Youngsters Pose Food for Thought for Klopp After Derby Masterclass

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We all knew that widespread changes were likely for Liverpool’s FA Cup tie with Everton, and that’s exactly what we got.

Mass hysteria greeted Klopp’s team selection ahead of kick-off at Anfield, with many on social media questioning why more senior players hadn’t been included alongside the likes of Curtis Jones, Neco Williams, Harvey Elliott, Nat Phillips and Pedro Chirivella.

However, they need not have worried. After a scrappy first half, Liverpool’s young guns came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, putting in a dominant display and completely suppressed any threat posed by Carlo Ancelotti’s side – with local lad Curtis Jones providing a wonder goal winner in the 71st minute.

Jones rightly won a lot of praise for his all-round performance and winning goal, but he wasn’t alone in winning praise for his display.

Neco Williams at right-back caught the eye and was heavily involved in everything Liverpool did. The Welshman had the most touches out of anyone on the pitch as Klopp used him as his catalyst for attack like he does with Alexander-Arnold, which shows how confident the boss is in Williams’ abilities.

Harvey Elliott made Liverpool history by being the youngest ever player to represent the club and put in a classy performance way advanced of his years. He once more demonstrated why Klopp brought him to Anfield with wonderful skill and poise on the ball.

And Pedro Chirivella, the 22-year-old who has been at Liverpool since 2013 and made only a handfull of appearances, looked assured and composed in midfield alongside Adam Lallana in perhaps the most surprising of impressive displays in a memorable Merseyside derby victory.

Not only were all of these performances delightful to see in such a pressure cooker of an atmosphere as a derby game, but it also provides some much needed reassurance in the short and long term for Liverpool fans.

The Reds’ current injury woes are well documented, with senior players including James Milner, Naby Keita, Fabinho, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip and Xherdan Shaqiri all sidelined with injuries – and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain only came back from his recent ankle knock against Everton so is still not quite match fit.

This has left Klopp being forced to continue to play a select few players game after game during the hectic December and January period, which is far from ideal when Liverpool are still competing in three competitions and are looking to maintain their unbeaten record in the league.

Options had seemed few and far between last night, but the performance of the academy players will provide cause for optimism. Should Jones, Elliott and Williams need to be called upon in the coming weeks due to the queue of players in the treatment room, they should that they could more than easily slot in and compete at the highest level.

What was the most pleasing about their performances was not so much the level the players competed and dominated at, but the composure and confidence they all showed in doing so. Chirivella, despite only having one Premier League appearance to his name, played like a cultured central midfielder, patrolling the middle of the park with assurance and steel, not only disrupting Everton’s play but setting Liverpool off on a number of attacks.

Neco Williams was not phased when coming up against the tricky Richarlison and handled him well, as well as being influential going forward and provided some excellent deliveries into the box.

He also linked up well with Harvey Elliott, who looks composed to the nth degree and oozes skill – making Lucas Digne look rather foolish at times under the Anfield lights.

And then there’s Curtis Jones – the local lad come good.

He looked so comfortable in the role in the middle, supporting Lallana and Chirivella seamlessly in attacking and defensive phases of play. His energy and pressing were relentless. His use of the ball was second to none. And how about the cultured finish for the winner? You’d be forgiven for thinking that wasn’t his first senior goal for the club.

It was great to see another young scouser in the mix and doing so well, and the crowd really thrived off that, too.

So could we see more of the youngsters in the immediate future as Klopp looks to potentially plug some holes in his battered and bruised squad?

Quite possibly, but then the pessimist in me says that because of the positions that they play in, these youngsters have come around at the wrong time.

Is Williams getting in the team ahead of Trent? Will Jones usurp Salah or Mane out wide, or one of the ever reliable midfield three?

You have to feel bad for them really, but I hope they do get given a chance in the coming weeks.

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