An article on the Dortmund game, even though we just beat City a day back. Odd I know, but I needed time to digest the action from the loss, and dissect areas of the game. But don’t worry, an article on the City game is in the pipelines.
At the Bank of America stadium, where the Carolina Panthers conduct their business in the NFL, this International Champions Cup match certainly had some of those American Football elements to it, with challenges flying in all over the place. There was certainly a romantic element to this game, with old friends such as Klopp and Götze rekindling their love. But there were things we can learn from this friendly.
Liverpool lined up in their usual 4-3-3, with Lorius Karius in net, a back four made up by Clyne-VVD-Matip-Robertson, the midfield trio of Fabinho, youngster Curtis Jones and the experienced Lallana. Up top saw Camacho, Markovic and Origi given the responsibility of scoring the goals. Lallana was chosen as captain, and the significance of this would be that it highlights Jurgen still sees Adam as a pivotal member of the team, even though many on Twitter feel his better years are behind him. Dortmund fielded an inexperienced team made up with a good amount of youth.
One thing I picked up straight away was how much space Fabinho was burdened with whilst the other 5 press the opposition. This clearly shows that the gaffer has that much trust in his skill set, that he feels he can leave him, essentially, alone in that midfield when the press becomes more aggressive.
Fabinho clearly showed during this cameo that he is the perfect DM for the Klopp system, as he possesses: the athleticism to cover the spaces and press if needed, the defensive intelligence, when in a low block, but also the passing range that Klopp needs to start counters and beat the press. On multiple occasions, Fabinho would drill the ball into one of the front three’s feet. Additionally, he is able to drop in between the CBs when the FBs are flying down the flanks, and due to the experience he gained at Monaco playing in defence, it gives Klopp another spanner in his toolbox.
My point of focus is within the midfield again, this time, on young Curtis Jones. Despite not being the flashiest player on the field, he certainly caught my eye. From a young player who’s been given a chance in pre-season, you would expect a more flamboyant and erratic manner to Jones’ game, but when the Liverpool born and bred midfielder gets on the ball, there is something about him that makes you think he’s different to all the other ‘next Steven Gerrard’ players.
He chooses the right option over the fancy one, a trait that even big Phil Coutinho couldn’t master until he started to come of age at Anfield and thus got his move to Barca. Klopp will be encouraged by that, as it means Curtis will be an easily coachable player, as he isn’t playing to get highlight reels, he’s playing to win.
However, don’t let this fool you into thinking he is a backward pass merchant. He is always looking to drive forward and push the team up, either using his force and pace to get past opponents or finding an intelligent ball into a more advanced player. Knowing his defensive duties and naturally leading players means Jones will not find it intimidating to break into the spotlight this season.
Onto my next point, another man in the middle. Naby Keita, what a signing this looks to be. Despite Europe’s leading clubs wanting him last summer, we were able to beat them to it, and I have a feeling that little Naby is about to storm the Prem. He possesses the priceless trait of always wanting the ball, meaning he will put himself into promising situations or chase down the opposition until he gets it back.
If you searched up the term ‘box-to-box midfielder’, you would see Keita right there. Energy I haven’t seen in a midfielder since that Yaya Toure 13/14 campaign and that is something considering how good a season Yaya had. Lampard-esque late runs into the box to latch onto crosses are common, and this could mean Naby will rack up double digits in goals this season.
It will obviously take time for Klopp to tame this beast into what he needs for his system, as I can see Keita being the recipient of many yellow and red cards during his time at Anfield, a problem during his time at RB Leipzig. It will be interesting to see how Klopp deploys him, as he is probably most effective as an 8 with a partner, but then due to his energy, he could play in CM by himself, which leaves Henderson and Fabinho as holding DMs. This makes it similar to the 4-2-3-1 system Klopp used at Dortmund.
Finally, we saw the ugly side to pretty boy Loris Karius. After the horrors of Kiev and then his preseason struggles, it does look like the boy is just playing with no confidence. It is a shame as he was developed well as a ‘keeper last season before the CL final, gaining confidence in distribution and collecting crosses more often. He seems a broken man and with his unfortunate error which led to the Dortmund third goal, it may be time to send him out on loan.
Playing him just puts him under unneeded attention and scrutiny, not playing him will affect his match readiness and will just hurt his confidence. If he was loaned to a foreign team, it could see him start afresh and find a new home, as I don’t see Loris forcing himself into the first team picture ever again. Moreover, youngster Grabbara is more likely to introduced to the first team squad this season, and with Klopp showing a tendency to have faith in youth, he could become the backup to Alisson.