Neco Williams has shot out of obscurity and into Jurgen Klopp‘s first-team plans, with the teenager having made the “big steps” required to act as full-back cover.
The 19-year-old has experienced an exponential rise at Liverpool and has now made two successive starting appearances in the Premier League, taking his season tally in the topflight to five – enough to secure a winners medal.
The first starting berth came at left-back before he slotted into his natural right-back position against Burnley, where he caught the eye on both occasions with his energy and intent in both halves of the field.
As the least experienced member of each back five, Williams was targeted by both Brighton and Burnley and more than stood up to the challenge as both Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s deputy.
Williams was joined by fellow academy graduate Curtis Jones in the starting lineup on Saturday and both impressed throughout their 69-minute spell, a key highlight in a game which slipped through Liverpool’s fingers.
“For a player with the creativity and technical skills of Curtis, it’s a good game to play. If the boys around him create these moments where Curtis can then really use these skills, the turn, a good orientation, our style of play suits him,” Klopp explained to reporters.
“He really can be quite impressive, I know that. There are a lot of steps to go for him, obviously, but it was a good game, that’s true.
“It’s much more difficult for Neco to play on that side, against a team who is pretty much there for counter-attacks and set-pieces. But he did really well as well, so it was just good.
“The game was a really good game [for them]. In the end, it was just a draw and I really can’t deny that it feels completely like we’ve lost the game because we should have scored more often. But we didn’t, and that’s our fault and nobody else’s fault. That’s why it’s 1-1.”
Williams had already staked the claim as backup to Trent but has shown the flexibility to settle on either flank, making him an invaluable asset for Liverpool moving forward.
And the boss hinted at Williams’ future role in the side as one which will see him compete with both Trent and Robertson throughout long and arduous seasons.
“Thank god that Neco is now here and make big steps in training, so that we can give the boys this kind of rest. Robbo came on in the last game already and made a massive difference,” Klopp added.
“It was only 45 minutes [at Brighton], pretty much, that we ‘saved’ him, so that was really good.
“And today, of course, that was really good as well. Neco is now here and we can make these kinds of decisions, and it’s good.”
The prospect of having another young gun fighting for the shirt is a welcome one and Williams has the perfect role model at his disposal to continue his rapid rise up the ranks.