Liverpool ended their globetrotting pre-season unbeaten after easing to a 3-1 win over Spanish side Athletic Bilbao at Lansdowne Road in Dublin on Saturday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side warmed up for next Saturday’s Premier League opener at Watford with an emphatic friendly victory, leaving them unbeaten inside 90 minutes over eight games that included a 3-0 win over German champions Bayern Munich.
The Reds went into an early lead through Roberto Firmino, before Inaki Williams levelled before half time.
Klopp made 10 changes at the break, and teenage duo Ben Woodburn and Dominic Solanke added two more goals to seal victory.
Here are three things learned from the pre-season run out.
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AUTHORITATIVE ATTACK, DISHEVELED DEFENCE
It’s a familiar narrative but the contrary nature of Liverpool’s back and forward line is, well, backwards and forward.
On the attack, the Reds surge with authority and aggression, speed and skill because ultimately they know what they’re doing going forward.
But defensively, it’s a complete juxtaposition. Much like last season, Dejan Lovren was frequently caught out of position and playing catch up to make amends, when he didn’t Bilbao pounced as was the case with their equaliser.
It’s not just Lovren, though, the whole back line lacks urgency, they are blind to danger until it smacks them in the face, unless, of course, they are creating the trouble for themselves with careless passing.
It’s mystifying that they have failed to repair the one issue which is so blindingly obvious. Signing Virgil van Dijk from Southampton could be their last acquisition of the summer and it would certainly represent their most important.
Goal. 1-1. Inaki Williams. Woeful defending— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) August 5, 2017
SOLANKE IS AHEAD OF ORIGI
Liverpool’s starting front four is frightful. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino scream dynamism and fluidity, giving Liverpool fans plenty to shout about.
Behind that fantastic four, Liverpool are blessed with quality alternative options and the best of lot is Dominic Solanke.
The 19-year-old was introduced at half-time as Klopp changed his entire outfield from the first 45 and he was undoubtedly the standout.
His hold-up play was strong and his distribution smart and while Divock Origi was the chief attacking option from the bench last season, Solanke may well have superseded him.
The summer signing cut-back brilliantly for Ben Woodburn’s goal, almost forced an own goal with another cross and then produced a headed finish a twin to his one against Hertha Berlin.
He’s a mobile target man and one who has made a big impression during the pre-season outings.
Ben Woodburn goal, great finish, quality cut back from Solanke pic.twitter.com/8pqoD5TnWn— LFC KNOWLEDGE (@LFCknowledge) August 5, 2017
CAN HAS SOME CATCHING UP TO DO
Emre Can’s summer has been dominated by talk surrounding his future as he enters the final year of his Liverpool contract.
It’s easy to see why the club is very enthusiastic about his development and are keen to see the Germany international put pen to paper on a new deal.
What is clear as well, is that the 23-year-old is still a work in progress and this next season will be a vital one in his evolution.
Some questionable decision making hallmarked his first-half performance and having arrived late to pre-season following an extended break from a Confederations Cup campaign with Germany, it’s obvious he remains way off the pace and rhythm.
His positional discipline for a defensive midfielder is still dubious, which is frustrating because he offers plenty of quality on the ball.
There is work to be done for Can, both in the short and long term.