Last summer, Liverpool signed four first team midfielders in a perhaps long-overdue positional overhaul, with Jürgen Klopp spending big to rebuild and bring in Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai, Wataru Endo, and Ryan Gravenberch.
Despite that, it’s arguably been academy graduate Curtis Jones who’s been the midfield standout across the breadth of the 2023-24 season so far. Following his latest strong performance, the 23-year-old from Toxteth reflected on his growing importance in the side.
“I’ve come in the team and I’m enjoying it,” Jones noted after the Reds’ convincing 4-1 victory over Chelsea on Wednesday evening. “I’m playing free, I’m scoring goals and helping the team, so I’m happy. I’m at the point now where my time has come and I’m taking my chance.
“The defending part of things, I was a young kid who came around the team and the only thing in my head was to score. I came in, just had that buzz, I just want to score, I just want to assist. Then you come on the main stage and it was half a shock.
“I had to adapt my game a lot. That’s what I’ve done now and funnily enough [Klopp’s] saying that if I can defend then anybody can! Because that was never ever a thing in my mind. But I’m doing it now, the defending part of my game has improved a lot, I’m starting to score goals again, I’m helping the team. I’m enjoying it.”
From a player who seemed at times between positions when he first broke into the team, not quite a winger and not quite a midfielder, Jones has become an increasingly composed and controlling presence on the ball—and an increasingly competent player off of it.
Given the turnover last summer, despite being just 23, Jones is also arguably one of the squad’s old hands, into his fifth season as a first team player after breaking into the squad in 2019-20, setting him up to be one of its leaders moving forward.
“I don’t want to talk too far ahead, but we’re in a good place,” he added. “The team has got this buzz about us. It’s a new team, it’s a young team, it’s a fresh team. Of course there’s been a change in terms of how we play and the lads that have come in.
“Normally it takes a bit of time to adapt but the lads have just adapted quickly, they’ve come in, played their part. It’s now at the point where the whole of the team has got this buzz. It’s just not individuals, it’s passing through the whole of the team. There’s a good buzz but we’ll see at the end of the season.”