The Major Influence of Liverpool’s Academy in Their Title Push – TechVerdant

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Liverpool’s academy has provided the spark that Jurgen Klopp’s men have needed at various stages this season. In light of injuries and lack of depth in positions, especially, in their defence, their academy graduates have stepped up with big performances to take the Reds over the line.

Liverpool’s Academy Has Played a Pivotal Role in Their Title Challenge

Watch: The Domino Effect Ruining Football

Why the Academy is a Pivotal Squad-Development Tool

Teams that are expected to be at the top of the table are often balancing a pendulum between nourishing the young talents within their academy and looking to achieve immediate success. After all, the patience of clubs is perhaps at an all-time low and even project managers need results with relative immediacy.

Unfortunately, for youth prospects, this can lead to anxiety or lack of courage from coaches to field them. Add on top of this, the growing financial resource pool of top clubs, if any gaps in their squad prevents them from silverware – the simple solution is, to sign a top player. However, Liverpool’s academy has been a major pillar in their success this season.

Read More: ‘For Sure’: Liverpool Set to Face Major Interest for ‘Incredible’ Forward in Summer Transfer Window

Liverpool’s success this season seems fresh. Perhaps, because it was unexpected. With the lack of a holding midfielder, and a defensive line-up that struggled last season and looked to lack depth, it was not expected that the Reds would be front-runners to lift the Premier League at this stage of the season.

However, in Jurgen Klopp, they have a manager who is willing to back his players to the ultimate ends and in doing so also back some of his youngest players. That’s why it’s fresh. While the Merseyside team still conducted a significant transfer overhaul in the summer to revamp their midfield, a major part of their success has to be credited to Liverpool’s academy.

The Emergence of Curtis Jones

The evolution of Curtis Jones into a top-tier Premier League midfielder feels as good as a new signing. On current form, if Jurgen Klopp and Pep Ljinders are to select their midfield, Curtis Jones’ would be the first name on the teamsheet. He has been a crucial part of their pressing resurgence and has been equally crucial in their build-up, often rotating deep to help the pivot midfielders and ball-playing centre-backs.

His origins? The Liverpool Academy, before being given a massive opportunity and leap of faith by the coaching staff in 2018 by beginning to integrate him into the first team.

The case study of Curtis Jones is a great advocate for youth player integration within the first team. A player that was integrated into the first team at the age of 17, took five years to provide any form of substantial consistency. It feels like a long time in football. The upside is, he is only 22. That is a huge upside. He is nowhere near his peak, and with the depth that the six-time Champions League winners have at the number 8 role, they aren’t heavily dependent on him to play every game, even though every Anfield fan would want him on the pitch every minute.

Read More: Liverpool’s Unique Transfer Strategy

In an alternate universe, it could have truly been possible that the young English midfielder was not integrated into the squad until he got into his twenties, and after a mediocre first season, a manager may have lost faith in him. The point of youth integration within the first team should not always be performances in the short-term, it should be to provide the footballer with the necessary education to reach consistent levels of performance in the preceding years.

Let me remind you, current superstar and vice-captain Trent Alexander-Arnold is a product of the academy.

In terms of Liverpool’s academy talents, Curtis Jones is not the main headline for Liverpool this season. The emergence of Jarell Quansah and Conor Bradley, particularly, the centre-back has provided the defence with depth that is keeping them afloat in the title race. With Joel Matip injured for the season, Andrew Robertson injured for most of the first half of the season, and Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ibrahima Konate having a couple of injury spells, the Liverpool defence wouldn’t have coped without a signing. Funnily, they didn’t make a signing.

In the summer, the consensus was that the Premier League leaders required a left-sided centre-back to fit into a back three when they formed their box-midfield. The German manager has since seemed to discard that strategy, with Liverpool’s use of Trent Alexander-Arnold as an inverted full-back within a box midfield slightly more nuanced. However, regardless, of this, it was felt a defensive signing was needed. After all, they did not want a recap of the 2020/21 season.

Jarell Quansah Stepping up in Others’ Absence

Quansah and Liverpool feel like a match made in heaven. His defensive profile perfectly suits what his manager requires in his centre-backs. A towering presence, ball-playing abilities, great reading and governing of space, the ability to win duels and step up in a high line.

While it is not clear if he has intentionally been coached into playing this style, it could certainly well be true. Another strength of academy integration as opposed to new signings is that in their development as a player, the Academy talent can be educated and coached to mould their profile towards the needs of the First Team.

It would be unfair to say that the young centre-backs ability is merely a product of coaching. His physical build cannot be coached. His ball-playing abilities seem natural too, showing glimpses of better line-breaking abilities than even Liverpool’s first-choice centre-backs. Admittedly, Klopp didn’t expect the twenty-one-year-old to be part of the first-team plans this season, a testament to his talent, skill and rapid development.

Read More: Liverpool’s ‘Big Six’ Problem

Theoretically, the English defender should only continue to grow in stature as a player. As he gets exposed to tougher levels, has to deal with a more consistent game load and the stress that comes with that, as his tactical and game IQ develops, he could evolve into a monster. Scary.

Conor Bradley: The Latest Success Story

“He will probably fall asleep in the dressing room”. These were the words of the German manager after Liverpool’s first-leg win over Fulham in the Carabao Cup Semi-Finals, another come-back win. The Northern Irish youngster was given his big break in front of the Anfield fans, owing to an injury to their vice-captain against Arsenal in the FA Cup.

The opportunity didn’t phase him in any way. Why should it? He had just dealt with Gabriel Martinelli in front of a rocking Emirates stadium in a game where Arsenal had dominated the Reds for the first 45 minutes and Martinelli had troubled Alexander-Arnold himself.

Martinelli had around 5 opportunities in isolation against Bradley and not once did he get past the right-back. Almost always, the Northern Irish defender would follow the game plan of shaping his body position to show the Brazilian winger inside, where there would be cover, leading Martinelli to pass the ball. Arsenal’s attack dried, Liverpool pounced at the other end and they got themselves a memorable victory away from home.

Bradley is another blessing to the Merseyside team. He is emblematic of a typical Klopp full-back. Immense work rate, is eager to make vertical runs down the flank, not afraid to use his physicality. Remind anyone of a Scottish full-back on the opposite flank?

If the young full-back does develop his crossing game to anywhere near the extent of Andy Robertson, then it might be too enticing for Liverpool’s coach next season to perhaps tuck Trent Alexander-Arnold permanently into midfield, and increase the fluidity down their right-hand side with their talented full-back.

Read More: Conor Bradley Shines Against Chelsea

A key facet of the development of young talents is their loan spells. Conor Bradley’s loan spell at Bolton was a revelation to the Liverpool fans of how skilled he truly is, perhaps, it was even a revelation to himself. He was one of the brightest lights in pre-season and could’ve played much more if it wasn’t for an unfortunate injury. At Bolton last season, the twenty-year-old won Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year, and the Players’ Player of the Year. Pretty good.

As Jurgen Klopp departs Liverpool, many will appreciate him for the results he achieved. However, one of the biggest imprints he will leave on the football club is the number of young players that he has integrated from Liverpool’s academy and how they have subsequently blossomed under his coaching.

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