As reliable as VAR, clubs around the globe have had relatively active holidays in an ambiguous transfer market, none so more than in the English top division, as teams look to bridge the gap created by Guardiola’s Man City and Klopp’s Liverpool FC. The former having already strengthened although as many have digressed, not replacing the chasm left by the departure of Vincent Kompany, may come back to haunt them.
Liverpool however have only made two additions, but at the tender ages of 16 and 17 both Harvey Elliot and Sepp Van Den Burg, may not be the senior squad reinforcements many LFC fans have made acutely imperative. But Jürgen Klopp has promised the kids a say in the backup positions in the senior squad.
Not only keeping the clubs spending in line with regulations that are more suited for use in a food bank – as well as so far only purchasing youth – but also promoting from the youth teams the next wave of promising talent that Klopp and LFC have carefully assembled, nurtured and mentored.
Playing in the same style for their respected youth teams as the senior squad the likes of Rhian Brewster – injured for one season, and only now showing the determinative drive that Klopp highly values, with 4 goals in as many games during pre-season. His movement, acceleration and shooting prowess evidently on display in the first few games.
Harry Wilson and Ryan Kent both on loan last season, with Wilson bagging 16 goals and 6 assists last season in the Championship with Derby County, playing predominantly on the right wing where he likes to cut in, a strong dribbler and finisher who also has a penchant for world class free kicks and can play across the front, has showed his class in pre-season – undoubtedly his 20yard left foot screamer in the final pre-season game brought a smile to Klopp’s face.
His only weaknesses being aerial duels and tackling (whoscored.com) a mainstay of Klopp’s philosophy and easily instilled.
Kent who was on loan at Rangers FC last season scoring 6 with 4 assists from an attacking midfield role, which also saw him collect young Scottish player of the year as voted by fellow professionals. Enjoys dribbling, passing and shooting from distance (whoscored.com),relishing the support striker role – as a buccaneering Steven Gerrard once did – with only an emphasis on aerial duels being his weakness. Klopp has stressed they would not be loaned out again so the ball is at the respective players feet as to whether they can force their way into the senior squad
Yasser Larouci, left wing and Paul Glatzel CF, the latter off the back of a 58 goal partnership with Bobby Duncan for the U 18’s last season, have both had injuries during the opening games of pre-season. Larouci appearing again in the last pre-season game, has been a constant and reliable threat on the left flanks.
The likes of Nathaniel Phillips (CB), and Curtis Jones (midfield) have left the senior squad, but in no way can that be a slight on their part, with Jürgen Klopp’s emphasis on not having too big a squad for the remainder of the pre-season as senior players return from their holidays. Curtis Jones seemed to excel in his midfield position during pre-season, appearing in advanced positions and constantly demanding the ball, Phillips as with Jones are both vying for positions already filled with more world class talent than the forward and wider positions. Ben Woodburn being the only youth player called into the senior pre-season squad has been loaned out to Oxford United for the 2019/20 season.
This has whittled down the number of youth players involved for the remainder of the senior pre-season squad, Sepp Van den berg has only had a few minutes against Napoli as did Harvey Elliot. Having seen Elliot making his debut for Fulham last season, as expected he demanded the ball on the right, looked to exchange passes and exploit gaps, seeming older than the 16 years he has, with the ability to showcase his talents in the last game of pre-season, his positioning, skill and proclivity to take on players shows he has been able to bring his game to the big leagues.
The lofty Van den bergs last game did not warrant enough time to showcase his ability but from previous experience, his height, ability to read the game and defend on the back foot is a very welcome sight – Dejan Lovren beware. Being new arrivals and not indebted to the systems Liverpool play, it can be honest of Klopp to continue including and using them with the senior squad, prior to the beginning of the season. It will again be down to the individual if they can stake a claim.
As mentioned Larouci was extremely lively, with evidence of his beginnings as a left winger on show even though he is playing for the backup to Andy Robertson at left back. It was his energetic and fearless nature that brought about the scything tackle that made him miss the last couple of games. Only to return as a constant threat with his pace and guile in the last game of pre-season.
Ki-Jana Hoever who has played for the senior squad last season and Adam Lewis are still involved as minutes where handed to both in the last pre-season game. Hoever was more than a deputy for Arnold, gaining an assist and showing the same tenacity, endeavour and will to fit seamlessly into the senior squad.
Lewis who originally started life out as a Left back has been pushed more central due to the emergence of Larouci, also staking a claim with the same effortless adjustment to LFC style of football that all of Klopp’s kids are showing. His reading of the game, range of distribution and ability to make piercing runs into opposition territory are true evidence of his captaincy role for the U23’s.
Bobby Duncan, the strike foil of Paul Glatzel last season for the U18’s earned an assist in the last game and was able to hold the front line with Wilson and Elliot. His prolific rise from Cardinal Heenan School where he plundered 24 goals in one season, also smashing the schoolboy record for goals.
After continuing his rise at Man city where limited opportunities saw him switch to LFC, he formed a lethal 58 goal partnership with Paul Glatzel last season for the U18’s. His passing, running with the ball and vision put him ahead of most at youth level, quick witted and footed, he will always raise his head for options.
A lot of LFC fans want Klopp to sign big again this season, throwing money at a squad year in year out whilst neglecting emerging talent from within, why? In 1995 Sir Alex Ferguson got rid of a few senior players and gave 5 academy players a chance to play in the senior squad. Beckham, the Neville brothers, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes never looked back. The blend of old heads like Keane, Pallister, Irwin and Mclair with youth brought unprecedented success for many a year.
The way LFC have played for the last 2 seasons which has been doctrine through the academy teams is not the business model of a pre Madonna PSG or temper tantrum Real Madrid. Who’s players, fans, management staff and owners appear to have their own individual figments of total football descending into total madness.
We have world class players through the spine of the team on the flanks and a front three who are just on another level to anything on this planet. Understudy does not mean like for like, each of the aforementioned youth talent have brought their own unique talents, playing with the same principles as the senior front three, if you want a Mane or Salah replacement learn how to clone.
Grass roots and youth football, is something at the foundations of all footballing nations, if given the chance is a blueprint for the future of all dominant and successful teams, as long as there is a manger and club who will believe in them, just as Ferguson did so many decades ago – which Klopp does – then the abundance of young talent used this pre-season means LFC will make an even stronger claim to winning their first league title since 89/90, but also look to compete at the highest level on all fronts for many years to come.
The last pre-season game saw a full 28 man squad, with ample and reliable backup in key positions. None of Klopp’s youth players will need the bedding in period that Kieta, Fabinho and the Ox required and yes with youth comes a lack of senior experience but an abundant of talent, hunger and fearlessness that shrouds the lack of first team experience these kids have, but are sure to gain in this coming season.