it's still not that long ago that Liverpool plucked one of the best full-backs in the world from their academy.

Jurgen Klopp has described the current batch of young players on the brink of first-team action as 'special', with Conor Bradley, Bobby Clark and James McConnell all impressing in pre-season. However, the two stand-outs this summer have surely been Ben Doak and Jarell Quansah.

After massively impressing in small cameos last season, Doak was one of the most talked about names before pre-season began, and after watching him this month, it seems inevitable that he is going to get plenty of first-team minutes this season.

Doak has proved himself to be an incredibly direct and dangerous footballer, an elite dribbler and someone who has no right to be as good as he is at just 17.

After scoring his first Liverpool goal against Leicester with a brilliantly manoeuvred header at the back post, he will be looking ahead to this year's cup competitions and thinking he can force his way into Klopp's plans as Mohamed Salah's understudy.

As for Quansah, he also impressed when called upon in pre-season, most notably with an imperious display in the 4-0 win against Leicester.

The 20-year-old hasn't put a foot wrong, and with the injury records of Ibrahima Konate, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, the towering centre-half will be desperate to force his way into his manager's plans.

Liverpool have been widely reported to be on the hunt for a defender before the season begins, and while I'm not suggesting this hunt should end, Quansah's performances in pre-season will give Klopp plenty to think about.

READ MORE: Jarell Quansah – Liverpool's next academy star?

ATTACKING PROWESS

KARLSRUHE, GERMANY - Wednesday, July 19, 2023: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez celebrates after scoring the opening goal during a pre-season friendly match between Karlsruher SC and Liverpool FC at the Wildparkstadion. Liverpool won 4-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As already alluded to, by far Liverpool's biggest strength going into the season is the sheer firepower they possess in attack.

All five of Liverpool's senior forwards (Salah, Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nuñez, Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz) would start for most teams around the world, and Klopp has the luxury of picking between them all, despite the piercing headache that may cause.

What makes it harder is that the quintet looked sharp across pre-season and they are all in great goalscoring form. While it is still up for debate who starts in Liverpool's strongest XI, being in four competitions means each of them will get plenty of game time and plenty of goals.

Against Darmstadt on Monday night, Klopp even demonstrated that he would be willing to play four of his front five at the same time, with Gakpo dropping deeper into the midfield.

A player as versatile as the Dutchman is a wonderful asset to have, and he performed exceptionally in the role, picking out his teammates well, but also making bursting runs into the box.

When adding in new creative midfielders like Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, as well as Trent Alexander-Arnold in his hybrid role, Liverpool could well break records this season for goals scored.

READ MORE: Can Liverpool score enough goals to win the Premier League in 2023/24?

DEFENSIVE FRAILTY

While on one side of the coin, Liverpool look blistering, on the other, they look weak defensively.

It won't come as a shock to fans that Liverpool look vulnerable at the back, it was the case for the entirety of last season, but with the new system and blaring holes in the squad, that vulnerability is only exacerbated.

Having Alexander-Arnold occupy a deep midfield position in possession is great from a creativity standpoint, but leaves Liverpool remarkably exposed from counter-attacking situations, especially when there are currently zero specialist defensive midfielders within the squad.

Don't be mistaken, having a back-three with the right protection and personnel is fine. Virgil van Dijk sits in the centre of defence, with two defenders either side of him in possession and Alexander-Arnold drops back into right-back to create the back four when defending. It's simple.

However, having Konate on the right is crucial, which is very worrying considering one injury would mean playing Matip (who isn't quick enough to cover adequately), or Gomez (who was fairly mistake prone last season) in the right centre-back spot.

READ MORE: Can Joel Matip still be a reliable part of Liverpool's new system?

That's without discussing Andrew Robertson's capability as a left centre-half. No one is doubting Robertson's quality. He's one of the best, if not the best, left-back in the world on his day. However, pre-season showed on multiple occasions that he still has a very forward-thinking mindset and he loves to bomb up the pitch.

If the right pass is made, no problem. If not, Liverpool's defence – without the presence of an out-and-out defensive midfielder to cover – is left absolutely gaping and extremely susceptible to the counter-attack as we have seen time and time again this month.

It's clear that if Klopp is to persist with this system, a defensive midfielder and a left-footed central defender are needed as a bare minimum, unless Liverpool plan to win every game 5-4.

With the Premier League opener against Chelsea just five days away, and Liverpool still locked in talks for Romeo Lavia, time is running out. In order to make the inevitable abundance of goals count for something this season, Klopp needs to be given the reinforcements needed to sure up the defence.

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