Liverpool’s youngsters offer hope of a golden sky
September 28, 2012 in Premier League
It’s been a bad start to the season at Anfield. Goal shy and shaky at the back, Liverpool sit in 18th position with just two points – it’s been one of the worst starts to the season in the 18 times Champions’ illustrious history. Even so, most Liverpool fans are optimistic, and whilst they won’t claim to be over the moon with the way things are going, or even satisfied, there is very little disillusionment amongst the Liverpool support. Liverpool fans are full of hope (aren’t they always?!), this time inspired by the emergence of a crop of seriously promising talents.
As the summer transfer window ‘slammed’ shut, some supporters began to air their frustrations as Liverpool failed to add sufficient fire-power to their forward line. Goals have once again been hard to come by, with Luis Suarez still profligate in front of goal, and Fabio Borini yet to present any hard evidence that he has a natural goal-scoring instinct. But since September the 1st, the focus at Liverpool has shifted from the multi-million pound signings to the rising stars of the Liverpool academy. The directness and confidence of 17-year old Raheem Sterling and the panache of Fernandez Suso is what gives Liverpool fans hope, and in the immediate short term, some satisfaction for there is something about the blooding of young players which makes all football fans proud. In the case of Liverpool, however, this isn’t just a token gesture where youngsters are given their chance in the less important fixtures or admiration for a young pretender kicking to stay afloat despite appearing out of their depth. Liverpool’s young talents are more than just battle hardened – they have genuine quality and seem prepared to take on responsibility in the first team – now. The likes of Sterling, Suso and Shelvey offer more than just hope, they are the leading stars in a pack of young players who can collectively offer Liverpool’s fans and – more importantly – their manager what is most important: results.
Of course, as of yet, they have yet to do so and by no means do these emerging talents transform Liverpool into a team ready to challenge for honours, or even the coveted Champions League spots. Yet they do bolster the squad, offer options from the get go or from the bench, and crucially can become cornerstones of Liverpool’s reinvention under Brendan Rodgers. The manager must be given credit because he has taken the brave decision to trust the young and inexperienced members of his squad whilst he implements drastic changes to Liverpool’s tactical set-up. It is however the undoubted talent of those players which has allowed Rodgers to make that call.
Raheem Sterling has looked a natural fit in the Premier League at just 17 years of age, the only concern has been his slight frame. In his début against Man City, I was fearful for him when Yaya Toure galloped across to meet the tricky winger, yet Sterling takes the blows, dusts himself down and prepares to go again. Sterling has all the assets required to make him a top wide player – natural pace, a good touch and the required confidence and trickery to take on players. Most impressive has been his courage in regularly demanding the ball and being prepared to take on the task of carrying his side forwards. Unlike many raw wingers, Sterling is aware of what is going on around him and where his team-mates are – an awareness which sets him apart. Whilst it is true that his only competition in the first team comes from the likes of Stewart Downing, it has been an impressive start for such a young player. Rodgers and Liverpool as a club must be careful to nurture Sterling off the pitch and not to thrust too many games and responsibility onto his slight shoulders, but when on it, he looks like he can take care of himself.
Fernandez Suso offers a more flamboyant edge and looks to be another in a long line of prodigiously talented Spanish forwards. Suso has a magnetic velvety touch which seems to be built in to all forwards emerging from Spain and has the ability to stand defenders up before shifting the ball to make room for himself, as well as being a precise and technical passer of the ball. Like many young talents, his discipline and work-rate is not quite up to scratch, but Rodgers is prepared to trust him, thrusting him into the action against Manchester United despite being down to 10 men, which surely bodes well for the youngster.
Jonjo Shelvey is another natural talent who Rodgers has placed great trust in. Whilst Shelvey has most recently been in the news after his reckless lunge at Jonny Evans and even more misguided outburst towards Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Charlton youth product has been slowly but consistently improving his all round game, from as far back as last season when Kenny Dalglish was still in charge. Shelvey may not be as naturally gifted as some of the other talents at Liverpool, but a strong physique and determination underpins his desire and confidence to make his mark on the match. Comfortable off either foot and a fine striker of the ball, Shelvey may well be chipping in with some crucial goals for Liverpool in the coming months but can also play effectively in a deeper role which he demonstrated against the champions, Man City.
The three mentioned above are to name but a few. In defence, Andre Wisdom and Jack Robinson are amongst the highest rated talents at Anfield; the latter in particular, who according to some, is the most likely to become a permanent fixture. Sebastian Coates has made a steady and promising start to his career in England and is still only just about to turn 22. Martin Kelly is now a Liverpool regular and has also been solid in defence, regularly shacking Premier League wingers, though unfortunately he has now been ruled out for the season. In midfield, Joe Allen, who was signed for a hefty £15m, has began to show why he was such a key acquisition for Rodgers; a player who is not extravagant but takes care of the ball and is tactically acute, Allen is the type of player who is all important in any possession-based system. At 22, the Welshman is surely deserving of more praise than the likes of Tom Cleverley at Manchester United. Samed Yesil was also brought to the club in the summer, the 18-year old is the latest in a long line of Turkish/German fused talents and has had a remarkable youth career. In Germany, Yesil has been regarded as a highly promising talent akin to Miroslav Klose.
It is unlikely that all of the names mentioned will make the grade. For now, however, they offer Liverpool fans a source of hope and optimism which is invaluable at a football club when the chips are down. There is a long way to go yet and FSG will surely have to invest further and more ambitiously in the squad. However, if and when those players arrive, the likes of Sterling, Suso and Shelvey won’t be there to make up the numbers, they will be strong complements, as over the coming weeks and months they look to lay the foundations for a strong and bright future at Liverpool.