The days when footballers must feel like kids returning to school are here. It’s pre-season for most clubs and players who did not have international friendlies/tournaments eating into their summer getaways return to training grounds old or new! A good thing about pre-season is that it provides everyone a chance to prove themselves to the manager all over again except for a few whose situation at their clubs might just be untenable or those who are already on the departure list no matter what they do.
Young players on the periphery of the first team squad hope to take those decisive final steps or hope to convince their manager that their future lies at the club long-term but could do with an immediate loan move to gain more first team experience.
The above situations are no different at Liverpool Football Club. Players like Sakho (who looks like being in an untenable situation category), Moreno, Markovic to name a couple (on the departure list) will return to Melwood but might not find themselves there when September comes around. Young players like Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Woodburn, newly signed Dom Solanke will hope to take those decisive steps towards the first team.
With a new season come new expectations. Now most fans (me included) would be constantly refreshing their Twitter timelines for reports on new arrivals and rightly so. But the mind wanders to what the future could and should hold from a fan point of view in the coming season. The one thing established from our incomings this summer and with the names being linked is that the first team squad is being infused with quality. If that continues to be the case with further incomings then it becomes hard to expect anything beyond a sustained participation in the title race and a foray out of the group stage of the Champion’s League if and when qualification is sealed.
An expectation slowly turning into reality as the window unfurls is the playing squad. It would be a long time since our squad would have strength and quality in depth. Consider this: if Keita signs on then the likes of Wijnaldum, Can, Grujic, Lucas could find themselves on the bench. Same goes for Sturridge, Origi and Ings whose place could be taken by Firmino as the central striker. One of Lovren and Matip would also have to be contented with being a substitute if a world-class center-back, who must not be named, is signed on. The goalkeeping dilemma is probably the most serious with two keepers who did get their chances last season fighting with Ward who comes of a successful promotion with Huddersfield.
Of course with multiple competitions and flexible formations everyone would be in with a chance to play but my point here is this competition for places hasn’t been seen in recent seasons at Anfield. Even in seasons we’ve gone close, we’ve had a more settled 11 than a genuinely full of quality squad.
Another expectation is for the likes of TAA, Woodburn, Ojo and Solanke to make steps towards the first team. With Klopp at the helm, they’ll know there’s a coach there who will give them opportunities if they make the right steps with TAA being proof from last season.
The owners’ changing stance of backing their manager to buy established players instead of upcoming potential means fans can now expect more ready to make an impact players. A mixture of the two incoming windows will hold the club in good stead for years to come including the ones graduating from the academy.
Steven Gerrard’s appointment as a full time manager of the U-18s has delighted supporters and we all hope he’s as much a success as he was during his playing days and eventually climbing the coaching ladder to the first team.
It’s been a steady time since Klopp was appointed and things on and off the field have been slowly changing for the better. All we now hope is for that steadiness to continue and eventually translate into silverware and sustained success.