From Curtis Jones to Tyler Morton – How Liverpool’s academy became a force again – Liverpool FC
It’s been an almost unbeatable and unbelievably incredible season for Liverpool – but one that has turned out to be nothing short of exceptional. And one of the pillars of success in 2022 has been the club’s academy, which can’t have had a better year than this.
The Reds moved the training base from Melwood to Kirkby midway through 2020/21, making this tenure the first full campaign with the seniors and youngsters fully integrated in one place.
It is of course impossible to objectively measure the impact of such a decision, although players, coaches and staff have often cited the positives behind it as, alternatively, inspiration, opportunity and reminder. the work required to achieve the goal. High.
One thing is certain: the youngsters of the club’s setup couldn’t be closer to the top of world football, while realizing how far from it they remain.
From lane to lane there is the same distance as between youth football and the big winner of the trophy.
The good thing is that this manager and his group of coaches continue to hold the door at the end of this corridor wide open.
Vitor Matos clearly continues to play a crucial role, not only in bridging the knowledge gap between junior and senior coaches, but also in putting more and more emphasis on the first team.
His path somewhat resembles that taken by Pep Lijnders, which only means the first team gaining another coach with immense knowledge of youngsters pushing for inclusion.
The academy have, in every way imaginable, contributed to what has been a year of outrageously good silverware form, wins and challenges, from the most impressive individuals in all of English football to those just starting out and hope to have it noted.
At one end of the scale, Trent Alexander-Arnold was one of the most crucial pieces of the puzzle, the Premier League‘s best defender and named UEFA’s Team of the Season.
On the other hand, eight players from the youth teams were named on the bench without entering the pitch, seven others played but for less than 100 minutes each, while six had contributions between very reasonable and totally crucial in the season.
A total of 8,311 minutes on the pitch have been won by academy graduates (or 242 less if you don’t count Kaide Gordon), with Alexander-Arnold being the third most used player in the club. team this season until James Norris’ one-minute sub. FA Cup appearance.
The days have passed
It should be noted that the Liverpool academy has, of course, had an outstanding impact on fantastic seasons and achievements many times before.
Two main contenders come to mind in relatively recent terms: one under Klopp, one under Rafa Benitez.
After the Champions League triumph in 2019, Liverpool’s fixture list has piled up relentlessly and ridiculously, culminating in December’s trip to the Club World Cup on the same day of domestic cup commitments.
Up largely bolstered the Under-23s, including then-boss Neil Critchley.
Of course, they couldn’t triumph every time, with a five-goal loss to Aston Villa in the League Cup quarter-final due to a squad with an average age below 19.5.
Fast forward a few months and it was 19 years and just 182 days – and Curtis Jones’ inspired youngsters triumphed that day against Shrewsbury in the FA Cup.
No silverware directly, of course, but their efforts have maintained real momentum at times and rests given to senior stars (and Klopp!) have led to trophies.
The Premier League was won a few months later as Liverpool became European, World and English champions for a time.
Before that, Benitez’s renewal and revival of Liverpool in 2004/05 saw a host of young hopefuls win a string of games in domestic and even European cup competitions en route to wild victory in Istanbul.
Remember Zak Whitbread, Mark Smyth and David Raven? John Welsh made seven appearances? Darren Potter in the Champions League qualifiers?
They played a vital role in the team that year, but Neil Mellor (16 games), Stephen Warnock (30) and of course the two legends, Steven Gerrard (43) and Jamie Carragher (56).
Warnock was man of the match against Leverkusen in knockouts; Mellor landed one of those goals against Olympiakos.
These two seasons have been important for the club, with massive involvement and support from the academy.
Naturally, our No. 66 has had the most impact this season.
His 4,234 minutes were beaten only by Virgil van Dijk (4,620) and Alisson (4,710), again underscoring his importance to the team – and the scale of the challenge for all positional rivals, which explains that Neco Williams accumulated less than 400 minutes before going on loan at Fulham.
Trent Alexandre-Arnold: 4234 minutes (all competitions)
All other academy graduates combined: 4,077 minutes (all competitions)
Alexander-Arnold has produced countless winning performances, time and time again showing that the concept of him being a “poor defender” is outdated and based much more on ignorance than reality.
But beyond Alexandre-Arnold, the stories are many and varied.
Jones put in several standout performances in a turbulent (or rather back-and-forth) season – Porto and Brentford come to mind – while Caiomhin Kelleher excelled in the League Cup to the point of fully deserve his place at Wembley and secure a medal, after scoring his own penalty.
Kelleher didn’t play beyond December except in the FA Cup, but it’s worth remembering that during the darker winter months Tyler Morton played a vital role when midfield squads were stretched decimated – and he met every challenge impressively.
Then there was the momentous occasion at the San Siro, when no less than five academy graduates entered the pitch for the Reds as Liverpool beat AC Milan.
Crucially, none of those five were Alexander-Arnold, Jones, or Kelleher.
Top Six Clubs – Academy Playing Time, PL Only
City of Man
• 2,284 minutes
• 5 players
• Highest: Phil Foden (93% of total minutes)
• 3,968 minutes
• 6 players
• Highest: Trent Alexander-Arnold (72%)
• 9,522 minutes
• 6 players
• Highest: Mount Mason (25%)
• 6,227 minutes
• 5 players
• Highest: Harry Kane (52%)
• 6,092 minutes
• 6 players
• Highest: Bukayo Saka (49%)
• 7,918 minutes
• 9 players
• Highest: Scott McTominay (30%)
It all goes to show that the Reds not only remain a team capable of beating the best in the world, but do so in such a way that while their recruitment is the envy of all sport, their commitment to producing and coaching young stars should l be too. .
There is still room for improvement, of course.
Alexander-Arnold is unique, but others can certainly play and work their way to, say, a level of contribution from Jones over the coming seasons, increasing the depth of the Liverpool squad without the need for signings additional.
This would thus increase the overall contribution at the first-team level of the youth group, especially in the league.
The academy route at Anfield remains wide open and welcoming to those good enough and determined enough to take it.