Belfast Telegraph

Klopp is sure Pool's young guns will fire on all fronts

 

By Samuel Lovett

Jurgen Klopp has backed Liverpool's academy products to "make big steps" with the club's senior side next season after breaking through into the starting XI in the 2016-17 campaign.

The likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Woodburn were both called upon by Klopp last season and received high praise for their performances.

Woodburn notably became Liverpool's youngster ever goalscorer after netting against Leeds in the EFL Cup in what was his second professional appearance for the club.

And speaking to Liverpool's official website, Klopp has backed the youngsters to make their mark once the new season gets under way.

"Usually you always want to take the next step from one year to the next year," he said.

"Young players are one year older, that doesn't make the biggest difference but being one year longer involved in the first team does.

"They can make big steps because they are a little bit settled. They don't feel as excited anymore about each day in training, thinking 'Oh my God, that's Adam Lallana next to me'. That can be a big difference."

With the added consideration of Champions League football, and the increase in matches that this brings, youngsters such as Alexander-Arnold and Woodburn can expect to play a more prominent role for the senior side as Klopp attempts to manage the demands of a hectic fixture schedule.

The German also hopes the Reds can become more tactically flexible over the course of pre-season.

Klopp's players begin their preparations for the new season next week, with eight friendlies against a varied set of opponents scheduled in July and early August.

Liverpool will then travel to Vicarage Road to face Marco Silva's Watford on the Premier League's opening weekend, with that meeting followed by the first leg of a crucial Champions League qualifying tie.

When asked what he would like to see from his squad before those first competitive fixtures, Klopp said: "Tactically, getting more flexible - depending who is there and when - and introducing different systems.

"(In 2015-16), we played most of the time in a kind of 4-2-3-1, (in 2016-17) most of the time in a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1. In our opinion, it fitted best to the players we had.

"I'm not sure which way we have to play next year, there will be a few different ones. And we'll prepare for European football also, so we need a bigger squad of course. We'll be good."

Klopp's admission that he will need a bigger squad of players at his disposal for the new campaign comes as Liverpool attempt to prise midfielder Naby Keita from RB Leipzig.

It is understood that Keita, who starred as newly-promoted Leipzig finished runners-up in the Bundesliga last season, would cost Liverpool at least £70m, a club record transfer fee.

They completed the signing of Roma winger Mohamed Salah for £33.8m last week in a deal that fell just short of the club's current record purchase, the £35m paid for Andy Carroll in 2011.

• Sandro Ramirez's drawn-out move to Everton is expected to be confirmed today.

The Spanish U21 international has agreed terms but the transfer has been waiting on a contract clause to come into effect.

From today, it is understood that Sandro's contract with Malaga would contain a £5.1m release clause. While Everton were hoping Malaga might agree to a deal for the same price, the Andalucians have held firm and Sandro will instead be announced this week.

After leaving Barcelona on a free transfer a year ago, Sandro impressed on the Costa del Sol scoring 14 La Liga goals.

Atletico Madrid met with the striker's agent but, after failing with their appeal against a transfer ban, saw the deal collapse.

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