Paul Spillane discusses what the remainder of the 2016/17 season holds for Kevin Stewart.
I was fortunate enough to be at the game last night, watching on as the reds booked their spot in the last eight of the EFL Cup with a deserved but hard-fought victory over Spurs.
Personally, the game started off a bit flat, with it taking most of the first half for the players to really settle down and find their rhythm, however, after the break, we were much more dangerous going forward, held the ball up more efficiently and looked a much more settled and solid outfit as a team. Whilst it was a good all-round performance from the lads, I was particularly drawn to the performance of one Kevin Stewart.
Playing in his favoured defensive midfield role, Stewart was neat and tidy in possession and looked very assured in dealing with any threats Spurs made on the counter. There were times when his passing was off the boil, but on the whole, Stewart kept the game ticking over nicely in midfield.
It was another solid showing from the former Spurs man, with the boss even naming him our best tackler.
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“He was good, very good. He is very important. I’ve said it a few times, he is the best challenger in the squad. An outstanding challenger – one on one situations, he is really ugly to play against. He is a good footballer as well. A good player and a good game.”
A strong performance from the silent midfield assassin.
I will be the first to admit that I never expected Stewart to be in the position he is now. Last season, he featured as part of a make-shift midfield when the fixture list piled up over the winter months. Fast-forward to this season and Stewart has played an important role for Liverpool, without necessarily being a feature name for the first team.
Klopp has demonstrated his faith in the young midfielder. With some fine showings in pre-season, Stewart has shown his capabilities as a worthy deputy in the central defensive midfield role. Making substitute appearances against Arsenal, Spurs, Leicester and Chelsea, Stewart has had the opportunity to showcase his capabilities in midfield and help to see the games out.
There will, however, be stumbling-blocks for Stewart this season. By now Liverpool is becoming increasingly associated with playing a unique high-tempo attacking game, making us one of the most exciting teams to watch in the Premier League. In terms of squad ranking, Stewart arguably remains behind Emre Can in terms of breaking into the first-team, which will prove more and more difficult now the German is back after injury and has impressed on his return to the action.
Therefore, would a loan move in January be something on the cards for Stewart?
At 23 years old, he is a few years older and more experienced than the rest of Liverpool’s youngsters looking to make a name for themselves. In my view, he has the grit and determination to flourish in the Championship, where he would gain valuable experience and further enhance his trade.
Whether such a move materialises or not remains in question, and Stewart himself has expressed desire to remain at the club, along with outlining his thoughts on the season ahead in an interview with former red Jason McAteer a couple of months back. The young midfielder spoke with confidence and is upbeat on his chances to shine at Liverpool.
“I’ll always believe I can make it. It’s just a matter of [giving it] time”.
From what we have already seen from our players, this promises to be an intriguing and highly gripping season for the club. The absence of European football will perhaps impinge Stewart’s chances of regular first team action, however, there is still plenty of optimism for the young midfielder.
With some fine showings in pre-season, along with some very accomplished performances coming off the bench acting as Klopp’s go-to man when seeing games out, I fully expect the former Spurs man to stay a feature for the senior squad.
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