Curtis Jones hasn’t had much luck since spring, having enjoyed his first full campaign as a first team regular last season.
Though he finally succumbed to an injury in April, he had been in the match day squad for the first 44 matches of 2020/21 and was the only Liverpool player who lasted that long without missing at least one game.
Unfortunately for the young scouser he has only made one start for the Reds since recovering from the muscle injury he picked up at that time.
Jones suffered a concussion against Osasuna in the final pre-season friendly of the summer and did not appear in any of the Reds’ first four league games.
However, while nobody would have wanted Harvey Elliott to pick up a serious injury, the fact he has now been ruled out for the long term may offer Jones a way back into the team on a regular basis.
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There’s also reason to believe that should he get further opportunities then he will have a better opportunity to succeed than he had last season too.
The 20-year-old made 18 starts in the league and Europe in 2020/21, and he did so in front of a quite remarkable 12 different central defensive partnerships.
Joel Matip and Fabinho were behind him five times, while Ozan Kabak and Jordan Henderson were present for three of his matches. Otherwise, it was a different combination of players every time, and that pair of more frequent duos were not composed of two senior centre-backs either.
This disruption at the back inevitably influenced the composition of the midfield too. Only in his final start of the season, away at West Bromwich Albion, did Jones play in a trio which also included Fabinho.
Having the foundation of a defensive triangle formed by the Brazilian and an established centre-back partnership will only help all Liverpool players perform to a higher standard, as we’ve seen in glimpses with Thiago Alcantara.
And perhaps Jones can play on the same side of the midfield each time he plays, unlike last season where he made 11 starts on the right and seven on the left.
Elliott, though it was only for three matches, got the berth to the right of the threesome each time, with Henderson surprisingly on the left for the 1-1 draw with Chelsea.
There’s also a view that Jones needs a positional change to improve. Former Liverpool player Steve McManaman recently gave his opinion on the matter.
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"Maybe he needs to play a little bit further forward, and I'd prefer to see that. He takes people on really easily, and I want to see more of that,” he said.
The numbers certainly back up Macca’s claim. Jones averaged 10.0 progressive carries per 90 minutes in the league last season (per FBRef), a figure only a handful of midfielders in the big leagues topped.
However, he was good at progressing the ball in part thanks to starting deeper on the field. Moving further forward to begin with may diminish his ability to carry the ball into more dangerous areas.
It would also be interesting to see if a change of position would affect his creativity levels, which were also decent in 2020/21. Among Liverpool’s players who featured for at least as many minutes as he did, only Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino laid on clear-cut chances more frequently than Jones.
This is interesting as plenty of Jurgen Klopp’s squad set up opportunities more often on the whole, but as the manager and Pep Lijnders preach that the Reds need to wait for high quality goal scoring openings, perhaps Jones followed their advice.
Regardless of that, the cruel twist of fate which has afflicted Elliott may open up further opportunities for Jones. His form last season suggested he can add something to the side and the newfound stability within the team can only aid his chances.