Jurgen Klopp showed just how much belief he has in Curtis Jones with his selection vs Ajax. The teenager clearly has the trust of his boss.
We wrote ahead of Liverpool vs Ajax that a Curtis Jones start would seriously highlight his progress. He got that start, too – but it meant even more than we thought.
Jurgen Klopp started Jones in midfield alongside Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum. All normal there – they’re effectively the only fit midfielders at the club.
Jones is the most-attacking of the three, of course. He’s the one with the license to push forward and attack the box, leaving the covering to Henderson and Wijnaldum.
And that’s a particularly interesting setup given the rest of Klopp’s team.
Liverpool started with a front-three of Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah. It’s a lethal trio full of goals but lacks Roberto Firmino.
Firmino is the link with the midfield, the one who drops and picks the ball up, allowing Liverpool to build quickly in pockets of space.
Without him, the Reds have an incredibly direct forward line, all looking to run in behind and score goals. The link to midfield, then, is solely Jones.
That’s a huge amount of pressure on a teenager in his first senior season. Especially as Liverpool need a win to get out of the group with a game to spare.
It nearly paid off inside the first ten minutes, too. Jones took no time at all to force a save from the goalkeeper and thunder a second shot of the post. He’s undoubtedly a threat from midfield.
But we know how highly Klopp rates Jones. He described him as ‘exceptional’ as a youth-product. Then just last week he said Jones plays like someone with far more experience.
Tuesday’s team selection was a fine example of all that. Klopp trusts Jones to operate a key role on his own already.
This is a player, then, who could go incredibly far under the Liverpool boss. He’s nowhere near his peak, after all.