In what has become an annual match with Tranmere, Liverpool visited Rovers for a pre-season friendly. This tune-up revealed more of a mixed bag from the last game, with Liverpool winning 3-2.
It was a quick turnaround with the adjusted scheduling but good preparation for the coming season with multiple spells where the matches will come thick and fast. Plus, Jurgen Klopp’s preference for swapping sides at half-time provided a chance to see more players perform.
In very much a game of two halves, Liverpool are clearly still working on fitness and individual’s are still finding their feet. The first half showed all the best bits in this one, while the second half revealed the weaknesses that need addressing.
The first 45 saw the provocative pairing of newcomers Fabinho and Naby Keita, which previewed possibilities. The midfield dominated while the wing play on both sides created and capitalized on chances.
The second 45 proved a jumble with mistakes making more of an impact. The second side looked less in sync and lacked the finishing flair despite delivering chances.
Still, it is preseason with a far broader range of reasons for team selection and individual targets to be considered.
Here are four findings from the match:
Adam Lallana began his new season with a really bright, positive restart. He may not be getting younger but his skills looked sharp and his mind even sharper. After a campaign to forget, the attacker looks like he still has something to contribute to this squad.
Playing from the left, Lallana dictated play on that flank, combining with Ryan Kent and Andy Robertson, creating multiple chances for himself and others. Captaining the first-half side, he even found the back of the net after a scruffy scramble in the Tranmere box.
His role may likely be reduced in some ways but the Klopp favourite still has something to contribute.
Another player frustrated by injury, Sheyi Ojo also began the match full of brightness. After last year’s impressive preseason, the winger saw opportunities dry up after some untimely setbacks. At Tranmere, the youngster showed the kind of potential and talent that keeps his name in the conversation of young players possibly breaking through.
What Ojo possesses is pace aplenty. His ability to switch gears and pull away from opponents always catches the eye. Yet, he is proving more than a mere speed merchant with cleverness and contribution. Repeatedly, Ojo found ways to connect with teammates and get into dangerous positions, assisting and scoring one himself.
Whether he can force his way into the squad still remains to be seen but there is no question that he is an exceptional talent who warrants the club’s patience.
It is difficult not to feel sympathy for Divock Origi. His journey since joining the Reds has been more mixed than many. Having forced his way into a team in transition, injury and failing form found him shipped off to rebuild and rejuvenate.
Now, he just no longer seems to fit in a squad that has different requirements than the one he left. While he ticks a lot of boxes, there are gaps that glare more vividly now. After looking good against Chester, the Belgian seemed to regress to the mean which is no longer likely to earn him a place.
Origi is a talented footballer who has become a victim of poor timing while on Merseyside but he probably needs to kick on somewhere else to fulfil his ambitions as a professional.
Another player worthy of considerable pity is Loris Karius. The German goalkeeper is faced with a seemingly insurmountable climb back to respectability. To what degree his concussion compromised his performance in the Champions League final is in question but those errors seared into the consciousness of supporters.
Any error Karius makes magnifies those moments in the memory. Spilling a free kick in preseason should not be a calamity. It is unfortunate and even more unfair because all goalkeepers make errors. Yet, Karius looked shattered after a minor error, which only compounds the conundrum he presents the club. The criticism he faces casts a shadow longer than he may be capable of overcoming at Liverpool.
As awful and ruthless as it may seem, it may be best for all parties to part ways, so that Karius can rebuild a career free from the intensity of one of the biggest clubs in the world.