Liverpool couldn't round out their pre-season tour with another victory, but the management can be satisfied with the efforts of the players in preparation for what looks to be a crucial campaign for Brendan Rodgers' tenure. FSG have trusted and supported the manager with the signing his reported number one transfer target: Christian Benteke. The youthful promise of Raheem Sterling and the legendary influence of Steven Gerrard have moved elsewhere with James Milner, Nathaniel Clyne, Danny Ings, Roberto Firmino, Divock Origi, Adam Bogdan, Joe Gomez, and Benteke will be part of a new-look squad for 2015/16.
Some of these players have already scored and impressed in their first few pre-season appearances. Yesterday, local Malaysian side Felda United were hammered in a 60-minute game 7-0 in front of 5,000 fans who were expecting an open training session. Despite the difficult conditions Liverpool expected against a Malaysian XI, the club was overwhelming favourites against opponents that couldn't call up certain regulars who were held back by disgruntled clubs. Still, there were positives in the tour as a whole and the draw that didn't go unnoticed by Rodgers.
"I've been pleased with the tour overall," Rodgers said after the game. "I think tonight was very humid and the conditions were difficult for us but I think the players handled it well. Coming towards the end of a long two weeks, where we've put in a lot of work, I'm satisfied in terms of where we're at. He's [Ibe] been outstanding since he's been out here and he's staked a real claim to start the season in the team. [It was a] wonderful goal, I thought he was a threat all night with his pace, his quality and it was wonderful finish cutting inside and a great strike. He was very good and like I say he has been working very hard."
It will be interesting to see if Rodgers will find a regular place for Jordon Ibe or Lazar Marković next season. Both may be developing their respective games but offer greater pace than Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, and Roberto Firmino. Pace isn't everything, though, but those two young technicians possess other qualities of use. Ibe is clearly in the manager's thoughts more than Marković and has spoken of the opportunity for a larger role in the first-team squad now that Raheem Sterling has become Manchester City's record transfer signing. Another player who will have greater influence this forthcoming season is new club captain Jordan Henderson, and the manager had words of praise for him as well as the Malaysian XI after the game.
"He's [Henderson] taken on board the responsibilities and is doing it very, very well," Rodgers said with a determination to use as many intensifiers as possible to convey his admiration of his young captain. "He is a young player that has taken on the mantra of the captaincy and of course it's a huge responsibility. I think he has settled into the role really well and his leadership is about looking after the team and coming back to me. We communicate very well and so far it's been really good."
The players and staff will head back to Liverpool where Roberto Firmino, Christian Benteke, Emre Can, and Philippe Coutinho are training. There are some questions surrounding how these players will fit into Rodgers' preferred tactical framework along with whether the manager actually sees Dejan Lovren as a more worthy partner for Martin Škrtel. It was gracious of the manager to praise the opposition that scored "a good goal", but it's time for the whole squad to get together for final preparations ahead of a testing away game against Stoke City.
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