How Jürgen Klopp’s faith in youth is allowing Liverpool’s first team squad to believe they can achieve their goals this season…

 

USING players isn’t always a positive sign of rotation or healthy competition.

Liverpool have used 29 players to date this season. Playing time ranges from the highest – Mohamed Salah – who has clocked up 2,045, to Bobby Clark, who has registered 15 minutes of action.

For context, Brighton have used 28 players, Manchester City 27, Newcastle 28 and Arsenal 26 so far. All pretty much the same, but with the vibes being clearly distinguishable between all.

For example, Eddie Howe has put over 2,000 minutes of football into five of his squad members already. That would likely be more without the injuries to Nick Pope and Joelinton.

Managing squads is becoming more topical than ever. There is once again a collective shoulder shrug at an increase in games which only serves to collect miles in legs and airlines, destroying all in its path from air quality to hamstrings.

As creatures of survival, we adapt rather than change or innovate. So expect bigger squads and squad use out of sheer necessity. Of course, the numbers already outlined are about par for a team competing in Europe, one can argue.

There will be the odd Carabao or FA Cup side which is littered with youngsters. They get their opportunity, build up experience and that might be all we ever write about them.

There is, and should be a slight shift occurring, though.

Clubs are emphasising the need for an active squad in excess of 22 players to merely navigate a season.

Fixtures, coupled with the incessant demand for high pressing and running metrics have left many facing an injury and exhaustion crisis they hadn’t planned for.

Liverpool’s last three opponents have all been shattered after an hour.

If Brad Smith entering the pitch at Stamford Bridge in 2013 was political, introducing Conor Bradley and Clark was undoubtedly strategic at The Emirates last weekend.

Liverpool are trusting youngsters for a multitude of reasons. The first, as mentioned, is they simply have to.

Ben Doak’s 247 minutes so far this season are a representation of the Europa League, of belief in young players and a sign of his clear potential.

There’s something else. Doak is another example of pathways when Liverpool scouts are trying to woo the next teenage protege exploring their next step.

They don’t have to point to Trent Alexander-Arnold or Curtis Jones as aspirational barometers. They can simply mention that in one full year at the club players like Doak have had opportunities deputising for players like Salah.

It’s worth noting that highly rated 16-year-old Trey Nyoni has been making senior benches of late after only signing from Leicester City’s academy this summer.

There’s an element of ‘needs must’ in this, but Liverpool’s intention to create opportunities seems genuine.

Cynicism will undoubtedly remain in some quarters, yet you can’t fill a 25-man-squad solely with multi-million pound acquired assets and expect a state of unperturbed bliss.

Manchester United can boast 327 minutes allocated to a player like Hannibal Mejbri or 582 minutes for Kobbie Mainoo. But it feels chaotic. It’s desperation over nurture. It isn’t thought out in the slightest. This is almost worst than tokenism.

There is indeed an art to youth development. It’s likely that Liverpool will keep up their attempts to compete on all fronts by trusting players like Bradley, who walked off the pitch to rightful acclaim on Wednesday.

If they go all the way in any competition this season, there will be no better sell to the next big talent that Liverpool is the place to be.

And that they can also be a big part of the journey.

Dan


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