JURGEN Klopp walks off the pitch in front of the exceptionally active Section 101 of the Levi’s Stadium and he pulls his face and points at Divock Origi behind him without turning round.
The face does more than you could imagine. Part mischief, part excitement, part incredulity.
A soupcon of “get on that,”
A sprinkle of “oh hello,”
A slice of “clap him, not me,”
It was quite the face. A face I agree with.
Look, look, it is only a preseason friendly against a Milan side which didn’t look great. But Origi brought Liverpool bang into focus while also being brilliant. If Ojo had released the ball quicker on another couple of occasions, Origi might have had to knock on the Milanese dressing room door with a pen. It was everything you want your centre forward to do, up to and including Origi not being shy of telling Ojo exactly what he thought on a couple of occasions. He brought Firmino to life too.
Liverpool had closed the first half looking significantly the better side, Lallana taking the ball out of Henderson’s path when the captain had burst forward, Mane impressing again with his pace of legs, feet and thought. He forced an excellent save from Gabriel just before the break.
Ragnar Klaven isn’t playing like a man who has come to be fourth choice. There is a lot to be said for low expectations but Klaven has looked good in these two run outs.
Both Lallana and Sturridge never quite felt in the game from my vantage point. And if that is the case it could well be because each needed that bit more from the other.
Milner had been poor at left back but it was his ball to Origi second half which released him for his goal. The Milner conundrum remains that he offers numbers and work rate but you’d like a bit more of something else.
But if that is the biggest conundrum within the current and likely playing staff Klopp has, then I’d say he’s clarified this Liverpool squad. The caveats that it is pre-season notwithstanding, but it feels like the most clearcut options Liverpool have had for a while. The questions suddenly don’t seem to be how to get the best out of Iago Aspas or how to compromise around Albie Riera. They are instead delineated decisions.
We tend to watch pre-season games to get a flavour of what is to come for Liverpool and be excited over new signings or young players. There was a moment in the second half where Lazar Markovic should have scored and he grabbed the net, clearly so frustrated with himself. It was difficult not to feel for him in that moment. It is hard to see him being in Klopp’s plans but you get the suggestion he wants to be. I’d be surprised but this is Markovic’s career on the line to some extent, even at that young an age. There in that moment was how much he wanted it and how he will probably fall short.
Stewart and Alexander-Arnold both did themselves no harm. The latter feels on the cusp of this squad. It could well be that Nathaniel Clyne’s form and fitness record helps Alexander-Arnold. Clyne is a difficult player to deputise as Flanagan’s move away from the club on loan suggests. The notion of a younger lad who would develop with ten senior games seems more likely than Liverpool recruiting a back up.
This is Liverpool’s last game in California. It’s ours in the States. Origi gave these supporters the goal they deserved and the performance we all crave. Section 101 was gloriously lively throughout. This West Coast crowd have grabbed these games and enjoyed them to the full. There is a strange situation where ticket sales may not be what the organisers hope but the location and ticket cost of both of these matches hasn’t been easy from the point of view of grabbing the more casual fan of the sport.
It’s a small shame. Not because the games have been marvellous examples of football but because they have been demonstrations of passion from the Californian contingent. There is seeing something like that which makes you wonder what is going on and how can I become part of it.
Regardless the faithful got what they wanted: goals and a chance to congregate and scream on the Reds.
Goals and a chance to congregate and scream on the Reds. Sounds pretty good that. Can’t wait for Arsenal you know.