Is Ben Woodburn a first-team Liverpool player this season?


Is Ben Woodburn a first-team Liverpool player this season?

Ben Woodburn might actually be in Liverpool’s first-team this season. Just what could the 21-year-old bring to the Reds?

We’d written off Ben Woodburn ever being a first-team Liverpool player. We said as much at the back end of last season – that seemed entirely reasonable.

After all, Woodburn is now 21 and struggled on loan with the likes of Oxford United and Blackpool. What real use could he ever be to Liverpool?

Well, we were very, very wrong. It appears Woodburn might actually be a part of Liverpool’s first team this season.

The Athletic reports that they don’t want him to leave, while Pep Lijnders says he ‘has an Anfield future’.

So what, exactly, could Woodburn bring?

Ben Woodburn in the Liverpool first-team

The key here is to look at exactly what Liverpool are praising Woodburn for. For instance, take this from Jurgen Klopp after the Osasuna game.

“He played in the pre-season I think four, five, six, seven positions,” said the boss. “[He] played right-back, did really well, played midfield, did really well, played the wing, did really well, played No.9, did really well. So that’s good.”

Couple that with Lijnders’ praise and it’s clear what Liverpool like about Woodburn.

“The energy he brings to the team is exactly what we stand for,” says Lijnders. “Football smart, a good mover and he unbalances the opposition constantly with the ball but also with his movement off it.”

Work rate, intelligent movement and versatility. The Athletic’s report from Tuesday also mentions how Woodburn stands out in training and helps to ‘raise the level’ of sessions.

Perhaps, then, Woodburn has found his niche in this squad. Liverpool can use him to plug gaps, trust him to stay disciplined, and guarantee effort levels on the pitch.

Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

We’re not sure his technical ability matches up but it’s similar to how Klopp used Adam Lallana in the squad. Liverpool could plug him into different roles to boost pressing and movement.

That, in turn, raises teammates’ levels, too. That made Lallana a very useful player and, before his injuries, he was once a key starter.

Now, as we say, we’re not sure Woodburn has the technical skills to deliver what Lallana could. But in a reduced role? That might tempt Klopp and co. to keep him around.

Having someone who you can trust to play pretty much anywhere and to do the unfashionable stuff? That’s a rare player, especially if he’s also ‘football smart’ as Lijnders says.

And at 21, Woodburn should only get better and better at this stuff. It still feels like a long-shot but maybe he’s got a shot.

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