Preston North End vs. Liverpool: 5 Things We Learned in Reds' First Summer Win
Liverpool ran out 4-0 winners over Preston North End in their first preseason friendly of the summer, with manager Brendan Rodgers fielding all four of his new signings as well as a raft of Reds returning from injuries and loans from last season.
A mix of youngsters and experienced seniors played 45 minutes each, in the main, as Philippe Coutinho, Jordon Ibe, Raheem Sterling and Iago Aspas, the latter on his debut, found the back of the net.
The Reds head off on their summer tour next, in good confidence after a first run-out of the season and a nice victory to boot.
Here are five things we can initially take from the club's first game of the summer, as they step up their preparations for the new season.
Jordon Ibe Shows His Potential
The first big impact of the summer came from Liverpool's newest competitive debutant, Jordon Ibe.
The young forward made his first Reds start at the end of last season against QPR and started from the left side of the front line against Preston on Saturday. His pace and movement caused plenty of problems for the Preston back line, and he was never afraid to run with the ball at his feet, moving both infield and down the flanks as he saw best.
Ibe's biggest contribution, of course, came with his goal, a well-taken low strike which came after one of his customary darts infield past his marker.
Liverpool look well-stocked in the left-sided forward's role at present, and Ibe can look forward to a good season of progression at senior level.
All Four New Signings Ready to Go
Whether 45 minutes or not, all four of Liverpool's new signings got a run-out for their new club, and all looked ready to take part on a more regular basis.
Simon Mignolet actually played around 70 minutes in goal before being replaced by Danny Ward, but the Belgian only had one save to make in the game, a low effort parried away to his left. He'll have more work to do in the coming weeks, no doubt.
More important was that the stopper was already directing his defenders from set pieces, talking and pointing, constantly in communication with them.
Kolo Toure, likewise, had a quiet opening match as Liverpool did little defending, but he looked strong and quick over the ground. He could yet prove to be one of the more important additions.
Luis Alberto played as a central midfielder for the Reds because of an absence of numbers, a much deeper role than he's likely to feature in during the season. He got forward a few times and played some neat through-passes, but this was more about integrating him into the side rather than getting a top performance from him.
Two shooting chances for Alberto went begging, as he tamely connected, but his movement and control was impressive.
Iago Aspas looked the pick of the new signings with an energetic second-half display where he linked up well with his fellow attackers and showed good strength and drive to get into the box.
The former Celta Vigo forward claimed an assist and a goal in his 45 minutes on the pitch, a fierce drive into the roof of the net being the last of Liverpool's four goals as he fooled the keeper.
Raheem Sterling Looking Fit and Ready to Play a Big Part
Ibe wasn't the only youngster who impressed against Preston; Raheem Sterling came back to his first team action and put in a terrific performance from the left of the front three.
His pace and movement was even a step up from that of Ibe in the same role, and the two showed that Liverpool have great quality and depth in that position right now.
A top-drawer curved run in from the left to centre got Sterling his goal, as he beat the offside trap to latch onto Aspas' through pass, rounded the keeper and scored with great composure. After a long rest over the second half of last season, Sterling quickly looks ready for more action this time around.
The Reds Have Too Many Wide Attackers
Ibe and Oussama Assaidi started in the wide forward roles for Liverpool, while Sterling and Stewart Downing played there after the break. Luis Alberto also filled in at central midfield, while he would normally be expected to feature further forward, and Dani Pacheco also played deeper instead of from the left as he featured last summer.
The two forwards for the match, Aspas and Fabio Borini, will likely see a lot of game time from the flanks, while depending on any incoming attackers, Coutinho might also revert to the left.
All in all, the Reds have too many players for the wide areas of the front line right now, especially considering no European football will be played this season.
At least two of those numbers will have to be trimmed ahead of the new campaign, and more likely, a third will depart, too.
Elsewhere, only four true central midfielders took to the field—but one of them, Jay Spearing, played at right-back. This may still be an area that Brendan Rodgers looks to strengthen in during the summer.
Agger and Lucas the Front-Runners for Vice-Captaincy
One more area that Brendan Rodgers has a decision to make in this summer is that of the new Liverpool vice captain.
Previously a position held by Jamie Carragher, the defender's retirement means that several other senior players will be hoping to get the call. Though Pepe Reina, one possible candidate, was absent after his international exploits, the early hopefuls will now be Daniel Agger and Lucas Leiva.
Agger and Lucas bore the armband in each half of the Preston game, and both will hope they are displaying the qualities that the manager is looking for to be Steven Gerrard's deputy.
Agger is the national team captain for Denmark, while Lucas has skippered Liverpool previously already in the absence of both Gerrard and Carragher over the past two or three seasons.
Reina and Luis Suarez are two more who have worn the armband, though doubts persist over both their Liverpool futures.