EVERY year, without fail, I fall for the same trick. Three of four weeks without any football and come the first pre-season game I’m scratching for a glimpse of the new Reds — the champions elect in the new kits — so I can try to figure out how good we are going to be and how early we are going to have the league won by.
Last year, the info I weaned from my pre-season scouting mission on our couch was that the Reds’ whole game plan seemed to be based on Jordon Ibe getting to the byline and pulling it back for a big stationary centre forward to slot it home. Frankly, I was alright with it, in spite of the reality that most of the games were shite.
Intrigued by the new coaching staff, I was prepared to give Brenno another crack of the whip with his new formula for winning. It lasted about 300 minutes until we were getting bladdered all over the show by West Ham and Brenno decided to jib his whole pre-season’s game plan for a spin on the three-at-the-back roulette having not even tried it out once in pre-season. That, in my eyes, was the final straw.
It was also the moment me and Adam Melia started coming up with weekly themes for the match as we were convinced the season was a fucked. The first one was a Spanish red wine and pistachio day — it was a roaring success, if not slightly frowned upon.
In contrast to most years in living memory, I have actually quite enjoyed the pre-season games this year so far. There has been something quite nice in watching the young Reds step up against more experienced opposition every time they play.
There are also some fairly obvious tells in the teams and set up to date to give us some clues as to how we are going to shape up this season. First off, it seems fairly obvious to me that Matip and Degsy “You got The Lov” Lovren are going to be the first-choice centre backs. It’s interesting that they have started all three matches next to each other, rather than playing a half each with llori and Wisdom to split the quality up.
It seems Klopp is keen for them to play together, to form an understanding between themselves; to form a partnership.
I don’t think you can overstate the importance of that, given that it is something we have been lacking for years. Familiarity between centre halves is lovely — you need to know what your mate is going to do next to you, not least so you both know what each other’s weaknesses are so you can help each other out. It is also worth noting that Karius has been on the pitch at the same time as the Matip and Degsy pairing, backing up the argument that familiarity definitely doesn’t breed contempt — it breeds a record-breaking, league-winning, triumvirate of mean, goal stingy bastards.
It’ll be interesting to see the amount of game time Danny Ings gets once Big Divock and Dan Sturridge are back as there is an argument to suggest that the extra training and miles in his legs might get him the nod at Arsenal — especially if we are looking to set up as a counter-attacking, counter-pressing super force. Arsenal won’t know what has hit them when some mad crooked fella with a bit of a hunchback and mental tattoos runs the legs off them, nets a brace and gets subbed off with a cob on on 80 with their defence suitably propped against the ropes, swung out, waiting for Sturridge, with his first pre-season since he was 12 in him, about to float about like Muhammad Ali in his prime.
I’m not sure whether you could label me as someone who gets carried away or not, but during the course of the last four games, I have labelled Ovie Ejaria a rich man’s Paul Pogba, Ben Woodburn better than Coutinho, and Trent Alexander Arnold as this season’s Dele Alli. That might be a slight stretch but I have convinced myself that at least one of them will end up a first-team regular by the end of the season. That’s up until our boss lads are back and looking bosser than ever and I have forgotten these lads’ names by the time we get back from America.
The other great thing about this pre-season so far is the amount of games we have had just down the road from here. I went to Wigan with Robbo and Shaun the Apprentice the other day, along with something like 12,000 other Reds. Frankly, it was a mental day out. The train on the way there was chocker, and I mean stereotypical third-world country train chocker, to the extent that the driver had to jib a load of stops as it was too busy.
Everyone had a lovely time apart from:
- Anyone who was just going home from a morning shopping or working — they definitely weren’t made up with the influx of pissed-up Scousers and Irish who flooded on to the train as it was leaving Lime Street, sweating cobs and opening cans.
- The fella in front of me on the train who had about five layers on and was going to the game without a ticket, with no pretence of buying a ticket, just so he could get the players’ autographs. I wanted to query his timings for his autograph hunting as the players would have been warming up when we were on the train, never mind entering the ground, but I wasn’t prepared to have that conversation on a crowded train with no easy access to the emergency exit. Anyway, his five layers proved somewhat troublesome for him, and he spent the journey trying frantically to make eye contact with anyone in the vicinity and asking the poor Chinese girl who spoke hardly any English whether she was hot or not, while simultaneously mopping his brow with abandon.
Of the 12,000 on our train, a fairly significant proportion of them were young Scouse lads who were able to watch the Reds for less than a tenner. Sound that really, isn’t it? There was a pretty good atmosphere for a pre-season game, second half especially — it felt a little bit like a normal match rather than a bit of a nonsense. There was pyro for fuck’s sake; loads of it. Let’s all set our minds on to getting these lads into Anfield, eh?
So what next for the rest of pre-season? Well the games start to be on at dickhead o-clock, which is a bit of a blow. Neil, Gibbo and Heaton will be over in LA representing TAW, and most likely doing a bloody good job at it.
With that in mind, can someone set up a basketball game for them to play in and then video it for content? I reckon Atko would be fully ‘white men can’t jumping’ his head off all over the show giving half the chance — slam dunking that mother right in that hoop, no bother; hustling his way round the courts of Compton, ‘Played ball with Shaq an um, flatten em’.
The Reds will go from strength to strength, with Kloppo doing what he does best on the training field, turning these lads, these non-marquee lads, into a bastion of invincibility, rendering the current nonsensical chit chat about us not spending a wedge on shite prima-donnas a bit of a waste of time. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to it.
Let’s go Red Men — get into these pricks.
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