At long last, the phoney war is over. Let’s get on with the real business.
The new Premier League season gets underway on Saturday and those expected to challenge for the title have completed their pre-season preparations, if not quite all of their transfer dealings.
Ahead of the big kick-off, here is a look at what Liverpool have done this preseason.
What’s gone right?
In his first pre-season with the club, Jurgen Klopp has continued to shape Liverpool in his own image and this has led to the signings of Sadio Mane for £30m from Southampton and Georginio Wijnaldum for £25m from Newcastle United, plus freebie Joel Matip from Schalke. The task for the German is to make Liverpool consistently intense to move up from being a top-eight side to genuine title contenders and the excitement for the fans will only have been enhanced by Saturday’s stunning 4-0 win over Barcelona. Play like that all season and they’ll walk it.
What needs work?
It’s now a case of trimming the fat, with Klopp keen to offload some of the players who clearly won’t get a game this season and balance the accounts. 14 players have already gone through the Anfield exit door, including four who have gone out on loan. If Klopp can get shut of Mario Balotelli and possibly Christian Benteke, he’ll be quite happy, you would imagine.
A pretty good set of results. Early wins in domestic friendlies were followed by a slender defeat to Chelsea when they failed to take advantage of a Cesc Fabregas red card late on. They beat Milan easily but lost to Roma. That four-goal rout of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Co should have meant they head to the Emirates next week with a spring in their step, but losing in Mainz on Sunday has reinforced their inconsistency.
A mixture of eye-catching names and purchases to bolster the squad for the long haul that is the Premier League season. Klopp signed Senegal winger Mane to subject opposition defences to an element of chaos, while Wijnaldum should flourish in a superior team to Newcastle. Estonian Ragnar Klavan (£5m) will offer cover at the back, as will Matip. Loris Karius (£4.7m from Mainz) and veteran Alex Manninger (free from Augsburg) will be back-up keepers.
Mane has fitted into the team very quickly and the high-energy approach favoured by Klopp appears to suit him really well. Encouragingly, there is good chemistry to the centre-back partnership between Dejan Lovren and Klavan, especially against Barcelona.
July 8 – 1-0 v Tranmere Rovers
July 13 – 5-0 v Fleetwood Town
July 17 – 2-0 v Wigan Athletic
July 20 – 2-0 v Huddersfield Town
July 28 – 0-1 v Chelsea
July 31 – 2-0 v AC Milan
August 2 – 1-2 v Roma
August 6 – 4-0 v Barcelona
August 7 – 0-4 v Mainz