Liverpool sit just sixth in the Premier League and Jurgen Klopp opted to run the rule over Curtis Jones playing for the under-21s.
After another disappointing result in what’s been a stuttering season, Jurgen Klopp is desperate for solutions. Liverpool‘s manager will undoubtedly be at pains to remedy the current woes and finally oversee a consistent run of results.
Klopp doesn’t need reminding of his side’s position in the Premier League table. He doesn’t require being told of the Herculean task it may take to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League for a seven successive campaign.
The Reds have dropped points in more top-flight games (nine) than they have won (eight). Form has faltered – and so have performances. Bar in the Champions League, Liverpool have scarcely convinced throughout 2022-23. Last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Wolves in the FA Cup third round was another lacklustre performance. A controversial offside decision saved the Reds from crashing out of the competition.
After the game, Klopp rued the lack of challenges that his troops made. The midfield frailties were stark. Fabinho, Liverpool’s police enforcer who’s been an instrument figure at Anfield, made just a solitary tackle. What’s more, captain Jordan Henderson didn’t make a single challenge, according to WhoScored stats.
Marked improvements are required when the Reds travel to the upwardly mobile Brighton this weekend. After Klopp conducted his post-match Wolves duties, his focus would have turned towards the changes required for the Amex Stadium encounter.
And rather than taking the following day to rejuvenate himself, the Liverpool boss opted to run the rule over the under-21s at the club’s AXA Training Centre.
In truth, Klopp likely wouldn’t have made the 11-mile journey from his Formby home to the Kirkby part of the city had Curtis Jones not been playing. But for minutes and precious match action, the midfielder dropped down to represent the age group he once mesmerised for. As homegrown, local players go, perhaps in recent years, only Trent Alexander-Arnold has ranked higher in terms of potential.
However, those days are long behind Jones. He’s made 82 appearances for his boyhood club – with 50 in the Premier League. That’s a total not to be dismissed. Jones isn’t even 22 yet. It’s easy to forget how young he is given the time he’s spent around the first team.
However, Jones has managed only eight outings this term, having struggled with a tibia issue. After missing the opening two-and-a-half months of the campaign, Jones was seemingly troubled with the problem again during the warm-weather training camp in Dubai while the World Cup was ongoing. He did not feature in either friendly against Lyon or AC Milan.
Jones made his return to action off the bench in last week’s 3-1 loss at Brentford after missing the previous three games following the restart of the season. And rather than being named among the substitutes against Wolves, he was given a 45-minute cameo for the under-21s in a 2-0 loss against Tottenham the following day.
Indeed, Klopp watched from the sidelines along with elite development coach Vitor Matos. While summer signing Calvin Ramsay also started – and was sent off in the 23rd minute – and exciting youngsters such as Ben Doak and Bobby Clark played, Klopp left the game once Jones was withdrawn, per The Athletic. That decision was telling that the German’s mission was specifically to watch Jones
Under-21s boss Barry Lewtas told The Athletic: “It was just to give him minutes. Curt has been unbelievably unfortunate with injuries and sometimes it’s just a good opportunity to get the shirt on.
“There’s nothing like a game. It’s not Anfield, but putting the kit on and playing against people who want to tackle and chase you, you can’t replicate that sometimes. For Curt, it was always an idea of he was only going to get 45 (minutes) and it was just a really good chance for him to run around and blow some of the cobwebs off.”
Klopp has dismissed that Liverpool’s problems are just in midfield despite severe scrutiny on that area of the pitch in particular. Still, the clamour from Kopites for Klopp to his improve his engine room – whether that’s Jude Bellingham, Matheus Nunes, Moises Caicedo or any of the other umpteen players linked – will continue throughout the January transfer window.
But, in truth, a new arrival looks unlikely this month Liverpool have already splashed out £37 million for Cody Gakpo and Klopp has insisted that he ‘cannot play like Monpoloy’. The answers have to come from within his current squad.
Klopp has spoken of his admiration for Jones on numerous occasions. His assistant manager, Pep Lijnders, previously lauded Jones as a ‘physical machine’ who gives Liverpool ‘risk’. Certainly, the Reds could do with both of those qualities during their predicament.
Naby Keita impressed off the bench against Wolves in his 22-minute cameo. He’s proven an enigma during his time at Anfield but cannot be ignored heading to Brighton. And perhaps Jones is also in Klopp’s thoughts