Since I started writing these posts last week, a couple of things have become clear to me. First, many of last year's Under-18s stars will be spending a great deal of their time with the Under-21s this year. Second, with a few notable exceptions, this year's U18s will likely consist primarily of first-year scholars, i.e. players who've been promoted from the U16 side. And that is really the most exciting part of this whole exercise—seeing fresh faces, full of promise, announcing themselves to the world in the beautiful red of Liverpool. Unfortunately, it makes it nigh on impossible to profile them before they've featured with any sort of consistency, so this list will focus on the players who starred for the U18s last year, with predictions of where and how we can watch them develop this year.
Probably Belong on Last Week's List
Jack Dunn (turns 19 in November): When Brendan Rodgers says he wants more Scousers to come through to the first team, he likely has Dunn firmly in mind. An impressive athlete blessed with excellent technique, pace, and strength who has been played all over the attacking third, Dunn is probably most accurately described as a striker. After captaining the U16 side, Dunn was given the armband for the U18s last season and, despite hamstring issues keeping him out of the side for large portions of the year, managed to score 7 goals in 6 FA Youth Cup matches, and made the step up to the U21s towards the end of the year. Dunn's athletic profile and positively arrogant attitude makes him a very intriguing prospect, and, if he can stay healthy, he should play a major role for the U21s, U18s, and NextGen Series squads.
Jordan Lussey (turns 19 in November): Lussey was one of the stars of the U18s season last year and was rewarded for an excellent campaign with two appearances for the U21s at the end of the season. The local attacking midfielder has an impressive array of skills in the attacking third; he's quick, has excellent passing vision, and can shoot very well from distance. He's got leadership qualities the coaching staff admires, and he should feature regularly alongside Joao Carlos Teixeira and Conor Coady in the U21s this year.
Daniel Trickett-Smith (turns 18 in September): King Kenny won the signature of the young attacker from Crewe Alexandra last April, beating the likes of Manchester United. He played both striker and attacking midfield—I think he's best finding space behind the strikers—for the U18s last year, and impressed with his deft first touch, excellent dribbling and footwork, and calm finishing. He scored 6 goals in 18 appearances, and a few weeks ago earned his first professional contract.
Kristoffer Peterson (turns 19 in November): Of all the talent in our youth ranks, the young Swedish winger probably has the best raw dribbling ability. Not just the star of an adorable skill-off against Borussia Dortmund, Peterson is also a pacy and direct attacker who excels at taking defenders on. The knock on him—as is often the case with young players of this style—has been his final product, but it seems he's made strides in that area. He was yet another who made the step up to the U21s towards the end of the year, and I expect him to play at that level primarily this year.
Likely to Star for the Under-18s
Jerome Sinclair (turns 17 in September): It's astonishing just how young Sinclair is. Liverpool's youngest ever player was the leading scorer for the U18s last year, scoring 10 goals after scoring 8 in 6 preseason matches. Watching him play, it's clear why many regard him as Liverpool's best prospect. His combination of youth, physicality, pace, movement, and finishing is frankly terrifying, and he was a dominant force throughout the season when he wasn't shaking off minor injuries. He doesn't just score tap-ins either, and you can watch his diverse finishing arsenal below. Given his talent he's more than good enough to play for the U21s this year, but due to his age and the depth of players at the U21 level, Sinclair is likely to spend the majority of his time with the U18s. Having said that, he's trained regularly with the first team, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him feature not only for Alex Inglethorpe, but for Rodgers as well.
Jordan Rossiter (turned 16 in March): Another local lad who has many buzzing, Rossiter is a very talented central midfielder who made the step up to the U18s gradually over the past two seasons, eventually captaining the side during the second half of last season. Rossiter has what may be described by some as the total package in midfield, with an aggressive, tough tackling approach combined with a remarkably composed, technical, and attacking skillset. He's got me dreaming of a future midfield of Jordans, hopefully combining with Lussey and Henderson in about 5 years, and if you think I'm crazy, take it up with God.
A young lad just about to come on for a few mins for Liverpool in nextgen... Jordan rossiter, big shout but potentially a young stevie g..— Robbie Fowler (@Robbie9Fowler) January 8, 2013
Right, then, no pressure. He's been with the U21s so far in the preseason, but look for Rossiter to captain the U18s again this year.
Alex O'Hanlon (turned 17 in April): Amid rumored interest from Real Madrid and Manchester United, Irish-born O'Hanlon signed for Liverpool in 2011 and has impressed ever since. He started last year as the U18s left-back, but gradually moved up the pitch, playing mostly left-wing in the spring. O'Hanlon features clever dribbling and incisive passing in a well-rounded game, and signed his first professional contract this summer as well. I think this could be O'Hanlon's breakout year in the U18s.