The first friendly of the preseason is just around the corner, and Liverpool’s players will be convening later in the week to begin preparations for an immensely important start to the 2017-18 campaign. Unlike last year, Liverpool still have a fair bit to accomplish in the transfer market, so it’s expected that new arrival Mohamed Salah will not be the only one getting to know the current players during the preseason.
The addition of Salah, and the lack of any concrete inquiries for a starting striker, certainly suggest that manager Jürgen Klopp is refining rather than overhauling the 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 setups in which Liverpool was frequently arrayed during the past year. Discussing his objectives for the upcoming preparatory phase, Klopp hinted, however, that he is looking at having more options tactically - which is unsurprising given the difficulties Liverpool experienced against certain opponents.
“Tactically-wise, getting more flexible – depending who is there and when – and introducing different systems,” was how Klopp described his near-term focus. “[In 2015-16], we played most of the time kind of 4-2-3-1, [in 2016-17] most of the time 4-3-3 or 4-5-1. In our opinion, it fitted best to the players we had.”
Klopp’s remarks suggest, ever so slightly, that he has certain skill-sets and qualities in mind that he would like to develop or acquire for the squad, and that he intends to let the players’ abilities drive how the team plays rather try to fit square pegs into round holes. In practice, given the fact that there will be more fixtures and also periods in which injuries force the manager’s hand, it’s likely to be a balancing act between finding what works best in theory and finding what works best on a given day.
“I’m not sure which way we have to play next year, there will be a few different ones,” added Klopp. “And we’ll prepare for European football also, so we need a bigger squad of course. We’ll be good. I’m looking forward to it.”
There’s no question that Liverpool need the squad to be bigger, and they probably need to be a bit better than good if they want to participate, and actually make progress in, the Champions League. The real work on Klopp’s Liverpool v3.0 begins now.