Liverpool pulled off an impressive victory over La Liga champions Barcelona at Wembley, as new signings Sadio Mane and Marko Grujic each scored a goal in a 4-0 thumping.
Jurgen Klopp’s new recruits played a major role in the Reds’ convincing victory against Barcelona on Saturday. The Catalan club were their usual dominant selves in Spain last season as they won La Liga, while Liverpool finished in 8th position in the Premier League.
The comprehensive scoreline was not something that many would have expected at Wembley, and although pre-season does tend to throw up surprises which prove inconsequential when the season begins, Liverpool did display a number of positive signs.
TheHardTackle takes a look at five talking points from the Merseysiders’ 4-0 win:
1. Sadio Mane is a clever signing
The £34 million signing from Southampton has been Liverpool’s most expensive buy this summer and he lived up to the price-tag against Barcelona. Mane was a constant threat down the right wing as he opened the scoring for the Reds — his first goal as a Liverpool player. His pace and ability to find space could prove crucial to the club’s title ambitions this season.
The going rate for good attacking players these days is so high that Mane could prove to be a clever signing if he maintains this level of performance throughout this season.
2. Wijnaldum set for a deeper role
The Reds other big signing of the summer was Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum from Newcastle United. The midfielder has mostly played in an attacking role, but he spent most of the match against Barca in a more central position alongside Emre Can. The duo could be Klopp’s first-choice pairing in central midfield this season.
Wijnaldum will find it difficult to oust the likes of Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana from their preferred advanced positions. However, Klopp could help him develop into a class central midfielder, much like he did with Ilkay Gundogan at Dortmund.
3. Left-back worries continue
Klopp took the interesting decision of playing England international midfielder James Milner at left-back against Barcelona. The experiment didn’t turn out very well though, as the 30-year-old had to be pulled out even before half-time because of a heel injury.
The ill-timed injury leaves Alberto Moreno as the only established left-back in the squad. The Spaniard made a number of bad errors last season and Klopp must now surely be looking to sign an alternative before the transfer window shuts at the end of this month.
4. Mane and Clyne linking up well on the right-wing
Right-back Nathaniel Clyne arrived from Southampton last summer and he has now been reunited with his former teammate Sadio Mane. The pair looked very cohesive on the right wing, overlapping and linking up excellently. Barcelona had no answer to the duo’s clever interplay, and that particular channel on the pitch generated all four of Liverpool’s goals.
5. Gegenpressing Klopp only plays high risk high reward
Liverpool played a high line against Barcelona, as Emre Can, Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum all pushed further up the pitch to put Messi and co. under pressure. Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho did the same from their positions on the flanks, and the constant harrying and pressing in the middle of the field prevented Barcelona from getting going and opened up opportunities for the Reds.
The high pressing style of play was a prominent feature in Klopp’s title-winning Dortmund team, and he has now brought this high risk high reward style to the Premier League. It remains to be seen whether this method will pay off dividends for Klopp in the competitive and physically draining Premier League.