ANYONE had any rumoured team texts yet? You know the ones. Via a mate of the kit man’s arl fella who says Danny Ings is defo starting, before we get the team an hour prior to kick-off and he’s not even in the squad.
Actually they seem quiet today. Which either means the lads who are picked are better at not telling everyone in the supermarket, the lads themselves don’t even know yet, or the blaggers don’t know where to start.
It is a tough one, isn’t it? For the real manager, I mean. How much do you stick and how much do you twist? Some players might want rhythm, whilst others might need a rest. Some need games, but can you get them all in? And when is the right time to throw a young player in?
On Sunday, Liverpool under-23s beat Everton without Ings, Marko Grujic, Kevin Stewart, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ovie Ejaria. This doesn’t mean all of the above are certain to play. Liverpool did something similar before the Derby County game in which only Grujic started, although Ejaria and Ings came off the bench. But the temptation must be there for the manager. Especially with the form the young players are in.
Of course those five players are not all at the same stage of their careers. Danny Ings has been in an England squad and will feel the Liverpool first team is where he belongs. For Alexander-Arnold and Ejaria, they have gone from under-18 players to on the edge of the first team in the blink of an eye.
I recently spoke to under-23s manager Michael Beale a few days ago he acknowledged the pair’s rapid rise and, rather than take credit himself, was happy to praise Jürgen Klopp and his coaches impact on the pair.
“For Ovie Ejaria to make his first team debut, he never saw it coming. When he came back for pre-season it was very much ‘I’m going to fight to be in the under-23 team’.
“But then, he shows something in pre-season, goes away, and the belief you get from the manager, from being around him, it’s huge. They just get that extra boost from him. I’ve seen it in Trent Alexander-Arnold and in Pedro Chirivella. They are just playing at a level far superior than they were six or seven months ago.
“Which shows you there must be good work going on and a nice environment, when you see boys come on so much. You’ve reported on the youth team games and seen Trent and Ovie playing last year, good players, but you’d never thought they would have had the start to the season they have.”
The natural progression for a manager, who spoke this week about having a dream of 10 players coming through the academy and no new signings, would be to play Ejaria and Alexander-Arnold tonight. However, he’ll be conscious of the balance too. Not just in terms of talent, but also experience.
Beale touched on the value of experience to his team, saying: “Communication comes with experience. You see it when Lucas (Leiva) drops down (to the under-23s). Against Arsenal away, Lucas just organised the whole game. He didn’t just organise the back four, he organised everyone. He was organising their team as well he was that organised!
“He’s not by any means a beater of the chest or a shouter, it’s just a calm word here, just to reiterate certain things. I think that is the problem that comes with under-23 football, when it’s just young players, you can sometimes switch off.”
Klopp could start Ejaria, Grujic and Stewart tonight in midfield and it has a nice balance of attacking and defensive qualities. He certainly seems to believe in their talents. But who has the experience if things become overrun?
Are they better off playing a midfield of Adam Lallana or Lucas to help the younger players, even if it means one of them has to miss out? Decisions, decisions. But, even if one or two miss out tonight, it is clear their time is coming. Sooner rather than later.