One of the trademarks of Kenny Dalglish’s reign as current Liverpool manager has been his faith in blooding academy stars into the first team. The likes of Jay Spearing, Martin Kelly, John Flanagan and Jack Robinson have all made breakthroughs in the last year and look to be exciting Premier League prospects. But whilst these young stars will look to continue to progress next season, Dalglish will have to find that balance between building youth and pushing for the top four.
Last season’s 6th place finish was a success for Liverpool and Dalglish after their disastrous first half to the season under former boss Roy Hodgson. But, with big money being spent on transfers in both January and so far this summer, and so much hype surrounding their academy stars, at least finishing in the top four must be the aim for Liverpool next season.
With the double January capture of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez and the arrivals of Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam this summer, Dalglish looks to have the ammunition to push forward and really challenge for honours next season. But where does this leave the youngsters? Will they get pushed aside in the hint for silverware?
The answer for some of the youngsters may come over the next few weeks with how Dalglish adds to the squad. Many made their marks last season when capitalizing on injuries to key players, so if injuries are not such an issue next season and Dalglish looks to add more depth to the squad to cover any injury problems, then the youngsters chances may be more limited next season. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Dalglish continue to deal in the transfer market this summer, with Stewart Downing just one name on the Reds’ radar.
At present Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio are the only two senior (and trusted) full backs in the squad. When both Aurelio and Johnson got injured during periods of last season, Dalglish called upon Kelly, Flanagan and Robinson with great success. If the manager doesn’t add competition for places at the back, these players could be in the first team picture for next season.
Whilst I have only mentioned a handful of the youngsters in this article so far, the ones most prominent on last season’s team sheet, there are plenty more names to get excited about if you are a Liverpool fan. Daniel Pacheco, Andre Wisdom, Raheem Sterling, Suso and Thomas Ince are just a few of the young Reds’ stars that either impressed out on loan or in Liverpool’s youth ranks last season. Whilst it would be optimistic to say that every player thought to have a bright future will reach the top, the signs look good for Liverpool.
For now Dalglish may have to find the right mix of loans and first team squad players for next season. Last season’s exploits would be great experiences for the young players but the key now may be consistency, the dilemma for Dalgish is to whether that is in Liverpool’s first team, youth ranks or another club on loan.
For example midfielder Jonjo Shelvey made 21 appearances for the Reds last season but with the arrivals of Henderson and Adam in a similar position, Shelvey might not play as much when he needs first team football to really progress. The big money spent on these players, Henderson in particular, leaves little margin for failure for both the player and manager. Whilst the dilemma of how to balance promising stars and established names may cause Dalglish a few sleepless nights, it is a good problem for the Liverpool boss to face.
I think Dalglish’s belief in blooding young talent will continue and having such a pool of hungry young talent to choose from can only help his title push. But the investment from the owners and the general expectation for success on Merseyside makes Dalglish’s next season at the Liverpool helm a vitally important one for the boss. Few excuses can be made for another stuttering campaign and Dalglish may have to put his faith more in his star signings rather than untried teenagers over the next twelve months.
If you want to read more of my bite size, 160 character views and thoughts follow me on Twitter @jennyk5