by Cameron Hogwood
The future of academy prospects has become somewhat of an enigma in modern day football, especially where Liverpool are concerned.
Sheyi Ojo has emerged as the latest Liverpool talent to catch the eye of fans and experts having benefited from Jurgen Klopp’s recent use of youngsters in place of key players being rested for Europa League games.
At only 18 years old, the future looks bright for the winger.
If his performances of late were not enough to excite fans, his own expectations are encouraging.
He told Liverpoolfc.com: “Even if I were to play amazing, there are always more things I could still do. I can always play better. Whenever I reflect on games, I’m always trying to improve and trying to figure out what I can do more for the next game to come.”
Ojo’s record of three assists in his four Premier League starts for Liverpool is a nice statistic to think over. He has made things happen and neither Klopp or reds fans could have realistically anticipated any greater a contribution from him.
The fact he has integrated so quickly sets him in good stead to make improvements to his game in a shorter period of time than many would have expected.
Having said this, he continues to evade any kind of pressure. His involvement has been timely and at a stage of the season where little appears to be riding on Liverpool’s Premier League position.
His notable performances, though, have given Klopp a reason to occasionally turn his attention away from Europa League preparations.
Judging by his skill set and the pressure that lies on the shoulders of more experienced players to provide some consistency, there is no reason why Ojo should not be at the club next season and pushing for a first time place.
He is under the best manager to make this happen- a manager who will always have time for youth.
Since his stunning curling effort in the FA Cup against Exeter City, Ojo has proceeded to earn praise for his show of pace and invention in the league that has made him such a threat to opposition defences.
His has already gone a long way towards proving he not only possesses the technical attributes that are required in the Premier League but also the intelligence to mix his game up.
Alternating between cutting inside on his left foot and taking defenders on around the outside before crossing is not beyond Ojo. It is for this reason that he is already putting pressure on Jordan Ibe to rediscover the form that previously earned him the admiration Ojo is now revelling in.
The talent and confidence is there for him to occupy any one of the three attacking midfield positions behind the striker. He has refrained from settling for playing a simple game and has instead shown signs of taking responsibility on the ball by working in different areas of the pitch- something which has been rewarded by the execution by other forwards of the chances he has created.
Raheem Sterling and Jordan Ibe’s success as young players with bags of pace and skill recognises how Ojo’s similar traits give him a good chance of becoming a top player.
Liverpool’s lack of physicality can also perhaps be addressed by the inclusion of Ojo. He is by no means a power house, but plays with a strength and athleticism that makes him a threat when running at and beyond defenders.
Above all, he appears to know his responsibilities when it comes to pressing high up the pitch and showing the desire to win the ball back that Klopp craves so dearly.
The glaring worries remain to be how the club finish the season and how the summer transfer market will be approached.
Failure to win the Europa League final and also qualify for the competition again could limit Ojo’s playing time to simply FA Cup or Capital One Cup matches. The manager would not be forced to rest players for Europe and might not yet feel Ojo is ready to play regularly in the league.
Besides this, a couple of big signings in the summer looks to be a sure bet. The squad will change and the arrival of another forward could damage Ojo’s short term progress and force him to be patient again.
This said, the addition of more players will surely help him grow as a player as he looks to fight for his place.
So far, so good for him. He has looked relaxed during the games he has featured in and has barely put a foot wrong in terms of what Klopp has asked of him.
The hard work truly starts now for him as he enters a phase where so many youngsters begin to fall having been tipped as ‘the next big thing’.