Academy observer PJ Vaughan uses the opportunity (and boredom) of the international break to run the rule over the Reds’ promising Under 21 and Under 18 players. Who will be next to make the step up to the first team?
Ojo has progressed hugely in the last 12 months. He is, for me, at the same stage of development that Jordon Ibe was at last season. He is playing regularly for Wigan on loan and will probably benefit from another loan next season.
He will surely get some minutes in pre-season (if he is not away with the national team in an underage tournament). Ideally he would go on loan for some portion of next season and maybe get some opportunities in the cup competitions but he could also take to the first team like Sterling and Ibe did.
Currently on loan at Wigan.
Sinclair is the most natural goal scorer at the academy. He can score with either foot (something he’s improved of late) and is good in the air. He missed most of the previous season due to injury and has improved steadily as the season progressed. His main weakness is that he isn’t yet physically strong enough and his hold up play suffers as a result.
However when he does get stronger he has all the other ingredients to be a Premier League centre forward. He is also likely to feature in pre-season and there is every possibility that he could do very well given the opportunity, however a loan move is probably pencilled in for him next season.
Currently on loan at Wigan.
Rossiter may be small in stature but he has a huge desire and will to win. His reading of the game has always been excellent and he is a born leader. He doesn’t always get the limelight of some on the attacking players but is equally as important.
He scored on his first-team debut this season and was man of the match for the U18 two months later. Many players would sulk if asked to play at that level after playing for the first team, not Rossiter. He is likely to get some minutes in pre-season and will hopefully get a good loan move next season.
Early this season Wilson struggled with the physicality of the U21s. He was outshone by Ojo, Ryan Kent and Sergi Canos, who are all stronger than him. However, since the turn of the year he has been excellent for the U21s.
His set pieces are impressive and he is always a danger with his speed and trickery. He will have to get stronger if he is to play for the first team. Sterling proved that a small young player can also be strong enough to cope with the physical demands of the Premier League. Once Wilson develops physically he has lots of attributes that should lead him into being a good player. He will probably play another season at U21 level.
Chirivella’s best position is the centre of a three man centre midfield but can also play as an attacking centre midfielder. His style of play gets restricted when he plays defensive midfield. The graceful Spaniard is someone you want to have in possession opposed to tracking runs and closing down space.
This season he initially struggled with the U21s but was excellent for the U18s, he has grown as a player as the season progressed and was excellent in the recent win U21 win over West Ham. Chirivella has the class to progress but may need a loan to help him adapt to the pace and physicality of the first team.
Phillips has been excellent for the U18s this season. He also scored 2 goals on his U21 debut against Manchester City. His style is reminiscent of Steven Gerrard. He loves a tackle and he delivers an excellent set piece. He also is an excellent crosser and can shoot accurately from distance.
Philips will probably play a lot for the U21s next season and if he continues to develop at his current rate he will surely get a first team opportunity in the next two years either with Liverpool or on loan.
Sergi Canos is a winger that can also play centre forward. He plays more like an English player than a Spanish player. He is very direct and an excellent finisher. He also has some lovely touches. He is also strong which is hugely beneficially for a young player.
He will most likely require another season at U21 level and a loan move before he is considered for the first team.
Kent is similar in many ways to Canos. He is direct and an excellent finisher. He is usually one of the best players on the pitch when he plays. He can play out wide or through the middle. He is a little stronger than Wilson but could probably do with getting a bit stronger.
He could easily get a chance at pre-season and is likely to go on loan. His pressing and all action style is very suited to a Brendan Rodgers team which should weigh in his favour.
Brannagan is a versatile midfielder with a good engine. He doesn’t have any obvious weakness to his game except maybe his physical stature. The U21s went almost 3 months without a competitive fixture around the Christmas period, this did not help with his development.
Brannagan doesn’t get the limelight of some of our other young players but is as likely to make the step up as anyone else. A good impression in pre-season will determine where his development takes place next season. A loan is the most likely option currently.
Williams has impressed Rodgers while training with the first team. He made his first team debut in the League Cup this season. He is big and strong and loves a tackle. He can play defensive midfield or centre back.
Williams is the only defender on the list here – maybe this will change in the future there is one or two exciting young defenders at the club.
Currently on loan at Notts County.
This list is not exclusive and there are plenty of others that could get a chance. Ryan McLaughlin, Brad Smith or Kevin Stewart could have an excellent pre-season. Goalkeepers Ryan Fulton or Danny Ward might get an opportunity in goal in pre-season too. Fulton is someone I have always being impressed with when he has been fit.
Joao Carlos Teixeira could do what Ryan Mason did for Tottenham this season. He has loads of ability he just needs an opportunity and to take that opportunity. Conor Randall shows a similar level of determination that Jon Flannagan does. This might catch Rodgers’ eye. Lloyd Jones could kick on hugely in the next twelve months.
In many ways it is a lottery to who will be the next player to make the step up. Many will get the opportunity but only a few will take that opportunity.
The club usually only promotes a couple of players per season. So competition to be the next one to get the opportunity is fierce. It is one thing getting an opportunity it is a lot harder to take that opportunity and convince the manager you are a first team player. I’d like to think at least a couple of theses player s have a very good chance of making it.