Pre-season can be a strange period for coaches; for once, results aren’t important, with an added emphasis instead placed on fitness, performances and tactics ahead of the new campaign.
The nature of pre-season and friendly matches presents coaches with a platform for experiment by testing fresh ideas, with those often involving positional switches for certain players, or new formations for the team.
Some years ago, Jurgen Klopp used the time to convert Adam Lallana into a no.6, with the England international playing between Liverpool’s defence and midfield as a deeper presence, and he continued to occupy such a role once the season commenced.
Liverpool’s pre-season got underway this week in Austria, so which players could take part in tactical experiments conducted by the German?
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as a right-back
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has impressed further forward during pre-season, with Roberto Firmino’s central role becoming a possibility for the former Arsenal man.
Despite that, Oxlade-Chamberlain appears to have very applicable traits to become an attack-minded right-back whenever Trent Alexander-Arnold is absent.
Arsene Wenger used the 27-year-old as a wing-back before he was sold by Arsenal, and Antonio Conte wanted him to join Chelsea to perform as a wing-back in his system.
Oxlade-Chamberlain does have applicable traits considering his one-on-one ability, his ball-carrying and his tendency to thrive when presented with space to move into. He’s direct with and without the ball, and mobile enough to cover the ground required as a full-back for Klopp.
Neco Williams and James Milner have often stepped in when Alexander-Arnold hasn’t been selected, but neither of those possess the attacking threat of the Scouse defender and Oxlade-Chamberlain would likely reduce that drop
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Curtis Jones as a wide forward
Curtis Jones has already performed as a wide forward for the Reds as a substitute and when representing Liverpool’s academy teams, but it could be tested more often by Klopp.
He’s proved that his skill set is naturally offensive, and he’s chipped in with a few goals since his promotion into Liverpool’s first-team; he’s technical, aggressive and appears comfortable in the final third.
Given his youthful age, still just 20-years-old, Klopp could deploy the Scouse midfielder similarly to how Pep Guardiola has fielded Phil Foden at times.
The Manchester City boss has stated that he sees him as a forward, and he was used as part of a front three for England at Euro 2020; Jones is a different type of player, but as a means of presenting him with minutes on the field, Klopp could use him in the forward line when the midfield consists of players such as Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Jordan Henderson.
Trent Alexander-Arnold as a wide centre-back
Klopp tends to refrain from adopting a back three formations, but it could be interesting to witness Alexander-Arnold as a wide centre-back.
Many coaches would use the academy graduate as a wing-back in such a system, but he’s struggled to thrive and impact proceedings as his usual self when playing that role for England.
As a right-sided centre-back, Alexander-Arnold would see a huge amount of the ball and he’d likely be presented with space to thread passes through midfield into his more offensive teammates, while also being comfortable when defending out wide because of his full-back roots.
He would likely struggle to impact Liverpool’s game in the final third as much given his deeper positioning but ultimately, Alexander-Arnold is most valuable when he’s on the ball, and that would be very often as part of a back three.
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