Most of the focus will be on Liverpool’s established first team players off on national team duty during September’s international break, but along with the club’s strong contingent of first team stars, there are a slew of youth stars heading also out.
Players like Dominic Solanke, who joined up with the England U21s earlier in the week. For Solanke, it will mean a chance at competitive minutes he isn’t currently getting with the first team at Liverpool—and that’s something that has the England boss worried.
“I’m really pleased with Dom but I’m also a little bit worried,” U21 manager Aidy Boothroyd said to The Telegraph when asked about the difficulties of picking players who are often stuck between the reserve and first team at the club level.
“He is not getting the minutes and not getting the games. I am happy on the pitch picking the best players, but for the good of England and for the good of British football it would be nicer if we had more players playing—better for us and for them.”
It’s a complaint that seems both valid and premature. Even sticking just to Liverpool, it’s been clear with other young English players—players like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez—that consistent playing time is key to their development.
If they had never been granted more than spot duty in the League Cup, they never would have developed to the point where they’re part of the England senior set-up at 19 and 21 years of age respectively. Minutes are unquestionably important.
Yet it’s also still very, very early in the season. Liverpool and the other big English clubs have played just four games so far, one a week. Expecting fringe youth players to have played major minutes at this stage seems, frankly, a touch unreasonable.
Boothroyd can be concerned about Solanke, but at a time when even new £50M signing Fabinho hasn’t yet been included on Liverpool’s bench, it’s hardly an indictment of the club’s willingness to give youth a chance that Solanke hasn’t, either.
Over the course of a long season where Liverpool will be expected to play two games a week most weeks, Solanke’s chances will come—just as they did for Alexander-Arnold and Gomez last season. The time to pass judgement isn’t September.
Liverpool have proven under Jürgen Klopp they aren’t afraid to play young players—and to keep on playing them if they do well. It’s hardly a concern a talented but unestablished one hasn’t yet played major minutes four games into a new season.