Neco Williams made his third start for Wales on Wednesday night, and it came in a new left wing-back role that could be food for thought for Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.
Williams has been regularly involved but barely featured in the Reds’ difficult title defence this season, with the 19-year-old making 13 appearances in all competitions so far.
He has made the matchday squad on 37 occasions, but injuries elsewhere have left Klopp to persevere with Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back, for fear of further disruption to his defence.
It is a similar problem faced by Kostas Tsimikas in his first campaign on Merseyside, with the Greek not yet trusted to fill in for Andy Robertson, who has played more minutes than any other Liverpool player this term.
Moving forward, though, Klopp will be eager to integrate his backup full-backs, but Wales’ World Cup qualifier against Belgium in midweek suggested Williams could soon have an edge over Tsimikas.
In the absence of Ryan Giggs, Robert Page again took charge of Wales as they visited Den Dreef on Wednesday, and fielding a 3-4-3 formation, the stand-in coach opted for Williams as his left wing-back.
It is not a wholly new role for the youngster, having started there in the 3-1 win at Brighton in July, but after being brought off by Klopp at half-time at the Amex, he was much-improved as he returned to the left for Wales.
Williams had the most touches of the ball of any Wales player (61), as well as creating the most chances (two), completing the most dribbles (two) and making the most interceptions (five).
His was a front-footed, attacking display which earned strong praise from onlooking supporters on social media:
Tough night in Brussels for Wales but it’s a performance that we can all be proud of:
Joe Rodon – Class
Neco Williams – Outstanding
Harry Wilson – Excellent
Well done lads?? Onto Mexico on Saturday.
??3-1???????#BELWAL #WorldCupQualifiers pic.twitter.com/Ir8N7E1VA3
— Welsh Watch Podcast ???????? (@WelshWatch_Pod) March 24, 2021
Doom and gloom aside, so glad to see Rodon and Neco Williams' performances tonight. Neco out of position showed his class against what FIFA rankings consider the best team in international football.
— Cymru Prem Tweets n Takes (@CPL_TnT) March 24, 2021
How good was Neco Williams tonight though ?.
— Pete Jones (@PeteGJ90) March 24, 2021
Neco Williams, been very impressed by his performance!
— Scott Anthony Evans (@ScottEvanz) March 24, 2021
How good is Neco Williams tho ???????
— Isaac Griffiths (@Griffiths5Isaac) March 24, 2021
I like the look of neco Williams but he can over do it at times he’s still only 19 that and he competed tonight and overall did well a couple of sloppy passes here and there but it was an awful pitch he will be a top player for us inside the next few years! ???????????
— MATT (@Mattlid18) March 24, 2021
The teenager was far from perfect, of course, with WalesOnline rating Williams a six out of 10 and noting that he was “not as influential as he has been in previous games for his country,” due to being a “right-footer being asked to play left-back.”
Meanwhile, the Times‘ Gary Jacob noted how he “stood off the cross” as Thomas Meunier laid on Thorgan Hazard’s goal to make it 2-1 and ensure Harry Wilson‘s stunning opener was nothing more than a consolation.
But there were clear signs that Williams is growing at the level required at a club like Liverpool, against top-class opponents in Meunier and Kevin De Bruyne, deployed on Belgium’s right.
While Robertson is expected to keep his starting place for the rest of the season, it could be that the Reds’ No. 76 is soon seen as cover for both right-back and left-back.
It could pit him against Tsimikas, who is a more experienced, established left-back, but the Welshman’s versatility may aid his cause – particularly when bench numbers are reduced back to seven.