Liverpool’s issues in midfield are well-documented. Naby Keita, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (in addition to Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino) all said their farewells after last weekend’s 1-1 draw against Aston Villa, whilst Thiago and Jordan Henderson have struggled with injuries over the course of the season. Many names have been touted with a move to Anfield over the past few months, no less than Alexis Mac Allister, who is said to have already agreed personal terms with Liverpool. But Jurgen Klopp may have the answer to his midfield problems at home.
Curtis Jones has been in electric form towards the back end of the season. After initially struggling with being in and out of the team, the 22-year-old has started Liverpool’s last 11 games, contributing to an unbeaten run that has seen Klopp’s men push Manchester United and Newcastle for Champions League qualification, having previously languished as low as 10th at the halfway stage of the season. Whilst they will be playing Europa League football next season, Jones has nevertheless played a key role in their strong end to the 2022/23 campaign.
Jones has showcased his ability to impact the game further up the pitch with goals against Tottenham and Leicester in recent weeks. Where players like Georginio Wijnaldum used to provide a threat, Jones is showing that he’s capable of stepping into the Dutchman’s shoes. The fact Jones has found form in front of goal is no accident either, his underlying numbers prove that time and again he’s finding the right spaces. He ranks in the 98th percentile for touches in the attacking penalty area per 90 (3.59) and the 96th percentile for progressive passes received (6.34), according to FBref.
He is constantly offering himself up as an option, whether that’s in between the lines, as can be seen from his touch and finish from the top of the box against Leicester, or by peeling off at the back post to side foot home the opener versus Tottenham. It’s his ability to anticipate space that makes him so dangerous: with opposition defenders preoccupied with picking up the likes of Mohamed Salah and Cody Gakpo, Jones knows his late runs will often go unchecked.
The job of a midfielder in Liverpool’s system has never been as easy as providing support in attacking areas, and in producing 2.92 tackles per 90, Jones is allowing Liverpool to regularly turn over possession, a trait that’s taken on added significance due to Fabinho’s downturn in form this season. Having regained the ball, Jones is then able to drive with pace and purpose – averaging 2.59 progressive carries per 90. There’s a roundedness to his play in and out of possession that will endear him to Klopp even whilst he looks to overhaul his options in the middle of the park.
After struggling to kick on after his initial breakthrough, Curtis Jones has now found a second lease of life at his boyhood club, and with his injury worries seemingly behind him, the future looks bright for the Toxteth-born baller.
By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Visionhaus / Getty Images