Recent Updates: December 19th | November 30th | November 28th
Results & Fixtures: Under-21s
|1/20||Arsenal U21||W 4-2||Ngoo (2), Smith, Peterson|
Have I mentioned that the youth sides have had a light schedule thus far this season? With only one fixture since our last update, the last few months have been incredibly bare for Alex Inglethorpe and Liverpool's Under-21 squad. Thankfully, not only was that one fixture an enormous success, but the situation is also set to change, starting tonight away to Chelsea.
Liverpool traveled to Arsenal's training ground in London to face an experienced Arsenal Under-21 side, featuring the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Carl Jenkinson, and fielded a relatively strong team themselves, with appearances from Wednesday's first-team debutant Joao Carlos Teixeira, as well as returning loanees Michael Ngoo (who has since been loaned out again) and Kristoffer Peterson.
Liverpool got off to a quick start, with Ngoo scoring twice in the first half, sandwiching by an Arsenal leveler. Later, Brad Smith and Peterson brought Liverpool's tally to four before Arsenal snatched a consolation goal towards the end. Peterson and Teixeira impressed with their pace and control of the match, respectively, and the former in particular looks to have benefitted from the experience on-loan with Tranmere. Finally, Stephen Sama started at right back with Ryan McLaughlin having gone out on loan to Barnsley and put in a great shift, impressing to the point of being included in the most recent 3XI.
As mentioned there is a match tonight against Chelsea, and it marks the first of eight on the fixture list over the next 6 weeks or so. This is so significantly welcome to those of us who have thirsted for youth football this season, but more importantly it will provide minutes to Liverpool's young, and increasingly fringe first-team players, to keep them sharp and match-fit for selection either by Brendan Rodgers or Inglethorpe. Players who have knocked on the first team door, such as Jordon Ibe, Teixeira, Smith, and Jordan Rossiter, will especially relish the opportunity to further impress the powers that be. And by that, I mean all of us.
Finally, there are some table implications for the upcoming matches. Liverpool currently sit in 4th place in the league, with two games in hand, and can move up to second with a win tonight against Chelsea.
[UPDATE]: The match against Chelsea was postponed due to weather and has yet to be rescheduled. The next match will be Friday, February 21st, 7:00pm BST/2:00pm EST, away to Stoke City, live on LFC.tv.
Results & Fixtures: Under-18s
|1/11||Middlesborough U18||W 3-0||Sinclair (2), Cleary||Barclay's U18 Premier League|
|1/15||Aston Villa U18||W 3-1||Wilson (2), Trickett-Smith||FA Youth Cup|
|1/18||Blackburn U18||W 5-0||Ojo (2), Canos, Cleary, Wilson||Barclay's U18 Premier League|
|2/8||Stoke City U18||L 1-4||Rimmer||Barclay's U18 Premier League|
After a rocky start, Neil Critchley's Under-18 side has had a fantastic run in recent months, both in the league and the FA Youth Cup. In the league, Liverpool started the year off with a fantastic 3-0 result against Middlesborough, with Jerome Sinclair bagging two more goals—both assisted by the phenomenal Harry Wilson—and defender Dan Cleary finishing it off with Liverpool's third. Wilson and Daniel Trickett-Smith continued to show how much attacking talent there truly is at this level, and it was a positive way to start the year.
Next up was the Youth Cup fixture at Langtree Park against Aston Villa and, on the back of a disappointing performance in the prior round against Blackpool—a match that required penalties to separate the two sides—Liverpool were eager to put on a good display. Trickett-Smith, whose long-range efforts of late have been spot on and impressive, opened the scoring with a wonderful volley from outside the box, but then Liverpool disappointingly conceded a soft one to level the match.
And then Harry Wilson showed why we should start getting excited about this kid. He scored two very similar top-quality goals to seal off the tie, cutting onto his left side and curling it into the corner, both set up by the nearly-equally impressive Ryan Kent. Wilson and Kent, both playing as inverted wingers, combined to deadly effect, with Wilson nearly finishing off what would have been a third assist for the Englishman Kent. This duo is well worth watching in the coming months. The next round of the FA Youth Cup sees Liverpool facing Watford away on the 19th, the winner of which will face Reading away in the quarter-finals.
In the next league match, Liverpool continued their hot streak, with an almost fully changed side beating Blackburn 5-0. Sheyi Ojo—who has been fulfilling more and more of the potential he brought when signing from MK Dons in 2011—opened the scoring after a nice assist by Sergi Canos, and Cleary doubled the lead after Blackburn were denied a pretty obvious penalty shout. Further goals from Canos, Ojo, and a penalty by Wilson sealed the rout.
Liverpool sent a large contingent of U19 players (including most of the players discussed in this section) to a tournament in Mexico that received little to no coverage. The lads played 5 games in just about as many days in grueling conditions and, as one can imagine, injuries and frustrations piled up. With no club-provided coverage, that's about all I know, but it helps to explain the squad Critchley fielded in the most recent league match. With five U16 players included and only 2 or 3 regulars available, the side struggled away to Stoke, and it largely turned into a throw-away game for Liverpool.
Despite the disappointing result, Liverpool U18s sit in 3rd place in the league table and have a good number of fixtures coming up with which to gain ground on the top two sides.
Next Match: Saturday, February 15th, 12:30pm BST/7:30am EST, at home against Sunderland, live on LFC.tv.
News & Notes
In what sounds like a great, overdue idea from the FA, Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore confirms that plans are in the works to create a B-team system in the Premier League, to replace the current Premier Under-21 League.
"The minute you call it 'Under-21' people think it is no use. It needs a better name and a better focus. All clubs recognise that. We need proper kick-off times, using main stadiums, anything to create an experience that is more competitive and more like the first team so it doesn't come as such a shock. And those players in that group should be interchangeable with the first team."
Regardless of what this ends up looking like, it is reassuring to hear that those in charge are aware of the issues in the youth and development side of their lovely game, and are working to fix it. If done right, a B-team system could drastically improve youth development in England.