Liverpool

Liverpool: What does Curtis Jones’ form mean for midfield rivals?

The 19-year-old has become a key part of Liverpool’s early season success and could be pushing some of his teammates out of the squad.

 
1:46pm on Monday 21st December 2020
By
Nicholas Hughes

Among all of Liverpool’s early-season injury problems, one unlikely source of consistency and high quality has risen in midfield.

Curtis Jones has grown from strength to strength since making his Premier League debut last season, now a goal scorer in both league and Champions League and a regular in Jurgen Klopp’s plans.

The Liverpool local has transitioned from dominating as captain of the Under 23s side to posting a man of the match display in a top of the table clash in the Premier League.

Curtis Jones
M (C) - Liverpool - 19 yrs
MAN OF THE MATCH
90'
8.4
Dec 16, 2020
9Ball recovered
113Passes
94Successfull passes %
129Touches
4Aerials won
5Touches in box
46Final third passes
3Total shots

Jones played a game-high 46 passes into the final third, ranked second for the Reds in passes and passing accuracy, had the most touches in Tottenham’s box aside from the front three and according to InStat, his three key passes were the most of anyone on the pitch.

After that performance, his manager said of Jones that “we do not see him as a kid anymore”, a huge mark of admiration for the maturity and quality in his game.

And that was no one off. The midfielder has started five games and made four substitute appearances in the Premier League so far, across which he leads the team in pass completion and is in the top three passes and final third passes P90.

It creates an interesting conundrum for Klopp, who has added Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to his list of available midfielders in the last week and should welcome back Thiago at the end of the month.

Recent injuries have meant the midfield trio has picked itself with Jones starting every league and European game bar one since the beginning of October and playing the full 90 in six of Liverpool’s last seven games in all competitions – that is before coming off the bench against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

And with each performance, the youngster has become more accustomed to the demands of senior football and has fully transitioned into the team and become a midfielder in the mould of Klopp – disciplined defensively, superb at retaining possession and providing balls into the forward players.

The aforementioned conundrum comes there, with Jones not only playing out of necessity, but thriving on the pitch and showing growth and potential moving forward.

The Klopp midfield archetype dictates that players in the middle of the pitch work hard defensively and do all the running to support the front three, cover the onrushing full backs and protect the spine of the team.

Not only is Jones proving his worth at keeping and progressing the ball, but he is currently fourth in the team in duels P90 and sixth for ball recoveries, while no other Reds midfielder wins more aerial duels P90 – that is while counting Fabinho as a defender.

His positional discipline as a 19-year-old is perhaps the most impressive element of his rapid rise through the ranks, but as well as that he offers things that not many of his teammates do from midfield.

Aside from Thiago, whose miniscule sample size skews his numbers, no Liverpool midfielder shoots more often than Jones does, only the front three and Diogo Jota register more shots on target P90 and no other midfielder attempts more dribbles apart from Keita.

Liverpool’s midfield has often been criticised for being one-dimensional, but being all about intensity rather than creativity and intricacy, but Jones is showing he is good enough to do both.

He is not just carrying out his duties in ball retention and pressing, but he is offering an impetus through the middle of the pitch that nobody else is offering.

This role of providing creativity was supposed to be played by Thiago, but with Jones stepping up in the Spaniard’s absence Klopp now has a different tool up his sleeve.

Still a teenager, Liverpool will do well to nurture Jones’ development and be careful to hype him up too much. Klopp has always insisted that as a young player, Jones will make mistakes and his manager has encouraged those mistakes in order to learn in the future.

Trent Alexander-Arnold represents the great success of the Liverpool academy, and it seems now that Jones could be the next man in line to follow in his footsteps and those of Reds heroes before.

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