Liverpool are already far into their preseason preparations for the 2022–2023 campaign.Their opening friendly against old rivals Manchester United is now less than a week away and the campaign proper begins with a trip to Craven Cottage on August 6.
The Reds only took one point during their two games against Fulham in 2020/21, although they did not play in the Premier League last season. Any result other than victory in their upcoming matchup will seem like a blow to Liverpool’s title hopes.
Fortunately for Jurgen Klopp, he will be able to choose his starting lineup from a far stronger group this time. Fabinho, Nat Phillips, and Rhys Williams served as his center backs in matches against Fulham, while Andy Robertson, Mohamed Salah, and Gini Wijnaldum were the only outfield players able to start both games.
We will know more about the tactical strategies and lineups Klopp has in mind for the upcoming season once Liverpool has finished their six-match pre-season programme. But it makes sense to assume that he will pick a team that is nearly at full strength for the Community Shield match against Manchester City on July 30.
The same starting lineup will probably play against Fulham because it is precisely one week before the start of the regular season. Therefore, a logical starting lineup would be the one that faced Real Madrid in the Champions League final, with Diogo Jota starting in place of Sadio Mane, who is now a former Red.
What? No Darwin Nunez?, Perhaps not. Klopp has made it clear that he does not expect his new forward man to perform at the level required by Liverpool right away. “He is not under any pressure at all. He signs for a very long period, and we want to develop his skill and watch it flourish, Klopp said following the confirmation of the Uruguayan’s transfer.
But it’s apparent that the former Benfica man will play a key role in this season’s campaign. It will be fascinating to see how he fits into Liverpool’s 4-3-3 formation or whether it changes to make room for him.
There will no doubt be a bit of the two, and it’s not like Nunez hasn’t played within that tactical framework in the past. Nelson Verissimo and Jorge Jesus both used a front three at Benfica, although Jesus favoured a 3-4-3 over the formation that the Reds use.
But when he faced Liverpool in the Champions League, Nunez was the focal point of a 4-2-3-1 set up. While this was Klopp’s favoured system at Dortmund, he hasn’t used it too often with the Reds. It appeared during the autumn and winter of 2018/19, with Xherdan Shaqiri joining the established front three in attack, but hasn’t been seen on a consistent basis since then.
The next step for Liverpool could be to use a 4-2-3-1 formation in order to get the most out of their recent signings as Fabio Carvalho is adept at playing the role in the centre of the attacking three (and Roberto Firmino capable of performing there too).
This would also open the possibility of a double pivot featuring Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara once again. The latter performed admirably in that position for Bayern Munich and Liverpool has won 25 of its last 30 games when that midfield pairing begun. Whether the Reds use this formation or not, it is worth speculating what their starting lineup would look like in 2023–2024.
You may have noticed Jude Bellingham was added to the image above. There is no harm in adding a player in whom the Reds are said to have strong interest in as we are in the realm of speculation.
It is very much unclear if the England international will join Liverpool. He did, however, play in both of the proposed formations for Dortmund in 2021–2022, so he could easily fit into either of them.
But it’s not like Klopp won’t have options for the midfield if Bellingham doesn’t sign with the Reds. Jordan Henderson, Curtis Jones and Thiago will still be contracted to the club, while Carvalho doesn’t feature in the proposed XIs either. The most important thing is that he and Nunez have strengthened the team in a way that should help in Liverpool’s evolution.