In his weekly Liverpool blog, Dave Tindall urges Jurgen Klopp to give some of the Reds’ promising youngsters a run in the first team.
I shouldn’t be surprised by the latest events in this good week/bad week season, but the last few days have been particularly grim in the life of a Liverpool fan.
A good strategy for coping with a dispiriting present is to look back to past glories or peer over the horizon for better times in the future.
This week I’ve done both.
To be honest, wallowing in the past is a double edge sword. It’s good to relive the memories, but, obviously, they’re bittersweet – a reminder of what we don’t have now.
Take, for example, LFCTV’s ‘Goal Rush: Daniel Sturridge’. This was the equivalent of flicking through old photos of a really hot woman you can’t believe you ever went out with. Sheer beauty everywhere with Sturridge banging them in left, right and centre. Happy days. Please come back, Daniel.
Also on LFCTV, a special with Sami Hyypia reflecting on his lengthy career (464 appearances) at Anfield and the memorable treble season of 2001.
That sparked several chains of thought…. wow, a defender who could defend and didn’t cost much money – and just how much fun it would be if we could do something similar in this year’s Cup competitions. For the record, the treble of FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup/Europa Cup is still on!
Liverpool Under-21s in red-hot form
It wasn’t just wallowing, of course; I also sat down to watch the U21s beat Reading U21s.
Before the match, I’d checked where we stood in the table. Disappointingly the young Reds are only eighth of twelve in Division 1, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
On current form, our U21s are in red-hot with four wins out of four since the turn of the year. Three of those have come via clean sheets. It’s the sort of consistency the full team wouldn’t have a clue about.
The line-up against Reading included several players who have become part of Jurgen Klopp’s FA Cup side this season, collectively known as ‘the kids’.
They included right-back Connor Randall, centre-back Tiago Ilori and winger Ryan Kent. There would have been more, but plenty of ‘the kids’ had played in the FA Cup draw with West Ham the day before.
Randall was the one who stood out. In his first-team starts so far, the opinion is that he’s solid enough but limited going forward. Here, he set up striker Brooks Lennon (Beatles connection? Nope, he’s from America) for the first and then produced an audacious back-heel to put in Harry Wilson, who got up to slot home the penalty after being brought down.
So much for Randall offering nothing in the final third.
With Brad Smith also impressing at left-back in his FA Cup starts and Jon Flanagan making his long-awaited return, suddenly Liverpool look well-resourced in the full-back areas. In fact, surely it’s now time to begin giving ‘the kids’ more starts in Premier League games?
If you take the view that a top-four finish is gone after the miserable and deserved defeat at Leicester City, then Liverpool will probably drift around the seventh to tenth mark, as they have done for most of the season. Therefore, what an ideal chance to give the likes of Randall and Smith more and more Premier League experience.
Moreno mistakes a cause for concern
Clyne, despite his habit of bursting into pockets of space and then not really doing anything, deserves to be our No.1 right-back, but Klopp must surely be alarmed by Moreno’s string of mistakes.
A heat map of average positions in the Leicester game showed that Moreno was Liverpool’s fourth most advanced player. That’s all well and good if he’s creating lots of chances and scoring the odd goal, but the other way of looking at it is that it shows how often he goes walkabout. Quite simply, his negatives outweigh the positives, and although the Spaniard has been blessed with plenty of athletic gifts, Smith and Flanagan would surely be much more reliable options at left-back.
It’s a similar story in midfield. Why not play Cameron Brannagan and Kevin Stewart in more Premier League matches. Both impressed against West Ham and their enthusiasm and desire would give Liverpool a much-needed freshness in what are fast becoming a dead set of fixtures.
I’d love to say that there was a potential Robbie Fowler or Michael Owen coming through the reserves, but there isn’t one yet. There are high hopes for young Harry Wilson, but he returned from a loan spell at Crewe without really making an impression and isn’t ready, while it seems Jerome Sinclair, who scored at Exeter, wants to leave anyway. Let him go if that’s his attitude.
A stat this week revealed that Liverpool have played more games per day than any other team in Europe. But rather than seeing this as a hindrance, surely it must be viewed as a golden opportunity to give ‘the kids’ more exposure to the big-time.
U21 games are often played in front of three men and a dog so running out in front of a packed Anfield is wonderful for their footballing education. Only under the bright lights will we really know if they’re ready to shine, and by the looks of it there are several who look capable of making the grade.
It’s certainly a comforting thought after the lack of activity in the transfer window.
Liverpool right not to meet Teixeira asking price
With regard to that, I’m pleased we didn’t pay well over the odds for Alex Teixeira – an uncapped Brazilian. Luis Suarez had played, and starred, in a World Cup finals before we signed him for a far more reasonable fee. Doing business with Ukrainian clubs is difficult and LFC did the right thing.
Having said that, it’s galling to see the club show financial prudence on one hand but still go ahead this week with new ticketing plans which hit many fans hard in the pocket and will simply price others out.
Despite some concessions for younger fans, a ticket for one of the higher profile games will now cost a whopping £77 next season. How does that square with all the money coming in for the new TV deal?
Liverpool fans group ‘Spirit of Shankly’ said the club had made changes based on ‘economics rather than compromise’ and declared it was a ‘missed opportunity’ to take a fairer approach to ticket prices. It’s hard not to agree with that.
The news came just before the hapless 2-0 defeat at Leicester so no wonder the grumbles have been loud and sustained with events on the pitch doing little to justify such increases.
Hopefully ‘the kids’ can lift spirits in the FA Cup replay at West Ham next week or maybe a few of them can be let off the leash for the home game with Sunderland on Saturday. If we can get past the Hammers, a trip to Blackburn awaits in the next round so the door is open.
At least we still have our unique brand of gallows humour to lift the gloom so, if you haven’t heard it, here’s the best joke of the week.
“Congratulations to Christian Benteke who has now beaten David Blaine’s record for longest time in a box doing nothing.”