Liverpool love a good punt on a player from a relegated side.
In three of the last four summer’s, the Reds have salvaged some gems from the wreckage of sides destined for the Championship.
First, Georginio Wijnaldum and Andrew Robertson — two players who arrived with relatively inexpensive price-tags and who have now established themselves as key players — arrived from Newcastle and Hull respectively in the summers of 2016 and 2017.
Then in the summer of 2018, Xherdan Shaqiri — thanks to a relegation clause — was signed from relegated Stoke for a paltry £13M. The diminutive Swiss winger player a key role as a squad player in Liverpool’s Champions League victory, including an excellent performance in a rare start in the semi final against Barcelona.
And with bottom placed Norwich City all but certain to plummet down a division, the latest player from a potentially relegated team linked to the Reds — according to reports in The Athletic this week — is attacking midfielder Todd Cantwell.
The England U21 international has impressed in his maiden Premier League campaign, notching 6 goals and registering 2 assists despite the Canaries struggling for results. Of these 6 goals, four have come inside the box and the remaining 2 strikes have come within the 6 yard box, which provides a clear picture of the kind of player the 22 year old is.
Playing off either the left or the right in Daniel Farke’s favoured 4231 formation, Cantwell is not blessed with pace and, although he is clearly not at the same level as the revered German, the player he resembles most in style is Thomas Muller.
Like the Bayern Munich legend, the Norwich number 14’s best attribute is his spatial awareness and the sharpness of his instinctive movement, which he uses to manipulate defenders and manoeuvre himself into good areas to shoot.
While he is clearly a capable player, Cantwell should not be the latest example of sporting director Michael Edwards’ raid of a relegated squad. Instead of spending to sign the attacking midfielder, the Reds should look closer to home for squad depth in the engine room and attacking midfield area.
The man to fill the void that will be left by Adam Lallana’s seemingly inevitable departure is Curtis Jones. The young academy graduate wrote himself into Liverpool lore when his superb solo goal saw a highly rotated and extremely young Reds team knock Everton out of the F.A. Cup in January. The prodigiously talented teenager ought to be given the opportunity to prove that was more than a mere flash in the pan.
The goal, curled into the top corner — kissing the underside of the crossbar — and past Jordan Pickford was a living example of what the academy graduate, who made his Premier League debut off the bench versus Bournemouth in December, can do.
Many players, not wanting to make an error in a big game like a Merseyside derby, would have taken the conservative option and made a simple pass but Jones — showing the level of confidence that his manager, Jurgen Klopp, described as cheeky — opted for an improbable shot and his self confidence was rewarded.
Since then the 19 year old has been named on the bench for several Premier League games and has played for and captained the U23′ side, showing that — by scoring a quickfire hat-trick against the Sunderland U23 side — he is too good for that level and that he is destined for greater things.
Standing 6’0, boasting agility and with a penchant to drove with the ball, the England youth international has the scope to play deeper in central midfield — as an advanced number 8 in a system similar to what the Reds currently employ — as the number 10 in a 4231 or off the left hand side in that shape or a 433.
In terms of positional flexibility, Jones covers far more roles than Cantwell and would be able to play straight away and — unlike his fellow England youth international — not have to acclimate to what are unique tactical demands of the European Champions, which would be especially difficult when first team appearances are at, best, sporadic.
With the demeanour and confidence of a player sure of their own ability and their capability to contribute to a team of the stature of Liverpool, Klopp and Edwards should not sign Cantwell — and focus the money it would take to sign him elsewhere — and instead give Jones the opportunity to establish himself in the first team.