New signings impress but Cody Gakpo steals the limelight! Seven things we learned as Dutchman orchestrates Liverpool's narrow win over Karlsruher

Comments (0)
Cody Gakpo Liverpool 2023-24
The Dutchman was instrumental as Liverpool came from behind to win their first friendly of pre-season against the German side

Liverpool looked shaky at times, but were clinical enough in front of goal to dispatch German second-division side Karlsruher 3-2 as their new season preparations got underway. While new signings Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister made their debuts, it was Cody Gakpo who was instrumental for the Reds, as he orchestrated their eventual comeback.

Darwin Nunez opened the scoring with a calm left-footed finish less than five minutes into the game. The hosts pulled one back midway through the first half, with former Germany international Lars Stindl smashing a spectacular volley home off the underside of the bar.

Liverpool made 10 changes at the break, with Gakpo, Mac Allister and Diogo Jota all introduced. And after conceding early in the half, Jurgen Klopp's side settled in. Gakpo grabbed the equaliser, pivoting and finishing from close range. And Jota provided a late winner, weaving through the defence from Gakpo's pass and slotting home in second-half stoppage time. He made it a brace less than a minute later, putting the game beyond reach just before the final whistle.

GOAL looks at what we learned during the clash at BBBank Wildpark...

  1. Nunez still hasn't found his best position

    Klopp experimented with Nunez as both a central striker and left winger over the course of last season, and the Uruguayan repaid his faith with a healthy goal tally from both positions. Still, Klopp couldn't seem to decide where exactly Nunez functioned best.

    And the same issues cropped up here again. Nunez played 45 minutes as a No.9, and couldn't quite get his movement right. He was often caught drifting wide, or running in behind too early. He did enough to score, though, taking his goal well off an instinctive poke from Salah.

    Nevertheless, there will be stiff competition for attacking places at Anfield this year, and Nunez needs to make the most of every moment. Goals are hard to argue with, but this performance was far from convincing.

  2. Midfield Trent is here to stay

    Midfield Trent is here to stay

    Alexander-Arnold impressed after switching to an inverted right-back spot last year, effectively playing as a centre-midfielder for the last two months of the season. And he went one further here, holding down a midfield spot from the first minute — an indication of a change that seems to be here to stay.

    He was once again comfortable in the role. When Alexander-Arnold was on the ball, Liverpool seemed a far more settled team, with the England international spraying passes around with ease.

    There will be questions about the exact configuration of this side on a weekly basis. With Thiago and Stefan Bajcetic out, this could have been something of a forced switch. Still, the fact that he started there suggests that the days of Alexander-Arnold as a traditional right-back are very much in the past.

  3. Doak deserves a shot

    Ben Doak was forced into the line-up halfway through last season. He caught the eye in a handful of cameos, causing problems with his pace and trickery on the right. And the Scot showed promise again here, buzzing around and running at defenders.

    He provided a handful of fizzed crosses in front of goal, and will feel that he deserved a penalty after being bundled over in the box midway through the second half. There will undoubtedly be some calls for the teenager to be sent out on loan in the coming weeks. First-team opportunities might be limited, and with the likes of Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones vying for minutes of their own, there might not be a clear pathway.

    But Doak has a window of opportunity here. And with Salah set to play for Egypt in the AFCON in January, the Reds will need goals off the right. Doak could be the man to provide them.

  4. Mac Allister is a natural fit

    Mac Allister is a natural fit

    A critique often levelled at Liverpool's recruitment department is they never really brought in a versatile midfielder to replace Gini Wijnaldum. The Dutchman played all three midfield positions during his five-year stint at Anfield and hardly missed a game. He was an unsung hero of sorts, the kind of player Liverpool haven't managed to sign since.

    And in Mac Allister, Liverpool might just have found their man. He wasn't necessarily glamourous on the ball, but he pressed diligently, won a few tackles, and produced a fine assist for Jota's second.

    He looked like a smart addition when purchased from Brighton in late June. If he continues to perform at this level — or, ideally for Liverpool, improve — the Reds might finally have their replacement.

  5. Gakpo is the real new signing

    Much has been made of Liverpool's pursuit of midfielders this summer, and they do indeed need reinforcements at the position. But Gakpo's second half, spent mostly on the right side of a midfield three, showed that there could be other options in the position going forward.

    Liverpool are in possession of a wealth of attacking talent, with Luis Diaz, Salah, Nunez and Jota all fighting for three starting spots. And Gakpo, who has played as an attacking midfielder in spurts for the Dutch national team, could have a future in that role.

    He excelled in a deeper role, linking with the frontline effectively and timing his runs into the box well. Gakpo was eventually rewarded with a goal, smashing the ball home after a quick interchange with Jota. A lot is subject to change over the coming weeks. New arrivals could see Gakpo pushed forward, or shifted to the left wing. But this was a promising sign that Liverpool have more options in that position than they might have previously expected.

  6. Jota can bang them in

    Jota popped up with a few goals at the end of last season, notably returning from a serious calf injury in style with a crucial late winner against Tottenham at Anfield. He was something of a forgotten man in his absence, especially given the goal drought he endured before getting injured in October.

    But he showed Klopp exactly why he should be in the mix in Liverpool's pre-season opener. Jota did all of the things he is very good at here; he never stopped running, applied pressure to opposing centre-backs, and was deadly when afforded space. He took his first goal well, winding between two defenders before finishing. His second was arguably even more impressive - a guided strike after timing his run behind the defence to perfection.

    His exact role this year remains to be seen. He can play centrally or on the left, spaces that Diaz and Nunez seemed to have locked down. But if he brings his shooting boots, he could be in contention for a starting spot every week.

  7. Liverpool still need a midfielder (or two)

    Liverpool still need a midfielder (or two)

    With Henderson's departure all-but confirmed, and Fabinho reported to be following him out the door, it's clear Liverpool should sign another midfielder. And that was apparent on Wednesday.

    Although Alexander-Arnold did his part, Szoboszlai settled and Mac Allister showed promise, the Reds lacked a midfield presence in the mould of Fabinho here. The Brazilian was one of the linchpins of Klopp's Premier League-winning side, his tackling and pressing proving vital. His drop off has hit hard for the Reds.

    And while there are options in-house, with the likes of Bajcetic and Mac Allister able to function in the role, a more Fabinho-esque No.6 is needed to round out the midfield revamp that has been promised for much of the last few months. With pre-season now underway, Liverpool would be wise to get their business sorted soon.