In an interview with the Echo, Liverpool U23s coach Michael Beale discussed Liverpool’s academy in the year since Jürgen Klopp was appointed manager of the club. Due to a prolonged injury crisis last season, coupled with a stuffed fixture list, meant that many of the academy players made their senior debuts. Over the summer, several young players including Ovie Ejaria and Sheyi Ojo impressed during the Reds’ American pre-season tour.
Beale talked about the difficulties of working within the constraints of the academy system, when players are constantly coming and going.
“We have a What’s App group with all the players on it, those who are here, at Melwood or on loan and we celebrate every success. So last week Jack Dunn scoring and assisting for Morecombe, Lloyd Jones scoring in midweek (for Swindon), all of that’s on there,” he said.
“A group of seven or eight this week will go and watch a loan player, we just do little things to try to make it a family.
“Sometimes I feel that the players want to cut the chord because they’ve had three or four days at Melwood and think ‘we don’t need you’ but they do because ultimately the vehicle of the U23s – the team - is the thing that’s going to get them to the first team.
“If we play well against Leicester and Jürgen’s watching and you look a good player in a good team, you’re a step closer. It’s very hard to look a good player in a team which is maybe not doing so well or pulling in the same direction.”
Pulling in the same direction seems important to Beale, who revealed that they conduct detailed analysis after every game to monitor how well each player works for the good of the team as opposed to for their own gain.
“We have a very clever way of analyzing the performances which is an in-house thing which was devised with Pep Lijnders, Alex and myself in terms of how we analyse our players and their influence on a game. Basically (we look at) team actions, positive actions or individual actions for the team rather than yourself, that keeps them on the straight and narrow,” he explained.
Considering the strong team mentality that Klopp’s playing style requires for every person on the pitch, this sort of analysis seems like it would be a key component in his decision whether or not to extend a call-up to a player.
It’s early yet, but without European football for Liverpool, opportunities for the younger players may be thinner on the ground this season than last. It will be important for the U23s team to continue playing well, keep up morale, and also training in parallel to the first team so that any player invited to Melwood will be familiar with the tactics being used by Klopp and his team.