The pre-season friendlies are always an interesting watch, as that is where all the hype and controversy and excitement gets put to rest, when it comes to new players or managers.
This time around – although most of the attention surrounded the big names in the managers’ arena – the players did not fail to disappoint! These friendlies are obviously no indication to how a player is or is going to perform in the games to come, but they can be a hint of what could or could not be expected as the season starts.
Based on the friendlies so far, here’s a list of the 5 players that have impressed!
1. Joel Matip – Liverpool
Klopp was faced with the decision of whether Matip or Lovren was to play for the full 90 minutes, and his choice was Matip – rightfully so – until the defender injured his ankle late in the game. Although the injury is not a big concern, the defender looked solid in partnership with Dejan Lovren.
The Reds had good organisation throughout the game – Tiago Ilori, Joel Matip, Lucas Leiva together with young Trent Alexander-Arnold did really well, while the others were more involved in the offensive play.
Matip also started the game. The free transfer arrival has consistently been one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga over the last few years, and now we’ve seen that he can adjust to the tempo of the EPL as well.
2. Ben Woodburn – Liverpool
16 year old, Ben Woodburn, impressed everybody while he scored in the 5-0 win over Fleetwood earlier in the week, then calmly finished inside the area after being released by Ryan Kent with 15 minutes remaining.
Liverpool face Huddersfield next on Wednesday, before friendlies against Chelsea, AC Milan, Roma, Barcelona and Mainz ahead of the new Premier League season.
Klopp has been vocal about his support for the youth setup at Anfield, giving academy players the opportunity to step up this summer and in cup games last season. He also has promised to ensure the youngsters are strong for the future, and so far in pre-season with three wins out of three and as many clean sheets, they have been given a fair run-out.
3. Victor Moses – Chelsea
The hard-working winger didn’t have a remarkable spell at the Hammers, but he qualifies as home-grown, and with three years remaining on his current deal with the club, he will definitely be a player to watch out for.
Moses was adjudged the best Chelsea player on the night of their game against Rapid Vienna. Although Chelsea lost that one, he did try for a few chances down the left flank and sent in one amazing ball which, unfortunately, Costa could not convert.
Last season, the 25-year made 27 appearances for The Hammers and scored 2 goals for a side that finished 7th. He is looking to make it work with Chelsea this season, and if his pre-season performance is anything to go by, then undoubtedly he will.
4. Eric Bailly – Manchester United
Eric Bailly – a £30 million signing from Villarreal – overcame a few jittery early touches to settle down encouragingly. The defender made his United debut in the 2-0 pre-season win over Wigan but since he is experiencing language issues, Mourinho is going to play him more frequently in the friendlies, and that gives him plenty of more chances to impress further.
Despite his language struggles, Bailly impressed against Wigan, playing for 82 minutes as goals from Will Keane and Andreas Pereira got Mourinho’s new era at Old Trafford off to a winning start. Still only 22, Bailly is one of a number of centre half options available to Mourinho with Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind all competing for a starting spot.
5. Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Manchester United
Mkhitaryan was beautiful to watch as he showed the swagger and arrogance that United badly lacked during Louis van Gaal’s two years at Old Trafford. Linking up neatly with Memphis Depay, who majorly struggled most of last season, the Armenian international brought out the best in his new colleagues.
A hard-working player, Mkhitaryan is all set to ensure that the team wins games, and it is this winning mentality of his that will be sure to push him further and further on the road to glory. He is a team-player and always stresses on the importance of putting the team’s needs ahead of individual needs.
Also, his raw aggression on field is exactly the kind of attacking spirit that is required at Old Trafford.