Enough about the first team players for a minute. We all know how good the likes of Coutinho, Lallana, Mane, Firmino and Milner are but who has impressed Jack Hallows this season out of our youngsters?
Something I absolutely love about having Jürgen Klopp as our manager is we get to see the quality across all levels of our club. With Brendan Rodgers at the helm the Reds seemed to only ever have a Plan A and while certain youngsters were given one or two games here or there, it seemed as if there was no confidence in the Academy players or anyone who wasn’t in the first XI for that matter.
The German, on the other hand, has brought through a number of young players since his arrival and while some have had more success than others, there’s a general feeling of positivity surrounding our stars of the future with Klopp and his staff bringing them through. Here are the players I’m most excited about seeing progress over the next couple of years.
Now I know Gomez was a Rodgers signing and originally Rodgers brought him into the first team set-up, throwing him in the deep end at Stoke on opening day 2015/16 but there is a real feeling that he’ll go one step further under Klopp. Fielded as a right footed left back by Rodgers, Klopp has recognised that the 19-year-old’s pace, height, newfound strength and passing ability provide him with all of the necessary qualities to be a success at centre-half in a Jürgen Klopp set up.
The former Charlton youngster stands at 6 foot 2 and is almost reminiscent of a younger, less lanky version of Jöel Matip. His return from injury against Plymouth in the first leg was met with huge approval and he was one of the standouts in the second leg as well. Give it another season or two and we may have a very special young centre back on our hands.
Full back has never been a particularly strong position for Liverpool, especially in terms of depth but with Alexander-Arnold deputising for Nathaniel Clyne, there is certainly huge reason for optimism. The 18-year-old was given a chance in pre-season, catching the eye with his pace and positional awareness and has grown immensely in the six months since.
Given his chance originally in the League Cup, Trent’s maturity defensively is outstanding for his age while he played an absolute beauty of a cross for Divock Origi’s opener against Leeds. He was given a run around at times by Anthony Martial against Manchester United on his full Premier League debut but considering he’s only 18 and was playing his first full league game at Old Trafford of all places, he genuinely didn’t have a bad evening.
At 18 years old, he already looks a more assured option at the back than Alberto Moreno while his passing range is incredibly impressive – likely a byproduct of his time playing at right midfield in Liverpool’s U23 setup.
I’m highlighting Ojo because I genuinely believe this lad has so much natural talent and while he’s been slated a little of late for two below par performances against Plymouth, it’s worth remembering he was out injured for four months. The pacy winger was superb at times last season, popping up in sporadic Premier League games during the rotation of Liverpool’s latter Europa League run in and never looked out of his depth. His crossing, in particular, caught my eye and assists at Anfield for Sturridge against Stoke and Christian Benteke against Chelsea were real highlights.
With Mane at AFCON it’s likely he’ll get a handful of opportunities – especially from the bench and in the next FA Cup tie against Wolves – to hopefully show what he’s truly made of. What is that you ask? Pace, an impressive left foot and lots of direct running.
Wouldn’t be an academy article without a mention for Woodburn, would it? While some may argue that Ejaria is the more exciting prospect, I’m inclined to lean towards Woodburn because, for me, I love forwards. I love a goalscorer who can play central, drift in from wide areas, use both feet and who just knows where the goal is and how to find it. Woodburn has all of that in abundance. The Welshman isn’t your typical “striker” in the sense that Sturridge or Origi are strikers and in fact has been said to prefer a left-sided role where he can drift inside and ghost into space.
Despite this preference for a wider role, Woodburn possesses a clean, intelligent and deadly finish and I guarantee you that if you get on YouTube and watch a compilation of some of his U23 goals you won’t be disappointed. Or of course, if you’re still not convinced, you can watch him thump home against Leeds or score a hatful of goals for the first team in pre-season. Your choice.
Of course, I can’t fit everyone into this article. Ejaria looks a real classy and solid option, Ryan Kent and Harry Wilson both look exciting and explosive prospects while Cameron Brannagan has become somewhat a forgotten man but still possesses talent in abundance. The future of Liverpool looks bright and while exciting prospects don’t always go to plan, if Jürgen Klopp can get the best out of even just two of these players, he will providing his squad with an immense boost.