When Curtis Jones broke into the Liverpool senior squad at 18 years old, he was known as an attack-minded midfielder with an eye for goal. Notching a goal in his very first Merseyside derby helped reinforce that view. His role for Liverpool, however, has ultimately laid further back as a true box-to-box midfielder. In a recent interview with liverpoolfc.com, Jones discussed his change in mindset that has led to his growth as a player.
“My head was always just on goals and assists, picking up the ball and just having the ball. Then I came around the team and I saw there was more to the game. Then I understood what I had to do to keep my shirt and what the staff needed from me as a player as a No.8.”
A big part of playing in Jürgen Klopp’s midfield is winning the ball back high up the pitch. The work rate with counter-pressing, as well as getting the ball out of his feet quickly rather than going on a dribble, are now two hallmarks that Jones feel are two of his biggest strengths.
“My counter-pressing is huge and how fast I move the ball as well. At the back end of the season, with the games that I’d played, you could see I’m starting to find my goals again and assists as well. It’s mad because in the lactate test I was always in the top three. So I could always run but I just had a thing in my head that running back to your own goal just felt a little bit harder, you know what I mean?”
“But now it’s part of my game and it just clicks. If I’m on the ball and give away the ball, the first thought in my head is to be the first one to go and get the ball back. If one of the lads went to press, then I’m making sure that I’m blocking the space. It just now becomes a natural thing.”
While the Scouser has settled well into his role in the squad, he isn’t afraid to adapt to new situations. He was one of the most impressive players for the England U21 side that just won the Euros while playing as part of a deeper role in a double pivot. Jones has said he will play wherever he can to get on the pitch. He’s believes that proving his adaptability with the U21s will afford him more opportunities with Liverpool.
“I’m a kid who just wants to go and play, I wouldn’t care if I was a right-back or a centre-half. I just want to go and play. I adapted well, I did well. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to play in the team.”
“With the team we have now, there’s going to be times when I might have to change roles a little bit to get game time. I’ve shown that I can play in a deeper role as well, so it will help me.”
The great patch of form Jones has been in during the spring and summer came on the heels of a lot of hard work and patience as he worked his way back from yet another unusual injury.
“You can go and speak with the staff and the team, they saw how much I was around the team, I wasn’t sulking, I was doing more in the gym, how well I was training week after week and session after session.”
“For me, the biggest thing was I was waiting for the chance. The chance came and I took the chance and kept my shirt. After the first game, I knew then, ‘OK, my fitness and that is now there.’ So I was more relaxed and game after game I was finding my feet again and was more calm, and it was me.”
With Liverpool undergoing a revamp in midfield, there should be chances for Jones to again step in and find a role. His self-confidence and flexibility will be key as he challenges the likes of Alexis Mac Allister for a regular spot in the line up.