7 Liverpool players with something to prove in pre-season

Pre-season is underway at Liverpool.

A new lactate test king has been crowned and friendlies will begin next week in preparation for the 2023/24 season.

A lot of talk so far this summer has been about the new arrivals at Anfield — and those still to arrive — but after an underwhelming season in 2022/23, and with Jurgen Klopp mulling big decisions about tactics and personnel, what about those already at the club with a point to prove?

Here are seven stars with questions to answer going into pre-season.


Andy Robertson

There is no doubting the Scotland captain's quality as a left back in a 4-3-3. However, if Klopp does continue to favour the box midfield that brought him joy at the tail end of last season, where does that leave Robertson?

While the 29-year-old did cope well in that system, it does limit his attacking involvement and whether he's a long-term fit for that more defensive role remains to be seen. Reports claim Liverpool are looking at a left-sided centre back this summer — with Levi Colwill top of the wish list — suggesting a back three will, at least, be one tactic that Klopp wants to have in his locker.

The pre-season may be a key time for Liverpool to assess their best defensive shape and how Robertson, a natural touchline hugger, fits into that.

Conor Bradley

The 20-year-old Northern Ireland international impressed on loan at Bolton in 2022/23, looking every bit the marauding Liverpool full back as he contributed five goals and four assists in League One.

With Calvin Ramsey sent out on loan, there could be a spot in the first team for a backup right back who can deputise Trent Alexander-Arnold and potentially gain valuable minutes in the Europa League group games and domestic cup competitions.

The climb from League One to the top end of the Premier League is steep, but Bradley has an opportunity now to prove he deserves a chance to show what he can offer.

Fabinho

For so long considered one of the best defensive midfielders in the game, Fabinho was at the centre of Liverpool's dip in form last season and, at times, looked a shadow of his former self.

However, while other players came and went in the Reds' increasingly soft centre in 2022/23, Fabinho was a constant, playing more minutes in the Premier League than any other midfielder (2,678), and his availability remains impressive — though the sheer amount of football over the last few years may have contributed to his burnout.

Liverpool's midfield rebuild has been top of the agenda this summer, with Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai already through the door for a combined £95m. However, the Reds are yet to upgrade in the 'number 6' position, despite links to £50m-rated Romeo Lavia.

Like Jordan Henderson and Thiago, there is a chance Fabinho could leave this summer. However, as things stand, he is still the Reds first-choice defensive midfielder and, if he stays, the next few weeks could be important for deciding if 2022/23 was just a blip or the start of a decline for the 29-year-old.

Tyler Morton

© Proshots - Tyler Morton

Like Bradley, 20-year-old Morton flourished on loan in 2022/23, and was one of the more impressive players in the Championship at the heart Blackburn's midfield.

In any other year, he might have expected a successful stint away to yield a path to first-team game time at Liverpool. However, the new arrivals in midfield — and potentially more to come — mean that may be difficult.

The Reds currently have nine first-team midfield options, not including Morton. However, in his favour, there are few who can play the defensive screening role.

Pre-season will be an opportunity to showcase his talent to Klopp and demonstrate that — if a pursuit for Lavia or whoever else proves fruitless — he can step up when needed.

Harvey Elliott

Like Morton and Fabinho, Elliott is another player whose position is a little more uncertain due to the new arrivals in midfield.

READ MORE: What does Liverpool’s midfield revolution mean for Harvey Elliott?

Still only 20, Elliott played 46 games for the Reds in all competitions last season, but hasn't quite developed in the way some would like, with his starting berth now under serious threat from Szoboszlai in particular.

While outshone by Curtis Jones' late season form, Liverpool's other Under-21 Euros winner is still a fine progressive passer and someone with a lot to offer Liverpool. His age and creative talents mean he is highly unlikely to be considered for a sale, but it remains to be seen exactly where he fits into this new-look side.

Darwin Nuñez

© Proshots - Darwin Nunez

Liverpool's record signing endured a mixed first season at Anfield. Scoring and assisting on his Premier League debut before getting sent off for a headbutt during his Anfield entrance kind of set the tone for Nuñez's weird and wild season.

A player that is as exciting as he is frustrating, the lightning-quick Uruguayan remains popular with the fans after bagging a not terrible 15 goals in all competitions last season — including nine in the Premier League from 19 starts.

Many had predicted Liverpool's wildcard striker would inherit Roberto Firmino's old number 9 and go on to enjoy the same kind of second-season explosion he enjoyed at Benfica— where he scored 34 times in 41 appearances in 2021/22. The first part of that has now happened. But even with a new shirt number, he's unlikely to be a guaranteed starter and will have to contend with the impressive Cody Gakpo, who was preferred up front for much of the second half of 2022/23 after arriving from PSV.

Kaide Gordon

Hugely highly rated when he joined Liverpool from Derby in 2021, Gordon became the Reds' second youngest ever goalscorer when he netted against Shrewsbury in the FA Cup in 2022 and later made his Premier League debut in a cameo against Brentford.

However a rare pelvic issue related to his growth turned the teenage forward from rising star into forgotten man, sidelining him for almost a year and a half.

Gordon is finally back training again and there are clues that the 18-year-old could be part of Klopp's plans in 2023/24 — if he can pick up where he left off all those months ago.

However, since his injury youngsters like Ben Doak have also began knocking on the door of the first-team set up and competition for any kind of minutes is fierce.

Pre-season could decide whether Gordon is ready to be kept around the first-team, or sent out on loan to regain sharpness.

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