In this Mini series I am going to be looking at Academy Players that Liverpool fans should keep an eye on within the New Year, due to their impressive talents and increased development in Neil Critchley’s and Barry Lewtas’ youth squads. The list will consist of 5 players between now and the 31st of December as Klopp may be looking to blood his squad with some extra depth or youth in the upcoming year.
The first player I will look at in this mini-series is Nathaniel Phillips. Phillips signed for Liverpool in the 2016/17 season after a successful trial period. He was a free agent after his contract with Championship side Bolton had expired.
The former Bolton man hasn’t been deprived of first team action since he signed for the Reds as he was a major part of Klopp’s pre-season squad that played in the UK, USA and Ireland. He made 9 appearances in pre-season for the Reds and impressed massively when he played. Fans heaped high praise on the centre back’s shoulders for his calm and collected defensive style and being a very competent passer when playing out from the back.
His good performances, even sparked some rumours that he may feature in the first game of the season for the Reds against West Ham after Lovren was in need of rest due to a long World Cup campaign and Matip was injured in pre-season. In the end, Klopp acted against putting the 21 year old on the bench due to fitness concerns.
Phillips has been carrying a knock in recent weeks and therefore has been unable to feature in Klopp’s first team. With Gomez and Matip both being out injured, this would of been a great time for Phillips to gain some valuable first team experience.
There may still be some chance he could gain some first team experience rather soon, due to the injuries at centre back. As Gomez and Matip could both be out until the back end of January, Phillips may be included in the first team squad if he can make a recovery before then.
Phillips may not make a first team league appearance in the remainder of the season if he can not make a speedy recovery as he will be regarded by Klopp as his 5th, maybe even his 6th choice centre half behind Fabinho. However, his great performances in pre-season will remain fresh amongst staff and fans at the club and there’s a possibility if he makes the recovery he could feature in the F.A. Cup if Liverpool defeat Wolves in January.
If it isn’t possible for him to feature in the 2018/19 season, it is likely he will play a major part in Klopp’s pre-season plans for 2019. Another series of good performances in 2019 pre-season and who knows the 21 year old could find himself in Klopp’s first team plans.
Whether it’s due to injury problems at the back or good performances in pre-season, there is a very good chance we will see Nat Phillips appear in Klopp’s first team picture at some point in the New Year.