To step up into the Liverpool first-team fresh from the academy is a tough ask for any player, but you wouldn’t think so when looking at the current Liverpool line-up. Questions would have been posed of the academy, and it’s real worth.
In truth, apart from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Melwood hadn’t produced a world-class talent since Steven Gerrard. Many had tried to take that step and become the next world-class player, but, ultimately, many failed. Ben Woodburn, Liverpool’s youngest ever goalscorer, looked destined to succeed.
Yet, here we are. The Welshman has his place in the record book, but not a place in the Liverpool squad, let alone line-up. In fact, these days, the record-breaker can often be seen in the perils of League One on loan at Blackpool, sometimes not even making the starting 11 under former academy manager Neil Critchley. Woodburn, again Alexander-Arnold aside, was the latest of a long list of promising academy products to slowly but surely become academy failures.
Many would have worried that the famous production line is of Melwood had come to a crashing halt. Gone were the days of producing Michael Owen’s, Steven Gerrard’s and Jamie Carragher’s, many would have assumed. And then an injury crisis struck to hand the academy and Liverpool a blessing in disguise.
Liverpool Injury Crisis a Blessing in Disguise for Academy
Promising Future for Academy at Liverpool
The goal, against the Dutch champions no less, was finely tuned and moulded courtesy of the Liverpool academy to put the worried minds at ease. The academy is still very much producing the next Gerrard’s and perhaps already the next Alexander-Arnold.
More importantly, however, the Ajax game saw Caoimhin Kelleher step from the shadows of the unnoticeable reserves and into the spotlight to shine on the biggest of stages. The goalkeeper’s footballing ability was the reason for his pick, according to Jurgen Klopp.
Though it is also worth noting, he isn’t a bad shot-stopper, either. The Irishman saved at point-blank range to deny an Ajax equaliser in stunning fashion to round off an impressive debut before impressing again in a 4-0 victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Now, again courtesy of the academy, the anxiety of an Adrian mistake is gone. Instead, it has been replaced by the assurance that homemade Kelleher is more than up to the task and will only improve as the opportunities continue to come.
He seems to tick the box for shots-stopping, ball playing and general distribution. It’s almost as if the Jürgen Klopp philosophy is installed throughout the entirety of the club, and not just the first team as if the preparation for ensuring the club does not go over two decades without a league title again is well underway.
Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips Taking Their Chances
One on loan in Non-League. One on loan at a Bundesliga 2 side. Yet both successfully guiding Liverpool through an injury crisis. And if the clues haven’t been revealing enough, the subjects of the conversation are Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams.
Both have stepped up when needed, not with complete perfection, of course; they are very much learning on the job. But they’ve been good enough. The standings and stats themselves provide enough evidence to back this statement up.
Williams has been involved in five games, starting two, coming on in the 60th minute in one and entering the other two games with just minutes left to play. In his two starts, he has kept a clean sheet in a 5-0 win over Atalanta before being involved in a disappointing 2-0 loss in the reverse fixture. Both times, he impressed substantially, however, and, at 19, will only improve with every game.
Nat Phillips, too, has enjoyed a season of promise and his experience with Stuttgart clearly provided him with the platform to gain the know-how needed to step in. The Englishman has played two Premier League games. The first of which was a convincing display in a 2-1 win over West Ham United. The second of which, a controversial draw against Brighton & Hove Albion. Again, like Williams, both performances were full of promise.
Ready to Fight for English Crown
Liverpool, despite missing Virgil van Dijk, his partner in crime in Joe Gomez, Alexander-Arnold, Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alisson Becker at various points this season, are placed top of their Champions League group and second in the Premier League on goal difference.
Add in the fact they’ve already played Arsenal, Everton, Manchester City, Leicester, Chelsea and Wolves and you begin to realise just how resilient this Liverpool side are.
Whether it be the first team stars or those within the academy, the mentality monsters tag runs throughout Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool squad who, even amid injuries galore, look ready to defend their throne no matter what stands in their way.
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