Curtis Jones is making headlines after another super performance and the young Scouser is becoming ever-more important to the team – but there’s so much more to come.
Having turned 20 years of age just over one month ago, our No. 17 is already making rapid strides.
He’s unquestionably a first-team player now, despite being little more than a promising youngster – in terms of senior involvement – all of about seven months ago.
Already Jones is fast approaching the 50-game mark for the Reds, with seven goals to his name.
But Liverpool fans can rest assured that no matter how integral he has already become and how many match-winning displays he has already brought to the fore, there’s an awful lot more ahead.
In the months and seasons to come, the outside world will begin to realise just how much talent Curtis Jones has.
His own natural improvement
First and foremost, there’s the main aspect for any good young player: they’re still learning.
For Jones, he is receiving some of the finest coaching on the planet, is fortunate enough to be doing so in a world-class training environment and with elite level team-mates around him.
All of that will give him nothing more than the chance to improve, but it’s abundantly clear that he has the drive to go alongside that to actually make himself better.
If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be in this Liverpool team already, it’s that simple.
And yet, as a youngster and an inexperienced player, there’s a lot he’ll take on board game after game, just by facing different situations, reacting in different ways, finding new solutions.
It’s probably also relevant to note that up until March last year, he had played around 10 times for the Reds – the vast majority of his games have come behind closed doors or with a minimal crowd.
The mentality and mindset he has, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jones raise his game considerably on a big night in front of a full Anfield house – much like in the FA Cup against Everton not all that long ago!
The individuals around him
For Jones, early chances came this season because there were missing men in the midfield line, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jordan Henderson injured.
Later, Fabinho had to move into defence, Hendo too – Jones had earned his role in the side by then, but it’s still apparent that he has not really been picked to play too many games ahead of established seniors on merit, because that situation hasn’t yet arisen.
Similarly, his midfield role has been somewhat affected in off-the-ball work at a minimum by the fact the defensive line behind him has been missing the greatest centre-back on the planet, then any centre-backs, and always any cohesion.
While that doesn’t directly translate to Jones’ ability to pick a pass or make a challenge, it certainly impacts on his functions in the team and where he’s required to be.
In more recent weeks, when he has been in and out of the team, others in attack have been well below their best.
Can we pick out half a dozen games where Jones and Firmino – two of the best players in terms of genius creativity and an unrivalled first touch – have both been on top form?
Has Jones been able to dovetail in the left channel with a Sadio Mane at the peak of his powers?
It’s arguable neither have yet happened. When they do, when he has Liverpool’s other best players around him playing at the top of their game, he’ll get the space on the pitch and the higher-quality passes heading his way, as well as the movement around him to let Jones himself showcase his own vision and technique.
A fully functioning team
Somewhere down the line, maybe next season, it’ll all be largely ‘as it was’: Liverpool with a mostly healthy squad, with in-form players pushing each other and opponents being swept aside with regularity.
This time, Jones will be involved in that.
When the Reds were at their best in the first half, or two-thirds, of last season, Jones wasn’t yet part of the furniture.
Even up until the end of last term, he had tallied just 122 minutes of Premier League action; his experience in the top flight has almost all come this campaign.
But if he’s shining now, a match-winner and a game-changer for the Reds against the likes of Ajax, West Ham and Sheffield United – with injuries, players out of position, new signings shoe-horned in, the team lacking confidence and on the worst losing streak in decades – just imagine how much more effective he can be when everyone is on top of their game.
When on and off the ball the Reds are at their peak, they can be untouchable. Defenders naturally gravitate at those times towards the proven elite, to stop them having the big impact.
Somewhere down the line, when they do exactly that and ignore Curtis Jones, he’s going to show them what a terrible mistake that is.
He’s going to show just how big a talent he will end up being, is already showing he can be. We’ve seen next to nothing yet.