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Mo Salah’s mini-me steps up in Liverpool’s annual statement of depth

After question marks over the depth of his Liverpool’s squad, Jurgen Klopp has answered that emphatically, with help from a trio of young debutants.

Domestic cup competitions having been massively downgraded in relevance at Anfield across the last decade. League Cup games in September have become an annual statement over just how strong or weak Liverpool’s squad is.

With only minimal squad recruitment having taken place in the summer, offset by the departures of a couple of experienced figures to Ligue 1, the focus has intensified upon deciphering just how talented the lasted crop of young Reds are, and how likely them making a lasting breakthrough is.

On this occasion, at Carrow Road against Norwich, Jurgen Klopp handed three teenagers their debuts, with Kaide Gordon provoking the greatest interest.

An undoubted mercurial talent who is clearly in possession of a footballing brain that is considerably older than the 16-year-old body that carries it, there is potentially a bright future ahead for the former Derby prodigy, should he have the desire and focus to grab it.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 21, 2021: Liverpool's Kaide Gordon during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A sort of mini-me of Mohamed Salah in some respects – rapid in thought processes, swift of feet – Gordon’s decision-making is as impressive as his skill.

When news filters through that Pep Lijnders described him to Klopp as ‘a player’, and that Liverpool’s Champions League and Premier League-winning senior squad members are unanimous in their mentoring of him, then you do have to sit up and take notice.

Yet none of this is meant to detract from the understated maturity of Tyler Morton, or the impetuosity of Conor Bradley, who ran the distance between giving a penalty away like an over-eager golden retriever to gaining possession for Liverpool in the buildup to our third goal, with plenty of positives and signs of understandable naivety in between.

Klopp’s Liverpool might have no money, but regardless, they seem to be showing no signs of struggle when it comes to evolution or reinvention.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 21, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (R) celebrates with team-mate Harvey Elliott (L) a second goal, but it was disallowed following a VAR review, during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Burnley FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Much focus was attached to the prominence of Harvey Elliott in the early weeks of the new season, until the horrific injury he sustained at Elland Road, and he will pick up where he left off again once he returns.

When he does, however, it will hopefully be as the figurehead of a collection of young players that go on to great things.

Trent Alexander-Arnold aside, the one thing that Klopp’s Liverpool has been missing is a youthful collective insurrection.

We’ve had a cluster of good young players who haven’t had that extra few gears required to truly cut it at Anfield in the longer term, but if we were now to be able to say, ‘oh, by the way, here is the new McManaman/Fowler/Carragher/Owen/Gerrard/Trent (delete as applicable)’, then it would set the club up perfectly for the next half-decade or so, on the back of the spate of high-profile contract renewals this summer.

It’s all about unearthing that astounding talent, that next great Scouse hope, or at least somebody we’ve plucked from an ailing former Premier League team.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 21, 2021: Liverpool players with various squad numbers before the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

When you (reluctantly) look at the mid-1990s Man United, and how that influx of young talent blossomed, they hit the jackpot on a biblical scale, and it was something that sustained them for another decade-and-a-half of relevancy.

When something like this happens, it means that when the bean counters finally loosen the purse strings, the manager can target proven quality in the transfer market.

Of course, the other side of the coin when it comes the early rounds of the League Cup is looking suspiciously at the senior fringe players, scoping out if there are any signs of significant footballing life.

Hopes are raised against logic that a career resurrectionist can strike forth to save us a fortune, and make themselves a compelling option in real grown-up Premier League and Champions League games.

In this regard, Divock Origi’s presence delights as many as it annoys, while Takumi Minamino did look impressive enough to provoke much stroking of the chin, and ponderings if we’ve got ourselves a new Xherdan Shaqiri.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 21, 2021: Liverpool's Takumi Minamino during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Scorer of two fine goals, I particularly loved the second, which he seemed to drag into the net.

Beyond that, Carrow Road offered us more evidence that Ibrahima Konate will assimilate to the Liverpool way sooner rather than later, Joe Gomez will be back up to pre-injury speed before long, Curtis Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are on very different career trajectories to one another, while Caoimhin Kelleher and Kostas Tsimikas are boss.

In other news, if Naby Keita’s game really did end at half-time due to injury, then he needs to undergo tests to check whether he is made of Weetabix.

All in all, quite a beneficial night for Liverpool where the positives far outweighed the negatives.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 21, 2021: Liverpool's Takumi Minamino (C) celebrates with team-mates after scoring the first goal during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Just how seriously Klopp takes the rest of the League Cup this season will largely depend upon the luck of the draw, and the state of the injury list when the next round meanders into view.

Back to the bigger business of the Premier League, on Saturday at Brentford, we now turn.

A newly promoted team that have made a markedly different start to life back in the top flight than Norwich, Brentford have arrived without fear, 74 years on from the club’s last campaign in the highest tier of English football.

There is potentially a little of Bournemouth about Brentford, which makes them a danger, yet one that is eventually going to encounter a reality check.

If Liverpool treat them like Man City, then that reality check will be on Saturday.

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