There was little by way of good news when Paul Tierney sounded the final whistle in Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest on Saturday. But after the dust had settled on yet another poor away performance by the Reds, there were some positives to take.
One of the most glowing was the return of Curtis Jones, who was cast into the starting line up after Thiago Alcântara missed out through a freak ear infection. It was the latest in an unfortunate and sometimes bizarre list of maladies that has kept the Spaniard from ever being a true mainstay at Liverpool.
There have been plenty of expectations on Jones since his goal against Everton in the FA Cup in 2020, but he has been unable to match the levels of some of those of a similar age group in terms of his overall goal contributions. Like Thiago, the academy graduate knows a thing or two about bizarre setbacks, with an eye injury keeping him out for much of last season, but nor has he ever really seemed to find his best position.
Now 21, Jones could be set for a turning point in his Liverpool career. While the likes of Harvey Elliott and Fábio Carvalho look better-suited to more attacking midfield roles, Jones is beginning to shine when starting in deeper midfield areas.
Of course, there are some areas of his defensive game that will come in time, but as a player who has natural flair on the ball from his time playing in attack, Jones could follow a similar pathway to Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, who began his career as an attacking midfielder. While many were quick to slam the performance of Jürgen Klopp’s midfield after the defeat to Steve Cooper’s side, Jones was one of the few who stood out.
He registered the highest pass accuracy of any starter against Nottingham Forest (93.8 per cent), and matched Fabinho’s defensive contributions (1) across the game. That is, perhaps, more of an alarming indictment on the recent form of the Brazil international, but away from the statistics, it is clear that Jones is beginning to better understand the role of a deep playmaker.
Having scored three goals in 47 Premier League appearances, it is unclear whether Jones can find the turn in form to match the standard he produced at academy level. That would mean ascending to the levels of the likes of Phil Foden, who has contributed to 46 goals in 108 league matches — and he’s just one year his senior.
Contracted at the club until 2025, there are no doubts that Jones can become a long-term option in Klopp’s side and a player that picks up hundreds of appearances in the red of his hometown club, though it may now be time to focus on a position shift. At six-foot-one, with natural technical ability, he has all of the attributes required to shine as a playmaker from deeper areas, while he can add strength and the defensive elements as he continues to develop.
And as Liverpool keep one eye on Jude Bellingham, the Reds could save an expensive transfer tug-of-war by helping Jones in his transition to deeper midfield — focusing future transfer spend on players who can add firepower to Klopp’s attack. With Fabinho in torrid form and Thiago almost perennially sidelined, the youngster certainly has a chance to make this position his own.
Be First to Comment