Paul Spillane takes a look at what lies ahead for Sheyi Ojo, with the youngster doing well in his return from injury.
Last night Sheyi Ojo completed his first 90 minutes of football since his untimely injury lay-off back in the summer as Liverpool U23s drew 1-1 with West Brom. The result may not have been ideal, yet Ojo still managed to grab an assist on his return and it was a welcome sight to see the young midfielder back in action.
It has been a difficult time for Ojo this season, initially being sidelined back in pre-season with a stress fracture in the back, and since then has faced a lengthy time away from the team.
Arriving on Merseyside back in 2011 from MK Dons, Ojo’s talents have been honed through the Academy, developing into a promising attacking winger. Since then, the gifted 19-year-old has given fans a small taste of the talent he possesses.
Klopp proved towards the tail end of last season that he was willing to give youth a chance to impress in the league when priority switched to European ambition. Fans will all remember his first goal, coming on his Anfield debut in the FA Cup against Exeter. Ojo collected the ball from Ibe, cut inside and curled a sumptuous effort into the top corner. In terms of debut goals, they don’t come much better than that!
Ojo went on to make eight appearances in the league, highlighting his promise with some dazzling displays, including a great assist for Sturridge on the way to a thumping 4-1 win against Stoke. Thus, as the season drew to a close, it was no surprise that fans were eager to see what the pacey wide man would do next.
I was very saddened to hear about his injury as who knows how high up the pecking order he might’ve been if he had featured in pre-season.
Already this season, Klopp has once more given the youngsters the opportunity to impress, with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ovie Ejaria and Ben Woodburn all benefitting from the experience of first-team action in the EFL Cup. Surely had Ojo been match ready, then he too would have been a feature in these games.
Yet, it isn’t all doom and gloom in terms of his immediate chances to feature in the team once again. The deeply saddening news of Coutinho’s untimely injury lay-off, and with Mane off to the AFCON in next month, could potentially open the door for Ojo if he is fit enough to play. We will certainly be left exposed in terms of cover out wide and despite having players who can adapt to that position, we would arguably lose the fluidity and momentum we have built playing a particular way this season.
Klopp may want to dive into the transfer market and I, like much of our fan base, would welcome a new attacking option to the squad, however, I believe Ojo has the pace, skill and bullish physicality which makes him the ideal backup to Mane.
Although he is yet to fully show the Anfield faithful what he can do, the gifted 19-year-old remains one of the brightest prospects at the club. Breaking into the starting XI will be quite the task, seeing as the first team virtually picks itself at this moment in time. Yet if Ojo is patient, keeps his head down in training and produces some eye-catching performances for the U23s, then there is no telling what the second half of the season may bring.