Encouraging signs from Ryan Gravenberch's first Liverpool start

As far as debuts go, Ryan Gravenberch's was up there for Liverpool.

The Dutchman joined the Reds on deadline day from Bayern Munich, moving for a reported £34m fee.

He was named in a much-changed starting XI as Jurgen Klopp's men kicked off their Europa League campaign away to LASK. The German tactician made 11 changes to the team that won 3-1 away to Wolves on Saturday.

The 21-year-old was joined in the middle third by Harvey Elliott and Wataru Endo, with Gravenberch playing on the left of the three.

Yet again, the Reds fell behind to an early goal but the former Ajax youngster still caught the eye with his first half showing. At the break, Gravenberch had managed to win the most free kicks (four) while showing some nice touches as well clear signs of an understanding with Luis Diaz and Darwin Nuñez. He perhaps should've even scored but he mistimed his header from close range and completely missed the ball.

READ MORE: LASK 1-3 Liverpool – Player Ratings

In the second half, the away side made their dominance count. Darwin equalised from the spot after Diaz was adjudged to have been fouled after taking a shot. Gravenberch then grabbed his first assist for Liverpool, racing down the right flank to play an inch-perfect cross into the path of the number seven. At first glance, it might've looked like a straightforward assist but it would've been easier to mess up that pass. If the number 38 didn't weight the pass correctly or time the release of the ball properly, it is easily defended by the hosts.

The Netherlands international was replaced not long after his assist having gone down with cramp after a driving run from deep. It was understandable though, it was his first start in a competitive match this season.

In fact, the last time he played 75 minutes in a club match was November 2022.

Klopp heaped praise on his latest midfield signing in his post-match press conference.

"He did really well,” the Liverpool boss told TNT Sports. “For a long time, he was the best player on the pitch, for sure. But in the first half, the frustration [from Liverpool players grew] and you saw him getting lost a little bit as well. That’s normal, these things happen.”

"He stayed in the game as long as he could. Really good moments, very good moments, set up a goal for Lucho [Luis Diaz]. For not knowing a lot about his team-mates, he looked pretty in-tune.”

Gravenberch finished the match having created the most chances (four) and he seemed to look comfortable in the left sided 'number eight' position.

He will need to tidy up his passing though, having found a teammate with just 70% of his attempts. Curtis Jones is usually deployed in that role and he tends to complete around 90% of his attempted passes, helping the Reds control the match a little better.

But there's a trade off, isn't there? If a player is looking to create chances, they're going to be a little more loose in possession. There's no chance Gravenberch finishes the game having created four chances, one big chance and an Expected Assists total of 0.6 if he's not looking for the killer pass a lot of the time. You have to take the rough with the smooth in this situation.

He failed to complete either of his two attempted dribbles but he was fouled on four occasions. The hosts looked to stop him before he was able to build up momentum in that sense.

READ MORE: Jurgen Klopp provides update on Ryan Gravenberch injury scare

His off the ball numbers were quietly impressive too. The young midfielder recovered the ball on nine occasions and involved himself in 11 duels. For a little context here, Endo and Elliott were involved in a combined 13 duels between them. Gravenberch also had a higher Expected Assists total than the pair of them combined too. The trio aren't in the team for the latter metric but it is worth flagging.

So, on the ball he more than held his own. Without the ball, he put in a shift. The latter might be more important to Liverpool moving forward, especially when you consider many felt the ex-Bayern Munich man didn't do the dirty work.

It is just one game but the signs were encouraging. It will be interesting to see how he does against better opposition but right now we can only judge him on that sole performance and it was better than many would have anticipated.

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