While the hunger for football has been filled by the Copa America and European Championships this summer, the season is fast approaching and the players are beginning to return to the training ground in preparation for their pre-season tours.
Jurgen Klopp and his players are back in Liverpool as they begin their own training at Melwood. The club’s new fitness coach, Andreas Kornmayer will be looking to get the players fit enough for the demanding style Klopp asks of his players while also avoiding the constant injuries that hurt the team last season.
While the squad could also go through a few more changes before the start of the season, it is not too early to take a look at how Klopp will deploy his players when they play Arsenal in a little more than a month.
While it is not a forgone conclusion that Loris Karius will take over the starting spot, many fans have been clamoring for a new player between the sticks for a while.
Karius is not an unknown quantity, he proved himself to be a top-level ‘keeper while in the Bundesliga. He should also be able to adjust quicker to the difficulty of being a ‘keeper in the Premier League since he spent a period of his development at Manchester City’s academy.
Nathaniel Clyne was one of the most consistent players for the Reds last season and there is no reason for him to play any worse for this year. If anything, he should improve especially with Jon Flanagan a few months removed from his prolonged injury spell.
Even though Mamadou Sakho may not be available to start the season with the possible suspension still hanging over his head, Klopp has added one of the best Bundesliga defenders in Joel Matip. His imposing frame makes him a great set piece player both when attacking and defending.
The big Cameroonian will be pairing Dejan Lovren who will be looking to continue the form he ended last season on. Aside from the those two, Joe Gomez showed early last season that he could capably fill-in for a few matches while still learning the more minute details of defending. Both Lucas Leiva and to a certain extent, Emre Can can play in the middle of the defense in an emergency.
Alberto Moreno is the biggest question mark on the team. He is definitely a good attacking full-back but that also leads him to making costly errors. While he could still improve at his age, there has to be a clear sign of progress sometime soon.
Despite his decent performances last season, Brad Smith is likely not good enough to unseat the Spaniard. Klopp could also choose to play either one of Clyne or Flanagan at this position.
This is the position that could change the most between now and when the team takes the field in August. The club is still chasing a few players who could fill one of these positions but for now at least, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson are the two likely candidates.
While they aren’t the most defensive-minded players out there, their tireless running make them a good fit for Klopp’s relentless pressing. Lucas, Joe Allen, Kevin Stewart and Marko Grujic are other possible players.
Klopp has a long list of players to choose from but, barring injury, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho will be the three he fields on opening day. While Mane will need to adjust to the tactical demands of his new manager, he won’t need to figure out the physicality of the Premier League. The Senegalese attacker is an unstoppable force when he is on his game and he can still be molded into a world-class player under Klopp’s guidance.
The same can be said of Firmino and Coutinho, two players with loads of potential. The two Brazilians were the best players to wear the Liverpool jerseys last season and they should start the season running. Firmino has finally adjusted to life in England while Coutinho had to deal with a few injuries throughout last year.
Adam Lallana, James Milner and Jordon Ibe are three players who can replace any of the three listed above. Lallana remains a useful player but he does not come with the necessary goal or assist threat. Milner will be used in a variety of positions and his leadership will be great on what is now a relatively young squad. Lastly, this could be a make or break season in a Liverpool shirt for Ibe. He possesses a lot of talent but he has yet to put it all together. He is probably already feeling the pressure but the road to a regular spot is not going to get any easier especially with the possibility of more additions.
Daniel Sturridge has remained healthy so far this summer and the short run of the England national team is probably a benefit for the striker. He remains the most talented striker on the squad but he will be pushed by both Divock Origi and Danny Ings. Mario Balotelli is still a Liverpool player but he may be sold at some point that is probably true about Christian Benteke as well.
One of the more interesting things to watch out for during the build up to the season is whether Klopp will use a formation with two strikers. Sturridge and Ings have played, and excelled, in two striker formations before while Origi has shown the ability and willingness to share the load up front.