Football News: Liverpool FC u23's - The 'wonder-kids' & The 'maybes'

 

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Liverpool FC u23's - The 'wonder-kids' & The 'maybes'
Image from: talksport.com

In light of the recent success from the England youth sides, some of Liverpool's younger prospects have been under the spotlight; those who have been signed from other clubs, and those who came through the impressive Kirkby academy.

Everybody has their own opinions on who will make the cut. The obvious talents who get the most attention are Rhian Brewster, Ben Woodburn, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Dominic Solanke. I wouldn't go as far to say they are guaranteed to be a success, but they are all highly regarded, and expected to succeed to some extent at Anfield; the apparent 'wonder-kids'.

Rhian Brewster.

Brewster is a goal machine. Recently scoring 8 goals to claim the golden boot in the u17's World Cup. That tally included two hattricks against USA and Brazil, as well as the first England goal in the final which sparked the remarkable comeback. It's hard to say he was the difference that won England the tournament, because Manchester City's Phil Foden was arguably better, but Brewster was vital to the teams success.

Brewster is regarded by some as the best player in the Liverpool academy, and his stock will have risen exponentially in the last few weeks. It is only a matter of time before he gets a shot in the first team, to be honest.

Ben Woodburn.

Woodburn is harder to classify as a player. He can play as a winger, a midfielder, or a striker. His balance, technique and intelligence is beautiful to watch though. His displays at senior level so far suggest that he is already good enough to be playing at the highest level, but Klopp is doing a good job of managing him so he stays grounded.

Woodburn already has his first competitive goals for club and country though and has been nicknamed "The Prince of Wales". No pressure then...

Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Alexander-Arnold is another who it is difficult to nail to one position. He is currently playing right back, but is equally adept in midfield and on the wing. Like Woodburn, he also has his first senior goals already, both in the Champions League for Liverpool.

Name dropped in Steven Gerrard's book, and seen by some as a future captain, Arnold is a special talent. I really cannot see him staying a right back forever. He is just too good going forward.



Joe Gomez.

Gomez could play a few positions long term, but he looks destined to become a centre back. Comfortable in either full back role or holding midfield, he just has that calming influence and composure that says he will be marshalling Liverpool and England's defence one day. His ability on the ball coupled with his defensive awareness is impressive for someone who is still only 20 years old.

Gomez has been part of Liverpool's first team for over a year, and he has now been called up to England seniors which he described as an "honour". Best of luck to him.

Dominic Solanke.

Finally, Dominic Solanke. A brute of a centre forward who can score all types of goals. He was nominated for the European golden boy award, and took the player of the tournament accolade whilst away with the recently victorious England u20's.

Solanke actually has the least hype of the five players mentioned, but is probably the most likely of all of them to succeed at the highest level at this moment in time. He knows who he is as a player, and he is physically ready. All he needs is game time now.

It would be lovely if all five of these players could go on to be successful at Liverpool, but let's not forget about Jordan Ibe, who was supposed to be better than Raheem Sterling. Oh dear. Even the 'wonder-kids' can leave you wondering 'what went wrong?'.

This brings me to my next discussion point. Sometimes, it is the players who aren't expected to succeed who do. Perhaps without that weight of expectation around their necks, they feel they can express themselves more. So who are Liverpool's 'maybe' players?

Harry Wilson.

First off is the nearly forgotten Wilson. He became the youngest Wales international ever, and then disappeared for 4 years. Fast forward over those years of obscurity though and he is now banging in goals left, right and centre for the Liverpool u23's. Wilson has scored over 30 goals in the last year, from the wing. He was also Liverpool u23 captain for last season.

So if he is playing so well, and was entrusted with the armband in a team that included Mamadou Sakho, Thiago Illori and Danny Ings last year, why is he not getting a look in? Honestly, i couldn't tell you. If i had to guess, maybe he is being protected from the hype. After it went to his head last time when he debuted for Wales seniors, it is perhaps not entirely foolish that he is left alone to develop a little longer away from the media.



Ovie Ejaria.

Ejaria was barely ever mentioned before Klopp took over. However, Klopp sees something in him. Ejaria was fast tracked to the first team squad, and given a handful of cameo appearances in which he half impressed, half underwhelmed. He has spent the entire season so far playing in the Liverpool u23's, and recently scored a beautiful individual goal against Manchester United's u23's.

Ejaria was also a squad player amongst all the England youth success over the summer. A tall and powerful midfielder at youth level, he has thus far looked like an ungainly figure in the men's game. However, he is still young and he does have that same short burst of pace and unusually 'lanky' physique of some of the more successful players in the premier recently, such as Delle Alli. Ejaria has a long way to go, but he is a talent.

Connor Masterson.

Masterson is an exceptionally good footballer for a centre back. He is also deceptively quick which gives him an advantage over unwary attackers. He was recently packed off to a mid-season training camp with the first team, and Klopp spoke very highly of him.

Masterson may have alluded the hype so far, but expect him to be recognised quite soon. As an Irishman, it is not too unrealistic to assume he may also get a senior International call up in the not too distant future. Then you'll hear about him for sure!

Corey Whelan.

Whelan is almost an unknown quantity. In fact if you've not watched Liverpool u23's it would not surprise me if you've never heard of him. He is in fact the u23's captain for the current season though!

Whelan is a versatile and highly gifted player. He can play anywhere across the defence to a good standard and Neil Critchley has shown immense faith in him by making him captain. It would be nice to have another Whelan in the first team though. Ronnie wasn't a bad player.

Matthew Virtue.

Another little known player is Virtue. Virtue is immensely hard working. He will get up and down the pitch all day, contributing at both ends. His robust and tenacious style make him a bit of a throw back in some ways. A midfielder who can attack or defend, and doesn't throw himself to the ground at a gust of wind? Football is sacred to me, and Robbie Fowler is my god; so I'm calling this blasphemy. Stop being such an honest professional, Virtue! This is not the 90's.

If you haven't heard of him, then it's not your fault. He is the kind of player who wouldn't make the headlines even if he was in the first team. Don't be at all surprised to see him around the senior squad in the next year or two though. He's a very good player.

Yan Dhanda.

Dhanda is another player who has somehow gone under the radar recently. When he first came to the club there was a huge furore about their finally being an Indian footballer at Liverpool (who of course have a massive following in Asia). Not much is actually known about him though.

Dhanda is a decent player. Capable of scoring or creating goals, some sublime skills, and versatile enough to either lead the line or support the attack from an advanced midfield role. Like Masterson, he was also taken to the same mid-season training camp with the Liverpool first team. So he may be out of the media eye, but Klopp knows he's there.



Kamil Grabara.

Grabara is a talented young Polish goalkeeper, currently first choice for Liverpool u23's. So far this season he has averaged conceding less than a goal a game in the Premier League 2, and kept a fair share of clean sheets. At roughly six and half feet tall, Grabara is a commanding presence.

He has probably escaped the media spotlight because Simon Mignolet, Danny Ward, Loris Karius and Adam Bogdan are all in the Liverpool senior squad. Therefore, Grabara has so many players ahead of him that he won't even get near the bench for a while yet. He is not free from errors, but he is only 18 years old.

Shamal George.

Another goalkeeper. George is an athletic and agile goalkeeper, who got a slight taste of the limelight just over a year ago when he was brought on as a striker in a senior pre-season game for Liverpool. He's a talented player, who is spending the current season on loan.

Since his outing as a striker, George has gone under the radar, but he is still highly regarded and maybe one to watch.

Curtis Jones.

Jones is still playing a in Gerrard's u18's team. He is impressing though. A fast and direct attacking player, he looks to have a lot of potential. He has a wicked shot, and a fantastic surname (not that I'm biased in the slightest).

The hope will of course be that he can emulate the success of his current manager, but Jones is still very young. Worthy of a mention though, such is his talent. If he stays focused he could have a big future.

Glen McAuley.

McAuley, but not as you know it! This kid isn't a brutal West Bromwich Albion centre back, but rather a highly intelligent goal poacher. His style is very old school. Similar to that of Ian Rush as he works hard from the front, has a surprising burst of pace over a few yards to steal in ahead of defenders, and is an absolute goal machine. That is pretty much his primary asset; he just puts the ball in the net, and makes it look easy.

McAuley should have a big future ahead of him if he keeps his head down and works hard. The only concern for him as a striker is that he is in direct competition with Solanke and Brewster! He will need the luck of the Irish if he to usurp them as the brightest striking talents at the club!

Sheyi Ojo.

All but forgotten, Ojo is currently out injured after dislocating his shoulder on loan at Fulham, but he was a part of the young England team which did so well in the summer. His pace is scary, and we're talking Mohamed-Salah-scary!

Sadly for Ojo, injury has hampered his progression but the hope is that the loan to Fulham will get him back on track. Maybe if McAuley can find some luck, he can tell Ojo where to find it, because the poor lad needs it. He was once regarded as one of the brightest young talents in the world, whilst playing u18's football for Milton Keynes at just 13 years old.



Ryan Kent.

Another player who has been instantly forgotten it seems. Out of sight, out of mind. Kent is on loan at Freiburg in Germany, and so far he has struggled to get game time. It says a lot about his character though that he was willing to go to another country to learn; something which terrifies most senior English players. It will only benefit him.

Kent is something of a set piece specialist, and an incredibly skilful winger. He was once seen as one of the biggest talents in the academy, so hopefully he can get back to being regarded as such. He breezed past Bayern Munich players in pre-season so he clearly has talent.

Juanma.

The Spanish left back, come centre back Juanma loves a tackle and is very good on the ball. At one stage he was seen to be on the brink of a first team chance, and yet now he has seemingly fallen out of all consideration.

Hopefully Juanma can recover from his injury troubles and put himself back into Klopp's first team thoughts. He is a very good defender, but he is one of the oldest listed here. He needs to catch a break, and soon.

Marko Grujic.

The ultimate 'maybe' candidate. Grujic was signed for around £5m and was actually the first permanent signing of the Klopp era. He has been at the club for over a year now and yet i still couldn't tell you what his role is. His pre-season goal scoring exploits suggest he is an attacking player, but he is currently playing a more defensive role for the Liverpool u23's.

'Why doesn't he get more chances?' will surely be the question on the lips of most Liverpool fans. It is hard to say. Perhaps he is being coached by Critchley for some master plan in Klopp's head, or perhaps Klopp and the club just don't know what to do with him? Either way, he has one hell of a right foot, is an absolute beast of a young man, and can also use his head pretty well. His aggressive style can sometimes be a bit rash but who doesn't love a player who gets stuck in?

What an impressive array of talent!

For Liverpool fans reading this, hopefully this has given you a few more youngsters for you to look out for. Most of these players will end up leaving like Kristian Nemeth and Dani Pacheco having never truly reached what was expected of them, sadly. It is just how football goes. However we as football fans love a band wagon to jump on, and we pay good money for the right to do just that!

Hopefully I have kicked off your weekend with something to go overboard about. Football would be much more boring without the 'wonder-kids' and the 'maybes'!

Written by Adam Jones

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