Liverpool are flying high these days, having dropped only two points in the opening 14 games of the Premier League season, and sitting comfortably at the top of the table, with main title rivals Manchester City a full 11 points back. As such, the players that are linked with moves to the club are of similar stature, occupying the upper strata in terms of talent and reputation, reflecting the club’s current standing.
Amidst the big names that keep popping up on the Reds radar, however, there is a group of players that should not be forgotten; the talented youngsters that are already one the books at Melwood. Furthermore, while the Rhian Brewsters and Harvey Elliotts of the world remain in the minds of fans by virtue of popping up in matchday squads on occasion — not to mention on the pitch in the odd Carabao Cup classic — players who are out on loan tend to get less attention.
Certainly, most of them will never make the grade at Anfield, true of almost every single footballer on the planet, but some of them are certainly doing their best to defy the odds and force their way into Jürgen Klopp’s long-term plans.
Enter Harry Wilson. They boyhood Red has been with the club since the age of eight, and signed a new long-term contract this summer. Currently on his third loan spell in three seasons, Wilson is finally playing week in, week out in the Premier League, having previously spent time in the Championship, and he’s not looking out of place.
While Bournemouth have had... shall we say mixed success with their purchases from Liverpool — the £40m spent on Jordon Ibe, Brad Smith and Dominic Solanke has so far yielded a total of three league goals — Harry Wilson is bucking the trend. After 14 matches, the 22-year old has appeared in every single game for the Cherries, currently leads their scoring charts with six goals, and sits third in expected goals and assists.
While Diego Rico and Ryan Fraser are ahead of him in the pecking order when it comes to set-piece delivery, affecting Wilson’s ability to pad his creation numbers, the former Derby loanee remains first-choice on direct free kicks, and he has already repaid that faith with two spectacular goals, against Manchester City and Tottenham.
That long-range ability has been speculated to be special for a while now, and as the numbers keep adding up, it becomes harder and harder to deny. Having taken exactly 100 shots from outside the area in his — statistically calculable — senior career, Wilson has scored 12 goals. Your favourite ranged shooters, your Paulo Dybalas and Cristiano Ronaldos and Philippe Coutinhos, convert at roughly half that rate.
With half of his goals coming from inside the box, however, Wilson has also shown an understanding of how and when to time his runs into the penalty area, and his slotted finishes from around the penalty spot are encouraging for anybody who likes a good cutback from the touchline.
For those looking for a path to the Liverpool first team for Wilson, the Xherdan Shaqiri comparison probably remains the most promising. Both players prefer cutting inside from the right to make plays, both possess significant long-range and set piece threats, and neither player is an athletic phenom capable of bursting past defenders with pure pace, only averaging a successful take-on every two games last season. With little between them in terms of talent, you could argue that there if there is room for Shaqiri, there is room for the much younger, home- and club-grown Wilson once the former is moved on.
Whether the Welshman can convince his German boss that he should be part of the long-term process at Liverpool remains to be seen, but Wilson is certainly doing all he can to make it happen at his boyhood club.