Van Dijk asks about a transfer question
It takes a lot to bring down Virgil van Dijk.
When the Liverpool defender let out an audible scream before falling on the grass at the start of the second half, he could likely hear the collective gasp of those looking back on Merseyside fearing the worst.
However, replays showed that Van Dijk’s right eye was injured by a stray elbow from clumsy Red Bull Salzburg substitute Rasmus Kristensen, who later adorned Kostas Tsimikas in a similar fashion.
Painful, yes, and requires a staple or two, but not too much of a long-term problem.
The little shock, however, focused on a sustained transfer poser for Jürgen Klopp.
Will Liverpool have to buy another center-back?
Dejan Lovren’s departure left the Reds three senior options. One of them, Joel Matip, has been absent since June and has only started one top game in 10 months although he could return to the Premier League opener at Leeds United on September 12.
When Van Dijk was eliminated at the Red Bull Arena on Tuesday afternoon, Joe Gomez had instead entered into a partnership with Nat Phillips, who was loaned out in Stuttgart last season and only made one appearance as a senior for the Reds.
After that, the choice is limited. Fabinho could perhaps do a center-back job, if not for long periods of time. And it’s far too early for any of the academy’s hopes, as much as Billy Koumetio has risen in the past week.
Then there is the question of reduced competition for places, with Gomez being less than outstanding for most of the first half and responsible for Salzburg’s second goal.
Van Dijk will be used for the Community Shield against Arsenal on Saturday.
But his fear reminds Liverpool of a situation that may need to be addressed before the October transfer window closes.
Klopp receives midfield poser
If preseason is usually an opportunity for fringe gamblers to make their claims, this abbreviated version has proven otherwise.
Jürgen Klopp used the short warm-up program instead to mark Liverpool’s starting line-up for Wembley this weekend.
The truth is, absences definitely have limited scope for experimentation, with the lack of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harry Wilson, Joel Matip, and Jordan Henderson.
And if anything, the performance in Salzburg saw some likely starters at risk of playing themselves on the bench.
What did you think of Liverpool’s performance against Salzburg? Let us know in the comments below
Fabinho relies on the rhythm and takes time to get back in shape after a spell on the sidelines.
The brief turnaround in the seasons, however, means that luxury is not available, and its troubled portrayal here – embodied when it was ambushed for the kick-off in Salzburg – put pressure on its place, not least with Gini Wijnaldum solid, Naby Keita energetic and both Curtis Jones and James Milner are making a positive difference from the bank.
Neco Williams had a tough time on the right when his learning curve became apparent – Milner would be another option in this position – while Takumi Minamino and later Rhian Brewster were lively with two goals in a way that disappointing Roberto Firmino was not .
Klopp’s Wembley selection has gotten tougher in ways he wouldn’t have wanted.
Salzburg shows the way of the Arsenal
To prepare for Saturday, the first 20 minutes were absolutely ideal.
After giving Arsenal two goals in their 2-1 defeat in the Emirates last month, Liverpool gave away gifts again.
The Gunners are unlikely to change their approach too much as it has taken them further success against Manchester City and Chelsea to win the FA Cup.
So Klopp knows that his team has to be just as mentally switched on this weekend as everything else.
Of course, it is always dangerous to draw conclusions from pre-season friendly matches. Had this been a competitive game, Jerome Onguene would have seen red in the first half for cleaning up against Sadio Mane instead of getting a tick and a yellow.
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And for those who resent an admittedly underperformance at Liverpool, it should be remembered that the fearful response to the all-out loss to Napoli at Murrayfield last summer was ultimately utterly misplaced.
The consistently surprisingly robust Salzburg had already played several warm-up games, and this sharpness was already evident in the first half hour, while Liverpool showed signs of having spent a week in training camp, at least during this difficult period.
That makes a difference. Luckily the 1,250 fans who were allowed to watch inside, and this was the first time since March that the Reds played in front of fans.
One small step. But a sign of football as we know and love it is on its way back.