Former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson has admitted that he’s yet to be fully convinced by our new-look side.
Despite three wins and a draw during our first four pre-season games in the Far East, the veteran pundit believes that the lack of quality opposition could be our undoing come the start of the season itself.
We face Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium in two weeks time, a venue where we lost 6-1 last season, and Lawrenson is all to aware that the notoriously tough trip is unlikely to be any easier this time around.
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“I’m a little concerned Liverpool could be undercooked going into the new campaign,” he wrote in his Liverpool Echo column. “We haven’t really faced any opposition of note yet, and the scheduled remaining friendly matches don’t look capable of changing that.
“We know all too well that going to Stoke City on the opening day isn’t going to be easy. I worry one or two players will have strolled through pre-season, then be alarmed as soon as the real stuff starts.
“Yes, I know all about the importance of fitness and the sports science bods are all no doubt ticking off the boxes to say our players are ready.
“It’s totally different, though, when somebody is trying to kick seven shades of you-know-what out of you. I think back to Hull City away, Crystal Palace at home and that Stoke game towards the end of last season. We were bullied in every one of those games, and I’d like to know whether it’s going to be any different.”
Lawrenson also spoke at length about Liverpool striker Divock Origi. The young Belgian, who spent last season on loan at former club Lille, scored on his debut against the Thai All-Stars but was distinctly less impressive during our games in Australia and Malaysia.
In Kuala Lumpur, he cut a particularly frustrated figure, as he was marshalled well by the home side’s defence. When he did get a chance in front of goal, he was wasteful, earning unfavourable reviews from Liverpool fans on social media. Our former star also isn’t convinced, but urged for us to be patient with the player.
“I don’t see him as an out-and-out striker, at least not yet,” he said. “He’s still young and you can tell he is very much learning his trade. When everybody is fit, in the first few months I’d imagine Origi will be mainly used as a substitute to stretch teams when coming on late on.
“He loves the ball in front of him. He doesn’t like it being played up to him. His movement isn’t great in the box. I’m not saying Origi is a bad buy, far from it. He’s still a kid.
“And with Danny Ings and Christian Benteke also coming in, there will be no great pressure on Origi to deliver immediately. It will take a while for him to get grips with things, but he has qualities to make an impact.”
Lawrenson was distinctly less sympathetic with defender Dejan Lovren, whose mix up with central defensive partner Martin Skrtel led to the Malaysian’s goal on Friday.
“He still looks nervous,” he bemoaned. “More importantly and more worryingly, though, is that he always makes a mistake during the course of a match. If you’re an opposition manager, you’d be telling your striker to be aware Lovren can blunder at any time and be alert to the possibility.
“To be fair to Lovren, he looks like someone who needs to be cajoled through a game. He needs good communication. And that’s something Skrtel has never been overly great at. The problem with Lovren is that he seems to make the simple things difficult and the difficult things quite easy.”
Plenty to ponder ahead of the new season then.