During pre-season, football managers around the globe attempt to build a team capable of fulfilling their ambitions for the upcoming season.
While a big part of these preparations are centred around building fitness and match sharpness, a large part is also tactical.
New systems, new styles of play, new players are all taken into consideration with time given to experiment.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is no different this year as he aims to re-build his Liverpool side after losing Sadio Mane, a vital part of the club’s recent success, to Bayern Munich.
As well as his incredible physical attributes and immense work rate, Mane was always a regular on the scoresheet for the Reds and this will be a big miss.
Liverpool have been active in the transfer market in order to fill the ‘Mane-shaped’ hole they find in their attack.
A lot of attention has been drawn by the £65M signing of Uruguayan forward Darwin Nunez from Benfica.
The 23-year-old is coming off the back of an incredible season in 2021/22 as he netted 34 goals in all competitions.
While all the attention will be drawn to Nunez and how he steps into Mane’s shoes, a lower-profile signing may be the key to easing the goal-scoring burden on the Liverpool front line.
Fabio Carvalho was signed from Fulham in a deal worth up to £5M this summer and early signs in pre-season suggest that Jurgen Klopp may be looking to replace another past Liverpool hero.
In January 2018, Liverpool sold Brazilian playmaker, Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for £120M including add-ons. While the Reds have won plenty of silverware since the ‘little magician’ departed, a lot of creativity and goals from midfield have also been missing since.
Coutinho played on the left of a midfield three or from the left-hand side and would provide a lot of chances for his teammates as well as consistently scoring double-figure goals himself.
While Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita and Thiago have all been brilliant for the club in recent years, between them, there have not been many goal contributions.
Jurgen Klopp has built his midfield with hard-working and technically brilliant leaders.
However, there is limited attacking threat from these players and Klopp may look to Carvalho as well as a returning Harvey Elliott, to freshen things up and inject some youthful fearlessness into his side.
Carvalho scored 10 goals in the Championship last campaign while also chipping in with 8 assists as he helped fire his team into the Premier League. He is very comfortable on the ball and loves driving at players in a similar way to Coutinho in previous years.
There are many similarities between the two which will have Liverpool fans very excited. As previously mentioned, Coutinho operated in an attacking midfield role as well as playing from the left-hand side at times.
During pre-season, Fabio Carvalho has been used in both of these roles with Jurgen Klopp saying, “At the minute he’s not really set on one position – it’s the wing, it’s the eight, it’s the ten, it’s the false nine if he grows a few more muscles.”
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Playing from the left-hand side gives Carvalho the chance to come inside and look for goal on his stronger right foot or he is equally as capable of going around the outside onto his left foot.
This creates a further problem for opposing defenders to what they are used to from other Liverpool players in similar positions.
During the recent 5-0 win over RB Leipzig, Carvalho was used as a second-half substitute on the left wing and he showed his confidence with some very neat and tidy touches as well as a determination to help out his defence at times.
The 19-year-old finished off his impressive display with an assist to fellow newcomer Nunez after wonderfully beating his man and driving into the open space in front of him.
While Nunez will grab the plaudits from that game, Carvalho proved why he could ease the burden on his new teammate as he demonstrated brilliant link-up play and is always looking for a way to goal.
While Mane contributed to a large percentage of Liverpool’s goals last season, the new arrivals of Nunez and Carvalho look like they may share the burden of replacing such an output.
It may take time for Carvalho to break into the side on a regular basis as he is still very young and has a lot of gifted players in front of him, he could become a fan favourite with his direct play and exciting ability on the ball.
Could we potentially be seeing a long-anticipated replacement for Philippe Coutinho at Anfield?