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Opinion: How could Arne Slot line-up with Liverpool for the first game of pre-season?

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By Jainil Shah

New boss, new look?

Liverpool have already started their preparations for the upcoming campaign as new boss Arne Slot takes charge of his first season at Merseyside. We are just a couple of weeks away from the pre-season, and the Reds are ready to find their form as they prepare to take on Real Betis in their first friendly match.

The fixture against the Spanish giants will be one for the history books as the Reds enter into a new era at Anfield Stadium as Arne Slot takes charge of his first fixture as Liverpool manager following his move from Feyenoord. 

Squad available for selection

The 45-year-old likes to press aggressively, as he uses a 4-2-3-1 structure that sets up in a 4-3-3, although it soon changes into a 4-4-2 organised press where the number 10 jumps into the forward line to support the striker. The Dutchman likes to operate in a double pivot during the build-up phases of the game, with the pair supporting the defensive line and facilitating the transition out of the first phase. We have seen Roberto de Zerbi deploy something similar in first-phase plays.

The slot will have varied dates for players arriving at Liverpool’s Kirkby training ground going into the pre-season. This summer has been one for football carnivals around America and Europe, as we have the Copa America and EURO 2024 tournaments taking place simultaneously. He will have a few players missing out owing to participation in the aforementioned leagues.

Liverpool have Ibrahima Konate representing the Reds in the semi-finals of the European Championships for France, alongside Trent Alexander Arnold, who travels with Gareth Southgate’s England in their quest for the Euro 2024 title, and Joe Gomez, who is yet to make an appearance in the ongoing campaign. Diogo Jota’s Portugal recently got knocked out by France, although the first game of the pre-season will come too soon for him to return. 

Cody Gakpo, Ryan Gravenberch, and Virgil van Dijk are gearing up to face England in the semi-finals of the European Championships today. 

Darwin Nunez’s Uruguay recently knocked out Alisson’s Brazil in the Copa America, while Alexis Mac Allister is on his quest to reach the finals with Argentina. Luis Diaz is also representing Colombia in the ongoing tournament.

All the aforementioned players will be arriving late for their start to the 2024/25 pre-season, and it is difficult to see them as a part of the team that lines up against Betis.

Our Liverpool starting line-up vs. Real Betis

Goalkeeper: Marcelo Pitaluga

The Brazilian goalkeeper joined Liverpool in 2020 when he was still seventeen, and he has been coming through the academy at Melwood. He signed from Brazilian side Fluminense and has just renewed new terms at Merseyside Reds earlier this year. With Alisson having an extended season with Brazil and Caoimhin Kelleher linked with a move away from Liverpool, Pitaluga could get an early opportunity to make his mark on the new boss as he is in line to start in the Reds first pre-season game against Betis.

Right Back: Sepp van den Berg

With Trent coming in late to the preseason camp, Sepp van den Berg may get his opportunity to impress Slot going into the summer. They also have Bradley in the position, who should go into the season as a backup in the right-back slot. However, the fact that Liverpool rejected multiple offers for the youngster shows that they understand his potential and are ready to back it up with opportunities coming his way.

The fixture against Betis will be his first opportunity to show Arne everything he is about.

Centre-Back: Jarell Quansah

His ratings have been soaring following the performances Quansah put in last year, and he will be hoping for more opportunities coming his way next season. Jarell Quansah has an elite mentality and equally elite potential; he could be set for an extended spell at the heart of the Reds defence going into next season as he competes with Konate for the first-team spot. 

Having returned to training early, complemented by the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Konate owing to their participation in EURO 2024, Quansah will be leading the defence going into the first game of the pre-season.

Centre-Back: Rhys Williams

The Preston-born centre-half has been taking strides in the academy sides at Anfield over the years of his development after having joined the club as a U10. He has been out on loans for the last couple of years, and it would be an ideal time to foresee his progress through his loan spells.

Left-back: Konstantinos Tsimikas

It is hard to believe that the Greek international is now twenty-eight and going into another season at Anfield Stadium. He would be hoping for some more game time coming his way. He should get an early opportunity to show the new boss what he can do. 

Defensive Midfielder: Stefan Bajcetic

Another Liverpool academy star who has been highly rated by those around the club and beyond. He established himself in the senior squad in the 2022–23 season; however, he suffered massive injuries in the last campaign and missed a considerable amount of playing time as a result.

He would be looking to get his feet back into the first team early in the season, although he would have to impress Arne Slot the way he did previously with Klopp to gain his spot in the starting lineup.

Central Midfielder: Curtis Jones

The England international was unlucky to miss out on a call-up to the European Championships. He has a versatile and hard-working profile that Arne Slot will love to have in his midfield, and the fact that the 23-year-old is already training with the first-team squad means he gets an early crack at impressing the boss and securing his spot in the starting eleven.

He can take up an advanced eight role as much as a sitting eight, while he can play wide as well as in a narrow setup. These capabilities should give Slot a much-wanted option to change tactics in-game. 

Central Midfielder: Harvey Eliott

He takes on a role in a more attacking sense. Eliott has taken massive strides in his game in the last campaign, and he will be looking to continue his upward trajectory in the season to come. His creative role can help Slot in settled defences, especially considering the comparisons to Arsenal midfielder Martin Odegaard in how he carries the balls and his operation in half-spaces. 

On the press, we may see Harvey in a more advanced role and use his intelligence to block lines while aggressively pressing the opposition, showing his tactical awareness and work rate. 

Right-Winger: Mohamed Salah

What is more scary than Mo Salah on the right wing in the Premier League these days? A fresh Mo Salah. He has had a vacation and possibly a new hairline as we come into the new season. Liverpool fans would be hungry to have Salah wearing the Liverpool Red once again going into the new season, and they would get the first glimpse at his electrifying pace and possibly his deadly finishing when the Merseyside club took on Betis.

Centre-Forward: Jayden Danns

With Darwin Nunez and Gakpo busy with international duties deep into the summer, Jayden Danns should get the nod to play upfront for the premier preseason game. He went from an under-18 ace to a league cup winner in a matter of days, and he is on a journey to prove his accolades going into next season. 

It is easy to forget he is still eighteen as we head into a new season. Danns would be hoping to earn himself a bits-and-parts role on Slot’s side.

More Liverpool News

Left-Winger: Lewis Koumas

Another teenager is set to benefit from Liverpool’s inclusion in the international tournament. With Jota going deep into EUROs with Portugal and the same with Luis Diaz at Copa America, 18-year-old Liverpool academy starlet Lewis Koumas will get an opportunity to impress slot going into the first pre-season game of the season. 

He has been earning rave reviews coming through the ranks at Liverpool, and it’s time that we unleash the unpolished gem.