Jurgen Klopp has praised the influx of young talent in his Liverpool squad last season, but insists he is expecting even more in 2017/18.
Ovie Ejaria, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Woodburn and Harry Wilson all made their first-team debuts last term, while Rhian Brewster was named on the substitutes’ bench.
The quintet are among a host of young stars looking to break through on a regular basis under Klopp, whose arrival has spread hope through the Reds’ academy.
Beyond those five, the likes of Kamil Grabara, Conor Masterson, Juanma, Matty Virtue, Adam Lewis, Yan Dhanda and Glen McAuley will be hoping to step up in the future.
Next season will see expectations mount on Merseyside, after a fourth-placed finish in 2016/17, and Klopp is hoping his youngsters will continue to progress.
“The boys did really well but they all have to improve,” he told the Liverpool Echo.
“They have to go from being really skilled kids to being players that you have to use. That’s the next step.
“Look at Rhian Brewster, everyone knows about his talent. It’s fantastic.
“Ben is a step ahead and someone like Trent is already another step ahead. It’s all cool and good for the future.”
Klopp is seeking to add further quality to his squad for next season, with Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mohamed Salah among his priority targets.
Nineteen-year-old striker Dominic Solanke is already primed to join on the expiry of his Chelsea contract at the beginning of July, while a new centre-back and left-back are also being lined up.
There will still be plenty of opportunities for the Reds’ youngsters, however, with Klopp’s side competing in the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and either the Champions League or Europa League.
The likes of Alexander-Arnold, Ejaria and Woodburn can expect to be called upon regularly in both domestic cups, while injuries could prompt more regular action elsewhere, too.
Brewster’s development will be interesting, as despite only turning 17 in April, Klopp already has considerable faith in his ability.
The German is clearly emphasising the need for maturity among his youth ranks, though, needing the mentality required to step up and find consistency when called upon.
Liverpool have a plethora of talented young players in their midst, and 2017/18 could be a breakthrough campaign for many of those.