Following Liverpool Under 18s comfortable 2-0 victory over Watford in the FA Youth Cup 5th round on Wednesday, this article will be explaining why Neil Critchley’s team can go one better than they did last season and qualify for the final before eventually win the tournament. Throughout this article, key players of the squad will be highlighted and I will explain how they will help Liverpool repeat what they did in 2007. Liverpool now face Reading at the Madjeski Stadium in the quarter final of the Youth Cup, but the date has not been announced yet. The good news for Critchley’s side is that they have already beat Reading 4-2 earlier on in the season so will have a slight advantage.
After watching the Under 18s for a couple of years now, I can honestly say that this is one of the strongest sides they have had and with a manager that has produced stars such as Nick Powell in the past, the Reds have the potential to win this prestigious tournament .
Let’s start off with the team overall. In the strongest starting line-up alone there are 10 players who have played at Under 21 level of which 4 of them have even been involved with the first team throughout their short career which goes to show how strong this side is. Also, there is a full international winger in Harry Wilson who made his debut for Wales against Belgium and there is the Under 21 captain Lloyd Jones at the heart of the defence.
Now, let’s move on to the goalkeepers. News emerged last week that Ryan Fulton has fully recovered from a fractured hand and is back in goal for the Reds. Since his return last Saturday, it is no coincidence that the Under 18s have kept 2 clean sheets in 2 games and that is down to Fulton, whose timely recovery will add much needed stability in goal that they missed with the ever inconsistent Ryan Crump. The Liverpool shot stopper is also a capped Scotland Youth International so has played against many different talents from all over Europe.
Fulton will also be supported by Andy Firth, a very promising young goalkeeper who has played on numerous occasions for the Under 18s this season.
The defence in front of Fulton is just as strong when fully fit. Normally, only captain Connor Randall and Joe Maguire feature in the usual Under 18 defence who have already leaked 49 goals this season in 26 games. That is why critics can question the strength of the defence. However, when the Under 18s feature in the Youth Cup, the Under 21s captain Lloyd Jones drops down and partners Jordan Williams, who is also eligible to play for the Under 21s. With Jones and Williams at the heart of the defence, this will allow offensively minded full-backs Randall and Maguire to press forward. Randall captains the side despite Jones’ presence and he often leads by example. For instance, in yesterday’s 2-0 win over Watford, the young right back set up both goals which goes to show what a threat he actually is.
Despite a talented goalkeeper and a fairly strong defence in front of him, the midfield is the strongest area in the Under 18s squad and arguably one of the strongest area’s in the whole divison. Neil Critchley usually deploys the 4-2-3-1 formation, therefore there are 5 players in the midfield. The two defensive midfielders that normally play are Jordan Rossiter and Cameron Brannagan. Both players have been some of the most consistent players in the Under 21s this season behind Joao Teixeira and Jordon Ibe, and have both been substitutes for the first team this season. Even though they are both defensive midfielders, both have the ability to get forward and score goals having scored a collective 7 goals. However, they shouldn’t need to get further up the pitch as the 4 players who play ahead of them has helped the Under 18s score 70 goals this season.
As mentioned before, Critchley often plays two wingers and an attacking midfielder in front of Rossiter and Brannagan, and that front 3 will be a key aspect in Liverpool can win the FA Youth Cup.
The two wingers that Critchley will more than likely play in the strongest squad is Ryan Kent and Jordon Ibe. Kent has featured for the Under 21s this season and trained with Brendan Rodgers’ first team this season whilst Ibe has started for the first team in his career and has even got an assist while playing in Rodgers’ side.
The attacking midfielder that seperates these two talents in Daniel Trickett-Smith. Trickett-Smith has been influential in recent weeks for the Under 18s and like most young players in the Liverpool squad, Trickett-Smith can play as a forward and in the number 10 role so help can adapt should Critchley ever start to play a 4-4-2 during the game. The young attacking midfielder has scored 9 goals this season, just 1 behind striker Jerome Sinclair which goes to show his attacking qualities.
The forwards are arguably the most important role in this Youth Cup side, and the striker that leads the line is predominantly Jerome Sinclair. Sinclair has featured in less than 10 matches this season but has been impressive scoring 10 goals. Sinclair has been around the Under 21 setup this season but has failed to break into the squad. However, after Samed Yesil’s injury and the loan moves for Michael Ngoo and Armin Hodzic, Liverpool’s youngest ever player should get the opportunity he needs to feature for the Under 21s. The only problem Sinclair has is that he frequently gets injured, but Critchley does have summer signing Sergi Canos at his disposal if Sinclair is unfit.
It was extremely hard selecting the best XI as there are still some very talented players on the substitutes bench. On the bench, Critchley can bring on Wales International Harry Wilson, like he did against Aston Villa where he scored 2 goals. The Under 18s coach also has talented midfielders Pedro Chirivella and Sheyi Ojo, who have represented Spain Under 17s and England Under 17s
Do you think after explaining the team that Liverpool can go all the way and win the FA Youth Cup? Who would your strongest starting XI be? If you have an answer to any of these questions then don’t be shy to leave your comments below. Also, keep an eye out on the blog for more content and for more Academy updates, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@ScottTaylorUK).