Liverpool finished their US tour with a 2-2 draw against Sporting Lisbon – a result that enabled the two sides to share the grandly named Western Union Cup. This was an improved performance from Jurgen Klopp’s side but Sportsmail saw some rough edges that still need smoothing. Here are the five key issues that arose in Yankee Stadium.
A break in play after 37 minutes saw Liverpool’s players gather by their manager. As they took big gulps of water to recover, Jurgen Klopp began barking at them. His face was creased with displeasure; his rapid gesticulating was highlighting the error of their ways.
The pointing returned in the 53rd minute when the eye-catching Marcus Wendel got the goal his industry deserved and restored parity for Sporting Lisbon.
Liverpool were better than they had been in Boston on Sunday night, much quicker and sharper, but Klopp knows they are better than this. For starters, they are giving away cheap goals and another two here took the tally to eight conceded in four games.
There is a huge amount of methodology in how Liverpool play under Klopp and the symmetry that made them so difficult to beat last season is off. You can guarantee they will be drilled over and over again when the head to Evian, on the edge of Lake Geneva, for a training camp next week.
Game number five of pre-season and this was the first time Klopp selected a team that you could see on duty in the Premier League. It was certainly the strongest XI from the touring party and you felt it was chosen with the Community Shield in mind. No changes at half-time was another clue.
This, of course, won’t be the team that faces Manchester City – you can guarantee Alisson Becker, who returns from holiday on Monday, will be in goal at Wembley – but the most intriguing selection was Klopp’s decision to pair Virgil van Dijk with Joel Matip, the partnership that ended last season.
Matip barely put a foot out of place on the run-in and it seems that he has earned the right to begin the new campaign. The onus is on Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren to convince their manager they should be the ones to stand alongside the PFA Player of the Year when the real business begins.
A glance at the markets for PFA Young Player of the Year shows that Trent Alexander-Arnold is disputing favouritism with Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford. It may be early in the day but it is not hard to picture a scene where Liverpool’s right back is in the conversation for that award.
He was a rich supply of goals last season – there were 16 assists in total – and you can guarantee the same will be true again. In the first 17 minutes here, he fizzed in two corners that should have been converted then pinged a 60-yard pass to Gini Wijnaldum that led to Divock Origi’s equaliser.
Alexander-Arnold is not the finished product – he was caught out by Bruno Fernandes when Wendel made the score 2-2 in the second half – but he is improving all the time. If his development continues, it may win the recognition of his fellow professionals next spring.
A contender for pass of the match was the nonchalant moment Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pointed his toe and swept a ball into the path of Gini Wijnaldum with the outside of his right foot. Wijnaldum scored and immediately gave his team-mate the thumbs up.
It was a reminder of his ability. Another significant episode, though, was the point in the second half when something failed to go as he expected and the TV cameras focused on him grimacing: that he growled ‘argh!’ immediately after emphasised his frustration.
The expectancy when a footballer returns from a long injury is that they will flick on their form like a switch. The reality, however, dictates there will be peaks and troughs before they find high quality consistency. Oxlade-Chamberlain knows he must negotiate some bumps in the road.
It has not been an easy tour for Adam Lallana and a severe dead leg sustained in training last week ruled him out of the games with Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla. Given how much he has suffered over the past two years, every absence now is met with a sharp intake of breath.
Fortunately, this was only a minor issue. Lallana had previously looked sharp in pre-season – Klopp likened him to Chelsea’s Jorginho after a game at Bradford 12 days ago – and his passing was instantly precise when he was introduced in the 75th minute.
Many wonder what the future holds for Lallana but he is such an intelligent player that he can be introduced at any stage of a game and pick up the pace immediately. He was Liverpool’s Player of the Year in 2016-17. His ability has not disappeared.