Revamped attack, new signings and system tweaks: Liverpool pre-season preview 2022/23
With Liverpool's return to action just around the corner, here's what to keep a close eye on over the coming weeks.
After a roller coaster summer defined by the signing of Darwin Nunez, the departure of Sadio Mane and the very welcome conclusion to Mohamed Salah’s contract saga, the focus for Liverpool now switches to matters on the pitch. Barring a bolt from the blue, the bulk of Liverpool’s most important incoming and outgoing business has already been boxed off. For Jürgen Klopp and his coaching staff, these next few weeks are all about getting the squad into the best possible shape for the season opener against Fulham at Craven Cottage on 6 August.
As well as being a crucial period for building up fitness levels, the five scheduled friendly fixtures against Man United (in Thailand), Crystal Palace (in Singapore), RB Leipzig (in Germany), Red Bull Salzburg (in Austria) and Strasbourg (at Anfield), as well as the Community Shield clash against Man City at the King Power Stadium on 30 July, present an important opportunity to work on new tactical ideas, for new signings to settle in, and for certain youngsters and fringe players to show why they deserve to be a part of Klopp’s plans for the 2022/23 campaign.
So, with Liverpool’s return to action just around the corner, here are five key themes to keep a close eye on throughout pre-season.
A change in system?
There has been plenty of talk this summer about whether Klopp might be inclined to use a 4-2-3-1 shape on a more regular basis in the upcoming season – and there are several reasons why that may well be the case. For starters, Liverpool haven’t added a midfielder, and as things stand, it doesn’t look like they will. Switching to a double pivot rather than a three-man midfield would make Liverpool’s depth in that department feel like much less of an issue, allowing Klopp to pick any two of Thiago, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita for any given game, depending on their fitness status, form, and the type of opponent. Given that all four of those players have had significant injury issues in the past, having the extra flexibility to be able to rest and rotate them could be very useful indeed.
Also, Liverpool now have a lot of technically gifted, creative and agile players well suited to playing in an attacking midfield role, most notably Fabio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott. Curtis Jones also has the attributes to thrive in that part of the pitch with less defensive responsibility on his shoulders, and it could also open up a new role for Roberto Firmino, who might otherwise find his game time restricted up front by the presence of Nunez and Diogo Jota.
None of this is to say that Klopp will (or should) permanently ditch the 4-3-3 which has underpinned Liverpool’s success throughout his tenure, but having another go-to formation would be no bad thing, especially in games against lesser quality sides where Liverpool don’t necessarily need three midfielders on the pitch. It’ll therefore be intriguing to see whether we get a glimpse of a new system in practice in these pre-season games.