Liverpool starlet Jones risks becoming a victim of Klopp's 'strongest ever' squad

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These are unprecedented times for Liverpool, and for Jurgen Klopp.

Never before has a Reds boss had a squad this strong. Never before has he had so many options to choose from, so many possibilities and permutations.

And so many tough decisions to make.

Liverpool’s ‘depth’ has been seen as their biggest weakness in recent years but, as we head into the business end of the campaign, it could prove to be the difference between failure and success.

And for Klopp that will bring with it plenty of tough conversations.

“I’m not sure if it’s the hardest part, but it’s the part I like the least,” he told GOAL last week when asked about the difficulty of leaving players out of not only his starting XI, but out of his squad entirely.

“It’s easy when the boys give you a reason, like spending three nights in a bar or being pictured in a pub. Then [you can say] 'you are not here, you don't understand the situation', but we've never had that. 

“None of these players have deserved it so far so it is not easy. It's very difficult, but it is still part of the business.”

When Liverpool beat Burnley at Turf Moor recently, they did so without Joe Gomez, Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino or Curtis Jones – all of whom had been left behind on Merseyside.

All of those four are Premier League winners and all have made significant contributions to the club, both this season and previously. All, naturally, wanted to play and were devastated to miss out.

Curtis Jones Liverpool training 2021-22 GFXGetty/GOAL

Gomez, Origi and Minamino, at least, were back on the bench for Liverpool’s next game, away to Inter in the Champions League, and all three featured in last weekend’s win over Norwich at Anfield.

Jones, though, was missing for both those games, left out even in Milan when Klopp was able to name 12 substitutes.

He was at Anfield for the Norwich game but only as a spectator, sat huddled into his big coat behind the dugout while his teammates ground out a 3-1 win to keep the pressure on Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.

He’s fit and available, training as normal and training well by all accounts. He will hope to return to the squad for Wednesday’s game with Leeds and will, like everyone else, be desperate to be involved in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley.

Were he to miss out, it would represent a significant blow, even to a player known for his self-confidence.

He was in the team a few weeks back, after all, starting five games in a row either side of the most recent international break, now he’s fighting just to get on the bench.

It has already been something of a stop-start campaign for the young Scouser.

It started with concussion, suffered in the Reds’ last pre-season friendly against Osasuna, and was disrupted further by a freak eye injury picked up in training, which kept him out of action for two months from the end of October. 

Still, there have been strong performances, as well as flashes of individual quality.

Curtis Jones Jurgen Klopp Liverpool Porto Champions League 2021-22 GFXGetty/GOAL

His strike at Brentford in September should have been a match-winner, and there was a trio of assists away at Porto in the Champions League.

More recently, there was a standout display at Arsenal in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi final.

But his last two appearances saw him substituted before the hour mark, and with the likes of Naby Keita, Thiago Alcantara, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner and Harvey Elliott all fit and jostling for places, it has been Jones who has paid the price. 

The challenge now is how will he respond?

“There might be a chance you start next week,” said Klopp recently. “That's how it is, so keep yourself in a good place. 

“Be angry with me, be disappointed with the problem but next day show up and be the best version of yourself and make the decisions difficult, because if you drop in training it is not a good solution.

"That would make it start going in the wrong direction.”

There is certainly no suggestion that that is happening, but Klopp did reveal last month that he had had “a long talk” with Jones about his role in the side, and about the expectations the club has of him. 

“I love the boy and I love the potential he has,” he said. “I am one of his biggest fans.

“But we have to now really make the next steps and make sure that he fulfils the potential he has on the pitch.

“He’s young – very young – but from what I see his ­potential is just incredible. So, we have to find a way to show that much more often.

“That’s where we are in Curtis’ development.”

Where we will be in a few weeks’ time, however, could tell us even more.

It’s been a tough few weeks for the 21-year-old. Now, he needs to show what he’s made of, and what he can bring to this Liverpool side.