Why Liverpool fans should watch Euro 2024 – from Alexander-Arnold's role to Konate's form


Sign up for The Athletic today with our limited-time Tournament Sale offer.


Liverpool may be waiting for the Arne Slot era to begin in earnest but that does not mean the players have their feet up.

Ten of the squad Slot is inheriting at Anfield are preparing to feature in Euro 2024, which begins tonight (Friday), and their performances in the tournament could help inform the Dutchman’s thinking as he continues to plan for the new season.

Here, The Athletic looks at the group stage games he – and Liverpool fans – will be watching with interest.


Group A: Germany vs Scotland (tonight, 8pm BST, 3pm ET)

After a late fitness scare, Andy Robertson is set to captain Scotland in the opening game of the tournament in Munich, where they will aim to shock the host nation.

Robertson endured a frustrating 2023-24 season which was twice derailed by injuries he picked up while playing for Scotland. The hope is that the trend will not continue.

The 30-year-old full-back did end last season in good form and was a consistent performer during a turbulent run-in for Liverpool, though the same could not be said about a number of his team-mates. He is set to continue to have a key role under the new Anfield regime, as Slot is a manager who likes one of his full-backs to provide width and get forward.

Such opportunities may be limited against Germany tonight, but Scotland are likely to need Robertson to offer an outlet if they are to pull off a surprise.

GettyImages 2156332705


Robertson is key for Scotland (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Group A: Hungary vs Switzerland (Saturday, 2pm BST, 9am ET)

This time last year, Dominik Szoboszlai was still an RB Leipzig player and not on the radar of many Liverpool fans. Fast forward 12 months and the Hungarian midfielder, who moved to Anfield in a £60million deal at the start of July, will be a firm focus.

Szoboszlai’s first few months at Anfield were electric, his all-action performances from central midfield earning him early comparisons to Steven Gerrard. He could seemingly do no wrong. The high expectations he set then felt unsustainable, and so it proved. A drop in form was followed by injury problems and when he returned to action he failed to find rhythm and form, ending the campaign out of the team.

Liverpool will hope a stint with his country, where he is the captain and talisman, will galvanise him ahead of the new club season.

Szoboszlai operates in a more advanced role for Hungary than he did for Jurgen Klopp, which could help Slot determine whether he suits the No 10 role in his preferred 4-2-3-1 system.


How to follow Euro 2024 on The Athletic


Group C: England v Serbia (Sunday, 8pm BST, 3pm ET)

One of Slot’s first key decisions following his switch from leading Dutch club Feyenoord is figuring out whether he wants Trent Alexander-Arnold to continue as a right-back or if he is going to move him into midfield.

The 25-year-old will miss a chunk of pre-season due to his involvement in the Euros — just how much depends on how far England, who are among the favourites, go — so Slot will not have the opportunity to experiment and work with Alexander-Arnold on his role during the earlier friendlies.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Premier League pre-season fixtures ahead of the 2024-25 season

Fortunately, England counterpart Gareth Southgate may provide that insight for him. While his place in the starting XI is not secure, Southgate has used Alexander-Arnold as a midfielder and early indications are that he is likely to start there against Serbia in their group opener on Sunday.

England have been operating with a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1 — the same system Slot used at Feyenoord. It should provide him with some idea of how successful, both in and out of possession, Alexander-Arnold could be in that role for Liverpool. He will also see it in operation against several different types of opponents if England can reach the final stages of the tournament.

GettyImages 2156556045 scaled


Alexander-Arnold is an option in midfield for club and country (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Group D: Poland v Netherlands (Sunday, 2pm BST, 9am ET)

Slot will have a keen interest in the Netherlands’ progress, and not just because they are his homeland. Three of his players are in Ronald Koeman’s squad, including club and country captain Virgil van Dijk.

Pre-tournament injuries in midfield and attack have disrupted Koeman’s preparations and put even greater emphasis on Cody Gakpo‘s role in the team. He ended the campaign for Liverpool in good form, after a mid-season wobble, and looks suited for the No 10 role Slot likes to employ. He can also play further forward.

Ryan Gravenberch could also benefit from the Netherlands’ injury problems, particularly to the Atalanta pair of Marten de Roon and Teun Koopmeiners. Gravenberch’s form suffered at the end of the season, so he may have more to prove to Slot.

If Slot does want the inside track on these players, he need only turn to Sipke Hulshoff, who is joining Liverpool as his assistant manager, having done that job at Feyenoord for the past two seasons. Hulshoff also had a position on the Dutch coaching staff, but quit ahead of the Euros.

Netherlands vs France (Friday, June 21; 8pm BST, 3pm ET)

A mouthwatering game in any context, but with an additional sub-plot of this being a battle of the Liverpool centre-backs – Van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate.

They were not, however, the club’s starting pair by the end of last season.

Konate’s form declined dramatically in the final weeks and he was replaced in the team by youngster Jarell Quansah – the only senior Liverpool centre-back who will not be at these Euros, having been released in the cut from the preliminary squad of 33 to the final 26. Konate will be aiming to answer some of the questions hanging over him at this tournament and show he can be the confident, ball-playing centre-back Slot wants.

The only uncertainty around Van Dijk surrounds his contract situation, which is about to enter its final year. The defender will be 33 by the time the next European champions are crowned on July 14, but showed no signs of regression in an impressive bounce-back season.

His status with the Netherlands has not always matched his presence at Liverpool, but there is no doubt that if Koeman’s side are to go a long way in this tournament, Van Dijk will be key.

GettyImages 2155606367 scaled


Ibrahima Konate needs to rediscover his form (Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/AFP via Getty Images)

Group F: Portugal vs Czech Republic (Tuesday, June 18; 8pm BST, 3pm ET)

From a Liverpool perspective, the main aim for Diogo Jota is not to win the Golden Boot or lift the trophy – it is to leave the tournament injury-free.

Not for the first time, their Portuguese forward’s season was repeatedly disrupted by fitness problems and his absence was felt towards its finale when other attackers’ performance levels dropped.

How much he features may depend on the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who is now 39 and playing his club football in Saudi Arabia but has been rejuvenated under new Portugal manager Roberto Martinez after a disappointing 2022 World Cup. A supporting role, with cameos from the bench, is not what Jota will want, but it would reduce his injury risk. Importantly, he is back among the goals, scoring two in Portugal’s three pre-Euros warm-up matches.

Jota will not be the only Liverpool player involved in this one in Leipzig, with reserve goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros part of the Czech setup. Only injuries are likely to give him a chance of playing in these Euros and that may be his role for the club next season, too.

The 22-year-old has just finished a very successful six-month loan to Sturm Graz, where he won the Austrian league and cup double. With Adrian mulling over his options after being offered a new contract, the third-choice goalkeeper spot for the new coaching staff may be up for grabs.

Jaros qualifies as a homegrown player having signed for Liverpool in 2017, which works in his favour, and he now has first-team experience – and the opportunity to learn more from Alisson and Caoimhin Kelleher.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

The Radar – The Athletic’s 50 players to watch at Euro 2024

(Top photos: Getty Images)



Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top