Talk of new signings has seen less light shed on some of Liverpool’s current stars, but a new role has emerged that could provide a turning point for Curtis Jones.
Consecutive Premier League wins since the end of the World Cup has helped create positivity in Liverpool’s chase for the top four, with the Reds producing positive numbers in terms of chance creation.
Jürgen Klopp has managed to do that without Diogo Jota and Luis Diáz, but while he hasn’t completely abandoned his favoured structure, Liverpool have played the last two games with two up front — carving a new role in the side that could help players on the fringes garner more first-team football.
Curtis Jones is one of them, having made just two starts this season in a battle for fitness early on in the campaign. Deployed on the left flank against Napoli, as well as in a deeper midfield role against Nottingham Forest, Klopp doesn’t seem to have found his best place just yet — instead opting to utilise his versatility where possible.
For some, Jones still has some convincing to do, but after signing a new long-term deal at the club this season, it is clear that Klopp sees a role for him to play in the side. In the middle of a period where some of Liverpool’s newer prospects are shining in Stefan Bajcetic and Ben Doak, fans can be quick to re-write what they see as the future of the squad — forgetting the contributions that current prospects have made so far.
With time remaining before Jota and Díaz will be back in the squad, Klopp is likely to utilise that kind of left-sided number 10 position more frequently. More centrally, it looks to be a role tailor-made for Roberto Firmino, and while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was unable to make an impact in the clashes against Aston Villa and Leicester City, he did pick up some promising positions: ones that Curtis Jones could profit from.
He has impressed before in advanced areas, with his days throughout his time at the academy seeing him deployed as one of the stars who was given the freedom to influence games. And in a system that would see Darwin Núñez and Mohamed Salah leading the line ahead of him, there will be plenty of space for him to operate in.
Set to turn 22 later this month, Jones is yet to find his best role as a senior professional, but that could be seen as a positive as much as a downfall. A more settled position would make things easier, but in a squad among world-class players, versatility can create the level of longevity that James Milner has enjoyed.
There is often little evidence of patience in football, though now is the time to show that with Jones, who is too often compared to the likes of Phil Foden among other players who have excelled at a quicker rate at a similar age group. In the number 10 role, Jones could finally show his worth — even if that is as a player who will play on a rotational basis behind the likes of Cody Gakpo.
As shown with Núñez, it can take time to adapt to top-level football. Once Jones finds his ideal role, Liverpool will reap the rewards of one of their brightest academy talents in recent years.