This is Curtis Jones’ best stretch of consecutive starts as a Liverpool player, as he has now scored three goals in four games.
Curtis Jones knew he had to earn back Jurgen Klopp’s confidence at Chelsea nine games ago after starting just one Premier League game between August and April.
The Liverpool midfielder acknowledged as much following the scoreless draw at Stamford Bridge, indicating that a reserved, sensible performance was simply about boosting confidence and demonstrating that he could be a dependable option moving forward.
Jones’s opportunity came largely as a result of the manager making as many as six substitutions on the night, perhaps in an effort to send a message to some of his underperforming big names at the time. The Reds had only won two of their previous seven games and were coming off a humiliating 4-1 loss at Manchester City a few days prior.
Later, Jones acknowledged that he didn’t think the April 4 game in west London was about making any big statements but rather about taking small steps toward more playing time.
After the game, Jones told the ECHO, “I wouldn’t really say it was a game where I was able to get on the ball and dribble and shoot really. I felt like they had a lot of the ball. This game was more about regaining the manager’s confidence.
“He hasn’t really had a chance to see me in a game because, as I said, I’ve been away for a while. There haven’t been many games that I could play. But today I went back and I believe I gave him a good little cameo to consider.”
Six weeks later, it is entirely fair to say that Klopp has been given more than “a decent little cameo to think about” in relation to the England Under-21 international.
Jones’ two-goal performance in Monday’s 3-0 victory over Leicester City marked his ninth straight start for Liverpool, the best run of a senior career that is edging closer to 100 appearances. That momentous occasion will have to wait until the following term even though he has already played 95 times for his boyhood club.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s decision to move into midfield when in possession has freed up Jones to leave the crowded center and look to cause damage from the left side of the field, something he did to great effect during his time in the Liverpool Academy, especially when he captained the Under-21 team.
Jones said, “In my Academy days, I have always been a lad who just wanted to have the ball, run, run, run, and shoot and score and try to assist. Now that the game is more of an offensive and defensive player, if I don’t have the ball, I have to go press and make sure the space is closed.
“When I was a young child in the Academy, I consistently scored goals. I wouldn’t say I was the star player, but I was always the young person who advanced through the age groups. Then, when I turned to face the first team, it was somewhat of a shock that made the entire game change, so I had to adjust my entire strategy. Though I think this is my best run in a while, I’m adjusting well.”
The midfielder, who was born in the city center, has now scored three goals in four games, with two of those coming as a direct result of tactical directives from the manager and his staff, who reportedly encouraged him to attack the back post more from the left side.
After the game at the King Power, Klopp admitted that his cushioned shot with the left foot’s instep against Leicester had more than a passing resemblance to the opening goal of the 4-3 victory over Tottenham on April 30.
As for the second goal, Klopp said, “it was a super finish. The first goal was comparable to the one he scored against Tottenham. It’s awesome that he is having a good time right now.
“It’s obvious that this is a strategy that works, and Jones has the tools necessary to try and increase that goal total even more in the remaining two games of the season thanks to Alexander-Arnold’s exquisite right-wing passing range.
“He’s had some injuries like the finger in the eye, which took him out for a while, but this year especially bad,” continued Klopp. “He could watch a lot of football and become a better player, and it appears that way. His counter-pressing and play speed are, in my opinion, where he made the biggest strides.
“As a result, he no longer holds the ball for as long. He still performs that and must do so quickly, but he makes decisions and performs other tasks like this much more quickly. His two goals were exceptional examples of his skill at the end. Even if they are chances, I’m not sure.”
Jordan Henderson, the captain of the Reds, added: “I think Curtis has grown in confidence and having a run of games has helped him a lot. He did a great job with the ball, in my opinion. He is excellent with the ball in terms of strategy.
“Outside of that, his work out of possession in terms of his counter-pressing has been great. He rarely gives it away, keeps it in tight spaces, and he has quality, as you’ve seen tonight with his two goals. He’s a fantastic athlete and has undoubtedly excelled in recent weeks.”
Jones, who has scored three goals so far this season, is now among Liverpool’s top ten goal scorers, excluding own goals. That alone serves as a clue as to where some of the Reds’ problems have arisen this season. Despite Mohamed Salah’s 30-goal haul, Klopp has occasionally had teams that lacked enough match-winners.
The arrival of Cody Gakpo in January undoubtedly reduced his impact, and long-term injuries to Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz, as well as a few issues for Roberto Firmino, have prevented those three players from increasing their own individual totals. But another issue with an engine room that has received a lot of flak this season is the dearth of goals from the midfield.
Although Klopp has never instructed Liverpool’s midfielders to prioritize a goal return, the fact that Jones is currently the Premier League’s leading scorer from that position suggests that it is something that can be improved going forward.