Jordan Henderson’s Departure and the Rise of Curtis Jones
When Jordan Henderson left Anfield this summer (this isn’t headed where you might expect, so don’t roll your eyes just yet), many wondered who might become the new target for the boo boys or online critics.
Curtis Jones: New Homegrown Hero?
Many pegged Curtis Jones as the next in line to follow Ronnie Whelan and others, owing to his style and his homegrown status. With a midfield overhaul and all the summer additions focused on that area, many questioned his role in the squad, let alone the starting XI. Another injury at the start of the season didn’t help. Yet, while it’s still early days for Liverpool and the rest, the Villa game hinted that the Toxteth-born player might not just be involved in domestic and European knockout commotions.
Liverpool’s Performance: The Hidden Gem
Players like Szoboszlai and Nunez naturally garnered much praise, but Jones’ stellar performance might have been somewhat overlooked. As the stats produced from the impressive AI Under a pressure pod demonstrated, alongside his Hungarian teammate, the England Under-21 midfielder was central to Jurgen Klopp’s targeted pressing strategy. The 22-year-old successfully executed 26 out of 26 individual presses, with only the two aforementioned players attempting more. In the sunshine, Jones proved a key cog in a well-oiled Liverpool machine that made easy work of a good Villa side.
The structure was definitely there in this match. The pressing chain "wall" across the Villa third supported by the crab-like pincers in the halfspaces.
Dom and CJ did the sexy stuff but Mac role was crucial, deeper and disciplined along with Robbo, Trent and Joel. pic.twitter.com/18Lhvo0oAv
— AIUnderPressure (@AIUnderPressure) September 6, 2023
Dominance on the Left
On the left-hand side, the Adidas-signed athlete seems right at home, thriving in a formation and style that suits both him and the team. With his ability to counter-press aggressively upon losing possession and combined with the sheer athleticism of Szoboszlai, Jones provides Liverpool with an energy and dynamism they could only have dreamed of last season. We shouldn’t forget that he played a pivotal role in the unbeaten run that saw them narrowly miss out on Champions League places, providing hope for this campaign.
Liverpool’s Strategy and the Role of New Recruits
A combination of injuries, recruitment, and long-held beliefs meant that doubts lingered for some, and understandably so. Liverpool seemed overly offensive, leading to the recruitment of Endo, who seemed to be brought in to help players like Mac Allister play their natural roles rather than being forced into the ‘six’ position. An ankle knock which put him out of the final pre-season game and the Chelsea starting line-up didn’t help his cause either, especially after missing the majority of the last campaign. However, all three of the starting midfielders looked comfortable in their roles on Sunday, and Endo may have to get used to his role within the squad. It might surprise many, but Curtis could very well be a key component.