Midfielder Curtis Jones enjoyed a breakout season for Liverpool in the 2020/21 campaign, filling the void amid a spate of injuries on Merseyside. The 20-year-old now has the chance to build on his exploits by becoming a first-team regular under Jurgen Klopp.
Georginio Wijnaldum’s move to Paris Saint-Germain has opened up a vacancy for a box-to-box midfielder, and Jones has all the attributes to succeed. In his 34 appearances last season, Jones scored four goals in all competitions, including the decisive strike in a 1-0 win over Ajax in the Champions League group stage.
Jones does need to refine areas of his game, notably his defensive duties. However, Liverpool may have unearthed a gem for the middle of the park, which will allow Klopp to focus his resources on other areas of the squad.
The Reds are joint second-favourites behind Manchester City in the Premier League betting odds at 5/1 to win the crown. The return of Virgil van Dijk will certainly boost their credentials alongside new signing Ibrahima Konate, providing a solid backline for Klopp to build around.
Mohamed Salah has been a model of consistency in the final third and should be pencilled in for another 20-goal season. Sadio Mane displayed signs of his former glory towards the end of the last term after a series of generally underwhelming performances. With their back and frontlines rested, recuperated, and strengthened, the Reds’ squad will be in stronger shape to challenge their rivals at the top of the Premier League.
The sale of Wijnaldum cannot be overlooked. The Dutchman was dependable in the middle of the park, and as a result, Jones has big shoes to fill. There are a lot of nuances to play in the heart of the midfield that can only be gained by experience. Jones will have benefitted greatly from the lessons of the last term, both the good and the bad.
At the age of 20, Jones is in a delicate position in his development. He only needs to look at his skipper Jordan Henderson to know that it can take time to deliver on potential. Henderson almost left the club one year removed after signing for £20 million from Sunderland in 2011. Klopp and Brendan Rodgers backed the England man, and he has since been the driving force behind ending Liverpool’s Premier League title drought and a sixth Champions League crown.
If Jones does not deliver immediately, there is a lesson of patience for Klopp and supporters. On the other hand, he could take the Premier League and Champions League by storm once he has been entrusted with starting duties. Phil Foden had to wait patiently behind David Silva, among others, for his opportunity at Manchester City. He found his feet in relief of Silva in the 2019/20 campaign before exploding into life after the Spaniard’s departure last season.
Foden became a lynchpin of Guardiola’s side, scoring nine goals and creating a further five in the Premier League along with three goals and three assists in the Champions League. Foden and Jones play in different positions on the field, and it would be extremely hard for the latter to match those levels of production. However, Jones could make the same impact on the field in his all-round play and become the player that Klopp cannot afford to not have in his team.
All eyes will be on the midfielder to see if he can emerge with the opportunity at Anfield.