As the Euros and the Copa America wrap up players can finally take that long-deserved 3-week break before donning the shin pads once again to trot out on the field in summer training camps. Players in the Gold Cup will have to wait a little longer since the tournament organizers in their great wisdom decided not only to start right after the other major tournaments but also overlapping the Olympics.
Most of this is of little consequence to Liverpool who saw 5 players end their stints with international squads this past weekend, ready for a little r&r before returning to camp on or about August 1st, the rest being in a more advanced state of turnaround for the new season.
Indeed a number of first-team regulars have already reported to camp in Austria where the club is expected to play split-squad friendlies next Tuesday against Innsbruck and Stuttgart. It was refreshing to see in particular Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip running together, but also Adrian, Elliott, Gomez, Jones, Keita, Kelleher, Konate, Mane, Milner, Ox, Salah, and Trent amongst the 34 player gathering.
Which leads us to wonder exactly what all the panic is about in some quarters? Transfer window amnesia has set in for some of our fan base; that once again we haven’t brought in new signings, and that with some players not yet back from international tournaments the team won’t be ready for the season opener.
Ah yes, transfer window amnesia. That veritable sickness striking the passionate but not so discerning supporter every summer and making a brief re-appearance right after Christmas. The condition that causes us to forget that every year we buy and re-sign players for every position in time for the rosters to be set. It also causes us to believe that a number of players who were never club targets are imminently going to be signed and then causes deep anxiety when a lesser club snatches them up, not realizing that their agent was just playing everybody all along.
Back to the training camps!
In an ideal world, players would get about a 6-week break before the new season followed by a further 6-week training camp that includes games every 3 days after the first 2 weeks. Regular international players don’t get that long a break – it’s usually 3-4 weeks and while camps can last a full 40 days there is usually a trickle of players arriving every few days.
For Liverpool, there are a few players in question! Thiago played into the semi-finals of the Euros and will have about 17-18 days of camp before the opener against Norwich. The trainers would probably like at least 3 weeks to start a Premier League game so depending on the availability of others He might be pushed into some minutes. For Henderson, it’s down to about 14 days along with the 3 Brazilians – Alisson, Fabinho, and Firmino.
The one tricky thing for Liverpool is their dire need for a midfield anchor. Generally, that means either Fabinho or Henderson. Given that Henderson has been out for some time and regaining fitness with England, it’s possible he’ll be fast-tracked to be ready early. Fabinho meanwhile is younger and only had 2 starts in Copa America and may be able to reach sufficient fitness in time.
However, Liverpool will need a plan B! Despite my personal ongoing obsession with moving Alexander-Arnold into midfield, Klopp may opt to play Matip in the holding spot for the first game. It’s a position he’s played before and would essentially put the side in a 3 CB defense with one player allowed to stride forward. Given that he and Van Dijk do this with regularity anyway it would probably work out quite nicely.
I would be surprised to see Alisson or Firmino in the first game. Alisson was injured the last time he was brought back too quickly while Liverpool have the firepower upfront to give Firmino the first game off. It’s true that Jota also played in the Euros but he’ll be a week further along. Then there’s always Ox up top, Minamino (nerves going now), and Origi (he wrote knowing the excruciating head cramps that would be experienced by some readers).
Relax it’s only one game and it’s Norwich! Liverpool should be able to handle this without a couple of regulars. It’s the teatime kickoff on the first Saturday of the season and here is your starting lineup.
Adrian (still wondering if Kelleher is going out on loan)
Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson
Thiago, Matip, Jones
Salah, Jota, Mane
Subs: Alisson, Konate, Tsimikas, Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Milner, Elliott
Substitutions: Milner – Thiago (60); Oxlade-Chamberlain – Jota (75); Konate – Jones (85)
All 3 forwards score as Salah and Mane look sharp but Jota fades in the second half.
Norwich are contained but catch Liverpool’s makeshift midfield out once on a well-executed break.