In recent seasons, Liverpool have been a club that has at least started to earn themselves a reputation for being willing to give young players a chance. In large part, that was down to a thin squad and ending up rather worse off than they wanted to be in the table. It may not last.
In 2015-16, they ended up eighth in the final table while pushing hard to win the Europa League. The result was a lot of chances for the youth and reserves in the second half of the season as Jürgen Klopp focused on Europe. Last season, Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United took a similar approach.
By comparison, minutes were harder to come by at Liverpool with the league important right up to the final week of the season. Now, heading back into the Champions League and expecting to strengthen the squad in order to push hard in multiple competitions, it may get even harder.
“The boys did really well but they all have to improve,” was Klopp’s response when asked about what kind of chances Liverpool’s academy prospects will get when they and their more senior teammates begin to return to the club for pre-season in two weeks.
It may end up being harder for them to get minutes next season even than it was in the last, but for the club’s most talented youngsters, Klopp insists that the chance to earn minutes still exists—that they will remain at the club and, given injuries and form and a long season, hard work will be rewarded.
“They have to go from being really skilled kids to being players that you have to use,” the Liverpool manager added. “That’s the next step. Look at Rhian Brewster, everyone knows his talent. Ben [Woodburn] is a step ahead and someone like Trent [Alexander-Arnold] is another step ahead.”
Shortly after the players return, the club head to Prenton Park to face Tranmere on July 12th and Wigan at the DW Stadium on the 14th. Following the two domestic dates, Liverpool head to Hong Kong for the Asia Trophy before playing three games in Germany and closing out pre-season in Dublin.