It’s been an impressive preseason for Jurgen Klopp’s Reds. The signings of Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alisson Becker alongside the long-awaited arrival of Naby Keita massively improve the squad in terms of both depth and quality. The team has been fit and raring throughout the games, with team spirit at an all time high – impressive wins against Man City, Man United and Napoli showed a team ready to go full tilt and challenge for the title. But not everyone benefitted from these preseason games – so who won and who lost in preseason 2018/19?
Winner: Daniel Sturridge
Chris Anderson has been missing from the TAT office for about two weeks now, the only clue to his whereabouts being the word “TOWN” painted across his desk. The cause of this disappearance? The resurrection of Daniel Sturridge. 6 goals in 9 games, plus a hatful of assists and newfound trust in his body, have taken Danny boy from nailed on sale to pushing for a start on Sunday. West Brom was clearly a wakeup call which has totally changed his outlook. The burgeoning bromance with Keita is great to see too. What a turnaround, long may it continue.
Loser: Joel Matip
This preseason was the PERFECT opportunity for Matip to force his way back into Klopp’s first team. With Lovren away for the entirety due to Croatia’s excellent World Cup run, Matip could well have kicked on and formed a real partnership with Big Virg to properly re-establish himself. Instead, he comes off in the first ten minutes of the first game with an injury that would see him miss every game that followed. The club doctors are probably trying to figure out whether his legs are made of Walkers or Quavers. Needs to find some proper fitness if he has any chance of salvaging a career at LFC, which it seems as though he likely won’t.
Winner: Xherdan Shaqiri
If you score an overhead kick on your debut, it’s a very good sign. However, doing so in a Liverpool shirt against Man United is a whole different beast. He could’ve sat on the pitch for the rest of preseason and still made it into the Winners column on that goal alone. But he didn’t sit on the pitch – instead, a player ostensibly signed as a backup winger has now shown he’s also a decent backup striker, and has done so well in the #10 position that many, myself included, think he deserves to start there against West Ham on Sunday. Shocked that he only cost us £13.5million.
Loser: Adam Lallana
Adam was one of about 3 or 4 midfielders vying for that 3rd starting berth in midfield, with the other two already filled by Keita and Fabinho/Henderson. He’s done okay. The problem is, the likes of Milner and Wijnaldum, who were already ahead due to their excellent performances last season while Lallana was out injured, have done far better. Just doesn’t seem fully fit and switched on yet. Also that haircut is horrendous.
Winner: Nathaniel Phillips
Was I the only one who had never heard of this guy before July? 21 years old, he’s played alongside Van Dijk against the likes of Man City and has not looked out of place, with his passing and comfort on the ball particularly impressive. If Joe Gomez’s niggle lasts through the weekend, Natty Phillips will start against West Ham and it will not be without merit. Really seized his chance this preseason with both hands.
Loser: Simon Mignolet
A victim of the World Cup. Didn’t play out in Russia, and missed his chance to usurp Karius too. By the time he returned, Alisson had signed and Karius had been welcomed in from the cold by the fanbase after a shaky start following THAT final. Nice guy, with a hell of a social media game, but it’s very unlikely that he’ll still be in a Liverpool shirt come September.
Winner: Dom Solanke (ish)
Big Dom has definitely not set the world alight this preseason. He is a striker who has only scored one senior goal for the Reds, that coming on the last day of his first season. What he has done, however, has shown enough desire, pressing ability, movement and creativity to put himself ahead of Divock Origi in the pecking order. To be fair to him too, he could’ve had about 4 assists this preseason were it not for slightly dodgy finishing following some very good through balls – he’s clearly learning a lot from our Bobby in training. Certainly needs to kick on from this, as the potential there is clear. If he works on his finishing and seizes his chances (which this season will likely be limited to the domestic cups) and big things could follow.
Loser: Divock Origi
I remember the days, before Funes Mori ruined Divvy’s leg, when he sprinted for fun and smashed in some cracking goals (the Southampton cup game being particularly clear in my mind). I think it’s because of this that I really wanted Origi to kick on after a disappointing season with Wolfsburg. Alas it was not to be. He looks shot of confidence and lethargic, seemingly afraid of putting a proper shift in for fear his legs will betray him. A real shame to say it given where he was a couple of seasons ago, but he needs selling so he can hopefully resurrect his career, which he definitely won’t do at LFC.
Winner: Curtis Jones
Looks a real prospect this one. He’s played everywhere from Left Wing to Right Back and has looked supremely comfortable wherever he is on the field. He has especially impressed in the middle of the park – I’ve seen more than a few fans claim he is a better option than Lallana, though that is questionable at best. Overenthusiastic tackling and sometimes wayward passing highlight that he is still a very raw talent, but his dribbling and movement are incredible. Klopp is clearly a fan, too – expect to see a good deal more of his this season.