CURTIS JONES NEW DEAL AND THE NEED FOR PATIENCE
Curtis Jones put pen to paper on a new five year deal on Thursday and it is safe to say fans’ reaction to the news was mixed at best. The Scouser is still only 21 years old yet is closing in on a century of appearances for the club. He divides opinion but surely a bit of patience won’t go amiss.
Curtis made his first team debut when Jürgen Klopp handed him a start away to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup in the 2018/19 campaign. Jones, who was a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday at the time, played in attack and lasted 70 minutes.
Also making their debuts that night were Rafael Camacho and Ki-Jana Hoever. Those two made a combined six appearances for the club before their exit, but Jones has lasted the pace. He’s worked his way into Jürgen Klopp’s plans and become a genuine member of the first team.
He’s had a number of highlights in his short career thus far. There was the madcap 5-5 draw against Arsenal in October 2019 where he came off the bench to set up a goal before taking the fifth penalty in the shootout, holding his nerve to slot the Reds into the next round.
Another highlight was when he made his Premier League debut as a late substitute in a 3-0 win away at Bournemouth. Perhaps the moment that stands out the most was his sensational winner against Everton in the FA Cup. A truly stunning strike infront of the Kop, what a way to open his Liverpool account!
Since then he’s continued to grow in stature, netting in both the Premier League and Champions League. He’s evolved from his role as an attacker (a role he perfected under Steven Gerrard’s tutelage in the youth team) to a rounded central midfielder.
He’s had to sacrifice a bit of his natural game to take on defensive responsibilities for the good of the team. He enjoyed a breakthrough season in the 2020/21 campaign, making 31 appearances across all competitions, scoring 4 goals and laying on 5 assists.
Another highlight of his came in that campaign when he became the youngest captain in the club’s history after leading a youthful side out against Shrewsbury in the FA Cup. That Covid-interrupted season is probably his best and most consistent for the club.
Last season he struggled for consistency. A freak eye injury disrupted his start to the campaign and he never truly got going. The emergence of Harvey Elliott in his absence raised the expectations when he finally returned to fitness.
A combination of factors meant he wasn’t able to live up to those expectations. A lack of a consistent run in the side didn’t help. With the stakes high in every single match in an unprecedented quadruple chase, perhaps it is understandable. He made 27 appearances, scoring once.
Curtis eventually fell behind Harvey in the pecking order and his career seems to be stalling as he’s constantly stuck in the same loop. His decision making on the ball has always been a shortcoming of his since he broke into the side.
It didn’t matter much earlier on when he was playing mostly in the final third. Since his reshaping as a deeper lying midfielder, it has been exposed time and again. He simply hogs the ball too long, a trait of his that can be traced back to his time as the talisman for the U18s.
He has certainly failed to develop at the rate fans would hope, but that isn’t to say he doesn’t have a role to play in this Liverpool side. He’s got the physical and technical attributes required, as well as the belief and confidence to reach the very top level.
It is now a matter of development. With this new contract, Jürgen Klopp is not only backing the player, but himself as a coach to extract the very best out of what is a talented youngster. Jürgen has the track record to instill confidence that he can refine yet another rough diamond.
With Milner, Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain expected to depart next summer, and Thiago and Henderson 31 and 32 respectively, Curtis Jones could be a big part of the midfield evolution. He’s still very young but has now been part of this successful Liverpool side for a few seasons.
He said himself he’s yet to show his real self. Here’s to hoping we get to see more of the player we expected him to be when he first broke through.