Klopp explains decision to make Trent Liverpool's vice-captain
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will come away from Singapore with mixed feelings after watching his side squander a two-goal lead against Bayern Munich to lose 4-3. The German confirmed that he had appointed Virgil van Dijk as their new captain following Jordan Henderson’s departure to Saudi Arabia and while the Dutchman produced a captain’s performance, their latest pre-season showing highlighted the same problems that hampered the Reds last season are still yet to be resolved.
The Reds got off to a fine start when Cody Gakpo played a quick one-two with Diogo Jota and sprung the offside trap to burst through on goal, before the Netherlands international carefully placed his effort beyond Yann Sommer with just two minutes on the clock.
Bayern missed the chance to equalise after Benjamin Pavard somehow failed to convert from close range with two bites at the cherry. And it was Van Dijk who made them pay when he roses high to meet a corner from Andy Robertson and his bullet header was too powerful for Sommer. But Bayern fought back, with Serge Gnabry involved as he scored one for himself and set up Leroy Sane for the equaliser in an entertaining first half.
Liverpool took the game by the scruff of its neck in the second half and substitute Luis Diaz fired home after an excellent move, but their joy was wiped out when Josip Stanisic finished from close range to equalise and the youngster Frans Kratzig scored a stunner to snatch the win late on. Express Sport examines the key talking points from the game after their draw gainst Thomas Tuchel’s Bayern…
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Van Dijk leads by example
There is no questioning Liverpool’s decision to keep Henderson as their captain for all of these years – and those that do need to trust Klopp a little bit more given his success at Anfield. But this looks like a role Van Dijk was born for.
Being a leader is not about shouting at players or giving off empty platitudes, it’s about setting the standard and garnering respect. Van Dijk kept the exciting youngster Mathys Tel muzzled and bailed out his fellow defenders on several occasions, almost showing a frustration that they aren’t quite at his level.
He also got a goal for his troubles, measuring the jump perfectly and rising high above Pavard to nod home. At 32, he may past his peak but the Dutchman carries such an important role in this team. The captain’s armband is a symbol to recognise that, and Liverpool can only hope his excellence can inspire others to improve their own performances, having conceded two sloppy goals shortly after he went off.
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Delicious Diaz like a new signing
It’s a well-known cliche in football that injured players returning for the new season can feel like new signings, but it has rarely felt more accurate than with Luis Diaz. No sooner than Liverpool fans were warming to their £48m signing in January last year, he suffered a devastating knee injury that ruled him out of the World Cup and for much of the season.
But the Colombian is back and looks even hungrier to wreak havoc for the opposition. It’s easy to see why he has already endeared himself to the Kop faithful, with a lethal combination of tireless work, close dribbling and confidence oozing from his boots. If goals are the only thing that had been lacking, the 24-year-old was sure to leave his mark with a superb effort to give Liverpool the lead.
He started the move in his own half and then raced forward as his team-mates built up the play. Mohamed Salah was almost expecting the run through the middle, and how Diaz controlled the ball so intricately whilst running at top speed is anyone’s guess. The finish was incisive too, and his celebration showed just how much it meant to him.
This season, Liverpool will have Gakpo, Jota, Salah and Darwin Nunez to choose from. But they also get the unfiltered and unstoppable version of Diaz – and that should frighten any team they come up against.
Sloppy Trent must improve
There are so many positives with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s play that it feels wrong to focus on the negatives, but Klopp can no longer ignore the obvious warning signs in front of him. The right-back might even be considered more of a central midfielder these days due to his hybrid role, and it is clear which is his favourite position out of the two.
Twice in the first half, Alexander-Arnold was caught in a daze as Gnabry snuck in behind him and punished his lapses in concentration. The first came from a fine 50-yard pass from Kim Min-jae, and the German finished with aplomb. The second was with a neat piece of play from Gnabry, who had the freedom of Marina Bay with Alexander-Arnold barely jogging back, and he set up Sane to finish.
Klopp might have forgiven those mistakes from Alexander-Arnold in the past, putting it down to youthful exuberance. Now it’s just a case of not working hard enough, and for the newly-appointed vice-captain, that cannot be accepted. More displays of this kind may convince Klopp, somewhat reluctantly, that he can no longer ignore the need for another right-back if Alexander-Arnold’s future is in midfield.
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