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Liverpool academy update: Duncan & Glatzel form prolific partnership for Lewtas' U-18s

11:16 GMT+3 04/09/2018
Curtis Jones and Adam Lewis, Liverpool
Neil Critchley's side have played some pretty football but are yet to win a game, but Barry Lewtas has overseen three wins from four outings

As Liverpool's first-team make smooth progress in the Premier League, below them the club's Academy sides have made similarly positive starts to the season.

Jurgen Klopp's men made it four wins from four at Leicester on Saturday, ensuring they sit top of the table heading into the international break.

The presence of youth graduate Trent Alexander-Arnold, born and raised a stone's throw from the club's Melwood base, in the senior side is one that Liverpool are rightly proud of, with the 19-year-old having firmly established himself as the Reds' first-choice right-back.

Behind him both Curtis Jones and Rafa Camacho, 17 and 18 respectively, have progressed to Melwood to be part of Klopp's first-team setup, having excelled on the summer tour of the USA.

Other young talents have been forced to head out on loan in search of playing time, and while the likes of Ben Woodburn (Sheffield United) and Harry Wilson (Derby County) are taking time to find their feet in the Championship, Klopp will have been encouraged to see both Ryan Kent and Ovie Ejaria starting for Rangers in their Old Firm clash at Celtic on Sunday. The progress of midfielder Herbie Kane at Doncaster, too, will have been noted.

On the continent, Taiwo Awoniyi is featuring for Gent in the Belgian top flight, and defender Anderson Arroyo will soon be doing similar. Sheyi Ojo got 12 minutes for Reims in Ligue 1 on Saturday, while Marko Grujic made his first start for Hertha Berlin in a Bundesliga win at Schalke on Sunday. Allan Rodrigues de Souza hopes to be back in action for Eintracht Frankfurt before long.

Julian Ward, Liverpool's loan pathways and football partnerships manager, has plenty to keep on top of this season, with the likes of Connor Randall (Rochdale) and Corey Whelan (Crewe) also having made temporary switches.

With the transfer window now closed, the Reds' Under-23 and Under-18 sides can now start to take shape.

Here's how they've looked so far...


Under-23s


If Neil Critchley was to sum up his side's start to the campaign in a word, chances are he would go for "frustrating". Liverpool's second string have shown signs of encouragement in all four of their matches so far, but are yet to win one. 

After draws against Brighton, Tottenham and Manchester City, they fell to their first defeat of the season on Sunday, going down 2-1 to West Ham despite dominating the game.

Missed chances have been a theme for the Under-23s, who are without a proven goalscorer at Premier League 2 level. That has been evident so far.

Still, some of their football has caught the eye. Bobby Adekanye, a winger signed from Ajax in 2015, has been the standout attacking player, though his pace, strength and trickery is not yet matched by a ruthless streak in front of goal.

After the 1-1 draw with Tottenham at Anfield, a game in which Liverpool played for 88 minutes against 10 men, Critchley hit the nail on the head when saying: “For all Bobby's ability in beating people one on one and getting into good positions, he has to now add numbers and assists and goals to his game. If he can do that, then people will really start to take notice of him.”

Critchley should, in theory, be able to call upon the likes of Jones, Camacho and Pedro Chirivella, who remained at the club despite strong interest during the summer, as the weeks progress. Maybe the likes of Dominic Solanke, yet to feature in a matchday squad for the senior side, could be used too, while Rhian Brewster should return from a serious knee injury before the end of the year.

Of his own players, it has been interesting to note the progress of goalkeeper Caiomhin Kelleher. The Irish teenager was with the senior squad in America over the summer, and his development potential has been spotted by Klopp and his staff. In he and Kamil Grabara, the talented Polish youth international, Liverpool have two 'keepers of immense promise battling it out for the role of No.3 choice behind Alisson Becker and Simon Mignolet.

Promising, too, is Walton-born Adam Lewis, who will spend the next 10 days with England's U-19 side. The 18-year-old, who can play as a left-back or in midfield, missed a penalty at Anfield in the draw against Spurs but continues to catch the eye with his delivery from the left and his aggressive defending.

Steven Gerrard was a big fan during his time as Under-18s boss, and he appears to have made the step up to Under-23 level comfortably. A former team-mate of Alexander-Arnold's as a schoolboy, it will be interesting to see if he can follow his pal towards the first-team in the coming years. Like Alexander-Arnold, working on his physical and defensive qualities will be key.

In the meantime, Critchley must search for a way to convert pretty football into something more tangible.

He will look to the pacy Liam Millar, recently called up to the senior Canada squad, and the energetic Glen McAuley to step up in terms of goalscoring, while at the back the likes of Nat Phillips, another to shine during the senior tour, George Johnston and the fit-again Conor Masterson should form the basis of a solid backline. Another teenager, Neco Williams, is one to watch as an attack-minded right-back.


Under-18s


It was a summer of change for the Under-18 side, with Gerrard leaving his post as manager, taking with him a number of key staff including assistant Tom Culshaw, fitness coach Jordan Milsom and highly-rated Academy coach Michael Beale.

But his departure provided an opportunity for Barry Lewtas, who was chosen to step up from his role as Under-16s boss. Lewtas has been at the club for five years, working with players from Under-12 level upwards, and was deemed by Alex Inglethorpe, the Academy director, to be the outstanding candidate for the role during a summer in which the decision was made to streamline Academy staff in any case.

His start has been a good one, with three wins out of four so far, the latest of which came at Stoke City on Saturday. They sit top of the Premier League U-18 table, having netted 14 times already.

Already, we are seeing the emergence of a prolific strike partnership, with new signing Bobby Duncan and captain Paul Glatzel contributing nine goals between them.

Glatzel, born and raised in Wigan to German parents, has netted six of those, justifying Lewtas' decision to hand him the armband. Duncan, meanwhile, has settled quickly following his summer move from Manchester City.

As the cousin of Steven Gerrard, there will always be extra attention perhaps, but the England Under-17 hotshot seems unfazed. He scored twice in a 5-1 demolition of West Brom and once in a 6-1 shelling of Sunderland, though there was disappointment as Liverpool fell 3-1 to Manchester United in a bad-tempered game which saw winger Abdi Sharif sent off.

That, though, has been the only setback thus far. Lewtas has been encouraged by the form of Matteo Ritaccio, a New York-born midfielder who joined the club in the summer, and will soon welcome Dutch full-back Ki-Jana Hoever, signed from Ajax, into his squad too. The return of Norwegian midfielder Eddie Tagseth from injury is another boost.

Watch out for England youth internationals Luis Longstaff and Elijah Dixon-Bonner, whose progress last season was noted by Gerrard, and for towering centre-backs Rhys Williams and Tom Clayton, the latter having recently been called up to Scotland's Under-19 squad. Yasser Larouci, signed from Le Havre a year ago, is another with a growing reputation.

"We have a really good group," Lewtas told Goal in an interview last month. Over the coming weeks and months, we will see who can push themselves on, as the likes of Alexander-Arnold, Woodburn and Jones have done in the last couple of years.