Winners and Losers from Liverpool's Preseason Tour

Stanley Chou

Liverpool's victory in Thailand finished off their tour of Asia and Australia, and while there's plenty of preseason left to go, we've learned quite a bit about how Brendan Rodgers' squad is taking shape.

The major knock on the preseason is that it doesn't really matter, which is because it doesn't. We can't draw any definitive conclusions from matches that exist for practice purposes. There's no trophies to be won--although Liverpool took trophies from their wins in Preston and Jakarta, and probably Melbourne and Bagkok too so it's like they did the double or treble or quadruple already--or points to be gained, just fitness and freshening up for the coming season.

We know that's not entirely true, however, especially when there's 95,000 people singing You'll Never Walk Alone and thousands more turning up to watch the squad stretch and play monkey in the middle. It does matter, just in a different way than Stoke's visit to Anfield on August 17 does, especially since the atmosphere was so joyous on each of the tour stops and against Stoke it's just a cluster of frightened men trying to avoid career-ending injuries and having their arms gnawed off by the cannibals in the away end.

But if we're going to stretch things a bit--which, with a squad in flux doesn't seem like too much of a reach--it also matters as a way for Brendan Rodgers to make some decisions about his squad if he so chooses. Today saw him give 90 minutes to a handful of players, signaling a likely starting eleven role for many and a reduced one for others. Three weeks is a long time in terms of status, form, and fitness (and transfer turnover), but after the end of the preseason tour, I think we can start to evaluate the state of the squad and sort through some of the notable names in terms of who's rising, who's falling, and who's in the same place they were before.

No Change

Philippe Coutinho: Magic before, magic now. Temper your expectations, but maybe also don't.

Steven Gerrard: Back to fitness as part of a flexible-looking three-man midfield and venturing further forward.

Daniel Agger: Vice-captain front-runner and fully recovered, set to anchor Liverpool's defense.

Jordan Henderson: Impact and versatile squad player with more established/preferred names ahead of him.

Simon Mignolet: Had the feeling he'd be the number one before, and with Pepe Reina's departure nothing's changed. Impressive each time out, though, and exciting in his own right.

Martin Skrtel: Uncertain future at the end of last season, and despite some impressive showings alongside Andre Wisdom, it still doesn't feel like he's on solid footing.

Who's Impressed

Jordon Ibe: Still too young to expect much in the senior squad, but he's looked at home when given the opportunity. Level of competition disclaimer as usual, though for 17 years old he's been awfully impressive regardless of the opposition.

Raheem Sterling: Ibe's foil and senior (as funny as that might sound), Sterling's recovered nicely from burnout and fitness concerns to light it up on the flank. He's got a fire underneath him heading into the season, and after so much was expected last season, he looks capable of delivering in a more managed role.

Joe Allen: Back to the type of presence we so enjoyed early last season--confident on the ball, patient regardless of whether or not he's being pressured, and adding a bit more at the pointy end as well. Right now it wouldn't be nepotism were he given a starting spot.

Lucas: Getting a full 90 minutes today was a significant accomplishment after the way Lucas' season started last year, and he's looking mobile and healthy. Today's combination with Allen and Gerrard might be the opening day midfield, and a fit Lucas at the heart is an exciting prospect.

Kolo Toure: The veteran defender has gone from depth signing to first-choice alongside Agger, and right now that's not a disaster scenario. He's been composed and vocal in a defensive unit that's undergone a major overhaul.

Andre Wisdom: A loan still might be the best way forward, but he's been very good on the left side of central defense alongside Skrtel. After deputizing at right-back last season, he now seems to be the center-back of the future, with Martin Kelly's name no longer (or at least to this point) mentioned in the central defensive picture.

Iago Aspas: An upgrade on Stewart Downing {consider this the space where your "that's hard to do" sarcasm goes} and promising-looking signing, though it's still unclear where he'll be spending his time in a full-strength squad.

Luis Alberto: Likely not ready or being considered for a starting role yet, Alberto's proven to be more versatile than advertised in featuring through the midfield and forward areas. Calm on the ball and very good in distribution.

Who Has Work Left to Do

Luis Suarez: This is more tied to sentiment than anything, as he's not yet fit enough to make any sort of judgment. But while the crowds seemed to be in a convincing mood in Melbourne and Bangkok, there's a healthy contingent that's been unimpressed with his demeanor. Whatever ends up happening, he has some ground to make up.

Glen Johnson: Picked up right where he left off last season, which is a bad bad bad thing. Kelly's return to fitness can't come soon enough, as there needs to be some competition or a new face getting time if Johnson's form doesn't improve ahead of the season's opening day.

Jose Enrique: Same as Johnson only different in that there isn't a replacement returning to fitness. Puzzling on the ball and prone to lapses in defense, he's not any more convincing than he was last season.

Fabio Borini: He just needs to be better, and there's plenty who are willing him toward that end. Nothing's coming off right now, however, and it's hard to see him as anything other than a squad player at the minute.

Stewart Downing: Ibe and Sterling are for the future, Aspas seems set for the present, and Downing just looks like he's going to be left behind. Featured sparingly as the tour progressed, and hasn't done anything worth praising to this point {your next entirely original criticism goes here}.

Left Out

Oussama Assaidi (doesn't exist, didn't play much), Sebastian Coates (probable sale/loan, didn't play much), Brad Jones (barely played/back-up), Martin Kelly (working back to fitness), Jon Flanagan (probable loan), Jack Robinson (probable loan), Danny Ward (didn't play much)

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