Fun with formations (yes, again)
This truly is the point of preseason: different styles, different personnel. Today's XI was incredibly close to Liverpool's strongest, except with Sturridge still injured and Suarez still on the bench after joining the tour late. And Rodgers shifted things around again. Both Allen and Gerrard played ahead of the holding Lucas – to fairly good effect, although Thailand's increased chances (at least compared to Liverpool's earlier opposition) demonstrates some of the concern about a single holding midfielder. Coutinho played on the left, still to excellent effect, while Aspas had his best preseason match so far when starting on the right, in the position we all hope he'll normally play.
Both Allen and Gerrard got forward well; Coutinho remained Liverpool's attacking hub, cutting in at will; and Aspas' movement was outstanding, more than deserving of his well-taken goal. If Rodgers' plan is to utilize both Coutinho and Aspas on the flanks, Liverpool's fullbacks will have to play better than they have during preseason – especially Johnson – considering how often both "wingers" like to cut inside. And I'll still have fears about Liverpool's vulnerability through the middle, especially when Lucas is also dragged wide to cover down the flanks, but Liverpool's movement and versatility going forward remains promising.
And, as against Melbourne, Rodgers continues to push the players' fitness, using far fewer subs. Eight players made the full 90 minutes, including Gerrard, Lucas, and Agger – three players whose fitness we constantly fear for. Rodgers is not messing about; he seems to be doing all he can to ensure Liverpool starts the season as strongly as possible.
You cannot stop Phil, you can only hope to contain him
Another game, another goal, opening the scoring yet again, with his third of preseason (joint-top scorer with Aspas). Today's was a slalom run after intercepting possession, destroying two Thai defenders before beating the keeper. All three of Coutinho's goals in preseason have come when he's won the ball back in the opponent's half (well, it led to his penalty against Preston), winning the ball and running at the defense before slotting home. That seemingly bodes well.
It was also Coutinho's throughball which released Aspas for Liverpool's second, the striker splitting the center-backs and turning well to go through one-on-one with the keeper. Great movement, even better control, and the guile to do exactly was what needed to finish the move. And then it was Aspas who set up Liverpool's third, laying off for Gerrard, knowing exactly where the captain had charged into the box without looking up, finished wonderfully with a delightful chip over the keeper.
Goal-scorers through the four preseason matches: Coutinho, Aspas 3; Gerrard, Sterling 2; Ibe 1. Liverpool are spreading the wealth.
Seriously, stop it woodwork
The hour mark saw the last of Liverpool's goals, but not the last of Liverpool's dangerous attacks. But, yet again – as against Indonesia – Liverpool were denied a bigger margin of victory by the goal frame, with both Suarez and Gerrard pinging efforts off the crossbar in the final 30 minutes. Deja vu all over again. Four preseason matches, four strikes off the woodwork.
No more crossbar challenges in training. It's obviously not helping.
Mignolet did things!
It's not as if Waffles (yes, we're calling him Waffles because he's Belgian, deal with it) had a ton to do, but at least we saw some of his much-heralded shot-stopping and cross-punching. One first half save on Dangda was marvelous, the rest were more routine, but he still was tested more often than he had been in the other three preseason matches combined.
That's now four preseason matches and four clean sheets. More good signs for a side which conceded goals far too often last season, at least in the first half of the campaign.
The last time Liverpool held the opposition scoreless through its first four preseason matches was 1999. 14 seasons ago. Incidentally, Liverpool finished 4th that season – Houllier's first full season – after finishing 7th the season before.
Let's hope history continues to be cyclical.