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Results & Fixtures
Liverpool U21s 5 - Tottenham Hotspur U21s 0, Monday October 7th
Liverpool came in match having won 3 and drawn 1 in its past 4 matches, and the team selection provided plenty of discussion points. Rafa Paez appeared again in the center of defense, this time alongside Andre Wisdom. Aly Cissokho officially launched his rehab assignment at left back, and John Flanagan captained the side and played right back. Further forward, things only got more interesting. Cameron Brannagan and Jordan Rossiter have yet to relinquish their starting roles at the U21 level despite being quite young, and Craig Roddan rounded out the center of the midfield behind striker Adam Morgan who, if you missed it, scored Liverpool's EA Sports goal of the month in the last match versus Manchester City. Finally, Ryan McLaughlin continued his winger experiment opposite returning fellow fullback cum winger Brad Smith. Whether or not this ties into Brendan Rodgers' dalliance with the 3-5-2 is an open question, but in this case the two played in inverted roles, with the right footed McLaughlin as a left winger and the lefty Smith as a right winger. The excitement didn't end with the starting lineup—Samed Yesil made his official return from injury on the bench alongside a recent loanee recalled Joao Carlos Teixeira and Kristoffer Peterson.
The obvious question was whether a lineup with 6 natural defenders and 2 defensive minded midfielders could provide attacking impetus. And in the end, they provided it in spades. Relatively early on, McLaughlin and Smith showed signs of terrorizing the Tottenham fullbacks, and they never really relented. McLaughlin won a penalty with some nifty dribbling which Morgan converted, and later Smith set up McLaughlin for a goal with an excellent pass with the outside of his foot. Brannagan scored as a result of a brilliant chipped pass by Cissokho in between those two. To be fair, Spurs played an inexplicably high line, but Liverpool exploited it expertly. In the second half, Brad Smith scored a beautiful curling effort from the right wing, and Teixeira won possession and chipped the keeper with his first touch of the game for the fifth. Yesil made an appearance as well, and came close to scoring himself, but hit the woodwork.
Those who've spoken to me about this team know how high I am on Brad Smith (until his injury I thought he was on par if not slightly ahead of McLaughlin), so it's especially nice to see him return for the first time since his knee injury in January and perform at a superb level. I think his and McLaughlin's continued development may well save Liverpool money in the transfer market.
Liverpool team: Danny Ward, Flannagan (captain), Paez, Wisdom, Cissokho, Roddan, Rossiter, Brannagan (Teixeira), McLaughlin (Peterson), Smith (Yesil), Morgan. Unused subs: Yusuf Mersin, Jakub Sokolik.
Next Match: Sunday, October 20th, 2:00pm BST/9:00pm EST, away to West Bromwich Albion live on LFC.tv.
In stark contrast to the U21s, the U18s have been struggling in the new campaign, and the difficulties continued against last season's champion U18 side Fulham last week. Liverpool did keep the match close until the latter stages of the second half, with Daniel Trickett-Smith's penalty keeping the reds within a goal, but two quick goals by Fulham effectively killed the match off before Trickett-Smith fired a consolation marker at the death.
This means the U18s have only won 1 point in the past 4 matches, and new coach Neil Critchley will be pressed to figure this thing out relatively quickly. It doesn't help having your most mature players (Rossiter and Brannagan) being pulled up to the U21 squad, but that shouldn't cause the results to be quite so poor. Yes, results aren't everything at the U18 level, but you'd like to see Liverpool being a little more competitive than this.
Liverpool team: Ryan Fulton, Kristof Polgar, David Roberts (Sam Hart), Dan Cleary, Tom Brewitt, Jordan Williams (Louis Robles), Alex O'Hanlon, Connor Randall (Harry Wilson), Trickett-Smith, Sheyi Ojo, Ryan Kent. Unused subs: Andy Firth, Dharius Waldron.
Next Match: Saturday, October 19th, 11:00am BST/6:00am EST, home against Blackburn Rovers.
General News & Notes
Liverpool fans were treated to what many would consider to be a pleasant surprise yesterday as Wales senior team manager Chris Coleman announced the inclusion of 16 year old winger Harry Wilson in his squad for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers against Macedonia and Belgium. Should he feature in either game, Wilson will officially become Wales' youngest ever player. Wilson has been hugely impressive both for Liverpool at the U18 level and for Wales with the U17s, but it still took a strange confluence of events to lead to this—first, of the 23 players originally named to the squad, 10 had to exclude themselves (or be excluded) due to injury, and second, these games are totally meaningless from a competitive standpoint, as Wales is dead last in its qualifying group.
While this is in some ways might seem wildly encouraging sign for an exciting prospect who has become a quick favorite on this site's radar, it's also concerning for a variety of reasons. Young Wilson has yet to even play a full match at the U21 level for Liverpool, let alone the senior side, and yet could find himself facing off against big, physical men like Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen, and Moussa Dembele, among many talented others. Simply put, there's no way he's ready for this step, and I'd personally much rather see him given the opportunity to progress at his own pace. While the experience of being in and around the senior squad could be a positive for a young player, in the case of a poor Wales team with a manager in turmoil, it could easily turn into a negative. I understand that it may seem important to secure Wilson's Welshness moving forward, but these risks, on top of the added pressure this is sure to place on his young shoulders, are amongst the reasons I'm cautious and skeptical of this move. Nevertheless, I wish Wilson all the best and hope he escapes this interesting experience unscathed.
Teixeira and Ngoo Loans Cut Short
As mentioned above, Teixeira not only made an appearance in the U21 match but scored a delightful goal, and the club followed that up with official confirmation of the termination of his loan. A day later, the club announced another youth loan coming to a premature end, this time that of Michael Ngoo. Official word has it that these loans have been ended by mutual agreement, and it was fairly obviously not working out as Teixeira made only 2 appearances with Brentford and Ngoo 6 with Yeovil Town, both primarily off the bench. At the time of these agreements, both clubs had been touted as great partners for Liverpool due to their affinity for a slick, passing style of football. In reality, however, it appears not to have worked out that way, especially in the case of Teixeira, and the fit wasn't as smooth as originally hoped.
I applaud the club for reacting quickly to these disappointing loan spells, but I think questions need to be asked of the club concerning the nature of these loans and why they are failing at such a regular rate. Of the youth players currently still on loan, only Suso and Jack Robinson seem to be getting regular playing time, while Krisztian Adorjan seems to be enjoying moderate success in the Netherlands as well. Either Liverpool isn't doing enough research into potential destinations or is struggling to develop relationships with more appropriate clubs around England and Europe. In either case, it's probably not good enough.