Rhian Brewster omen; Liverpool transfer inactivity counterbalanced

Jurgen Klopp TEAMtalk

In our first Red Letter of the season our Liverpool blogger points to a Rhian Brewster omen, calms frustration about the inactivity in the transfer window and predicts a high-scoring opener against Norwich.

I must admit that for most of this summer I’ve been basking in the glory of our sixth Champions League win.

And, for much of pre-season, it seemed like the players were too.

It started well with a 6-0 cruise at Tranmere and taking a 3-0 half-time lead at Bradford. But then we started to go off the boil, losing the second half to Bradford, suffering defeats to Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla and drawing with Sporting Lisbon on a disappointing American road trip before being embarrassed 3-0 by Napoli in Edinburgh.

Whilst that run hardly induced panic, it did cause me a furrowed brow – especially in the context of not having signed anyone over the summer (more on that later).

In the final friendly, a bit of a howler from the returning Alisson saw us go 1-0 down against Lyon in Switzerland after just four minutes and confirmed the feeling that we just weren’t at the races. Come on boys, last season is over now. Pull your finger out.

Jurgen Klopp probably delivered the same message but in an angrier and more inspirational tone and we hit back to win 3-1. That was better.


Brewster omen

For some reason, I like to keep a tally of who scores our goals in these warm-up games, perhaps because Mo Salah bagged four in pre-season in 2017. We’d never have guessed he’d go on to score a ludicrous 44 goals in the campaign which followed but pre-season hinted that he might just do something special.

Pre-season goalscorers:

4 Rhian Brewster
3 Divock Origi
2 Harry Wilson, James Milner
1 Roberto Firmino, Nathaniel Clyne, Curtis Jones, Bobby Duncan, Gini Wijnaldum, own goal

Goals scored: 17
Goals conceded: 12

Of course, this doesn’t mean Brewster will score 40 goals this season; in fact, I’d be happy with something around five or six. Champions League hero Origi still has goals in him despite looking like a strange mix of the best sub we’ve ever had and not fitting in at all. The lack of availability of Firmino, Salah and Mane obviously has to be taken into account so the other main talking point was Harry Wilson.


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Having only kept half an eye on us during pre-season I decided to watch 15-minute highlights of all the Reds’ games via LFC’s shortcut programmes. Basically, we were sending out League Cup/FA Cup teams and we know that normally doesn’t end well!

Wilson scored a couple of excellent goals with his left peg but watching him in such short bursts can be misleading. I noticed in commentary a couple of references to Wilson being the “quietest” of the Liverpool players so far. So what is he? A highlights player or a world-beater? He scored some crackers for Derby last season but a regular spot in this Reds team still seems some way off and another year on loan – this time at Bournemouth – looks a smart move even though the fantasist in me imagines him repeatedly coming off our bench in big games and curling winners into the top corner.

And then came the real stuff… well, sort of.


Community Shield 

Rodri TEAMtalk

Some will say that pre-season counts for precisely zero, and also apply that dismissive outlook to the Community Shield too.

But it would surely be daft to suggest a game against Manchester City at Wembley is devoid of meaning.

City looked different gravy in the first half, awakening thoughts I had at the end of last season that they would once more cruise to about 95 points in the league and we’d show a slight reversion to the mean and end with something in the high 80s or possibly 90.

The second 45 was a different matter though as we kept hitting the woodwork and having shots kicked off the line – the fine margins going against us yet again, just as they did in the pivotal 2-1 defeat at the Etihad last season.


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Quite simply, we should have won. 17 shots to eight; nine shots on target to three; seven corners to two; 53% possession.

I was gutted – for about 10 minutes – that we lost the penalty shootout but consoled myself with the idea that defeat would make us hungrier ahead of the new season.

There was certainly an element of City being undercooked as they’d played fewer games in pre-season but clearly we got under Pep Guardiola’s skin for most of the afternoon. He was agitated, got booked and probably knew he got away with one.

It’s fairly obvious he views us as his biggest threats again and I think we may have just spooked him a little bit in that second half – and that was without Sadio Mane.


Norwich opener

And so to the big kick-off.

A Friday night home game with Norwich looks a nice way to get things going and the 3-1 win over Lyon and strong display against Man City suggests we’re ready.

Norwich are somewhat unusual in that they concede an awful lot of goals – 57 in 46 matches – for a team that won the Championship.

With our defence not back to last season’s fantastic levels, it wouldn’t surprise me if they get on the scoresheet at some point. Then again, roared on by an expectant night-time Anfield crowd, we should be able to stick a few past them. I’ll go 3-1 or 4-1, with Firmino (looked sharp against Man City) and Salah both finding the net.

This is a slightly special fixture for me as it was the first Anfield game I took my son to.

The result that day in 2015/16 in the last few weeks of Brendan Rodgers’ reign? 1-1. Our staring XI: Mignolet, Clyne, Moreno, Sakho, Skrtel, Lucas, Coutinho, Milner, Can, Benteke, Sturridge.

Danny Ings came off the bench to put us in front before Russell Martin earned the Canaries a point.

My, how times have changed!


Transfer window lull

And so, finally, to the main talking point among Liverpool fans over the summer – have we missed a trick by being so quiet in the transfer window?

A pair of teenagers, who may hardly get a kick, and a back-up goalkeeper weren’t exactly what supporters had in mind and the old adage of building from a position of strength – profits up, we won the Champions League, everyone loves a bit of Jurgen – does not appear to have been acted on.

However, I certainly get the idea that our money was spent ahead of schedule in the last few windows and another vital chunk has gone on improved wages and contracts for the current squad. That may not seem as sexy but it’s vital. In past years, Salah and others may well have been sold to the highest bidder.

It’s easy to feel frustrated and point to our heavy fixture load this season – “what if anything happened to one of the front three?” – but my slight frustrations are eased due to a strong faith in our owners.

They get it. They don’t do flashy. The build brick by brick. They see the bigger picture.

If it seems that FSG are dawdling ahead of this season, it’s because they’re thinking ahead to the next one. And the one after that. Liverpool isn’t a toy to earn them a quick buck. They believe in legacy and, so far, they’ve got it bang on. And Klopp, who loves to improve a squad rather than just buy one in off the peg, is the perfect manager to act it out.

Just about every fan wants everything now but we may need to be patient. That elusive first Premier League title? We’ll get there, but perhaps not this season. Can it still be a memorable one with the hard currency of trophies as evidence? You bet.

Dave Tindall