LIVERPOOL FC: FIRST-YEAR SCHOLAR PROGRESS

Last Summer, Liverpool Football club listed 10 players who would make up the first-year intake of the academy scholarship programme. Providing a finely struck blend of Merseyside natives and talented players plucked from English academies at varying stages, three international imports were added to round up the group. As a collective, they are considered one of the strongest in recent years.

Here’s how they got on.

HARVEY DAVIES

(Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

DOB: 03/09/2003 APPEARANCES: 7 LFC ENTRY LEVEL: U9 FORMER CLUB(S): N/A POSITION: GK CONTRACT STATUS: Scholarship

The Scouse shot-stopper has had an intriguing campaign in terms of how minutes and opportunities were spread. Davies played only once between September and March without being entirely cut from the squad, on the bench eight times in that period. As the season progressed, Davies rose to prominence between the sticks, asserting himself as Liverpool’s FA Youth Cup goalkeeper playing every round up to the final, with Liverpool’s third round tie against Sutton the exception. A hallmark of Liverpool’s cup run has been the nervy steel required to see the side through back-against-the-wall moments. Davies organisation, safe handling – for the most part – and assured approach has played a massive part in Liverpool’s success.

A nervy showing against Ipswich in the Semi-Final, although potentially untimely, is excusable as, well, we expect mistakes in this period of development, especially for a young goalkeeper – who has otherwise played an impressive campaign. Davies is well thought-of within the club. A regular in first-team training alongside Alisson and co. Davies would also find a spot on the bench in Champions League matches; most notably in the quarter final against Real Madrid. An experience Harvey will carry into next season in which he should be looking for more match outings with the potential to nail down the U18 goalkeeping spot. Small sample size which Davies should be looking to significantly increase but, in essence, a good year.

OAKLEY CANNONIER

(Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

DOB: 06/05/2004 APPEARANCES: 8 LFC ENTRY LEVEL: U12 FORMER CLUB(S): Leeds United POSITION: RW/ST CONTRACT STATUS: Scholarship

The facilitator of that famous phrase, ‘CORNER TAKEN QUICKLY…’.

Of course, Cannonier was the ball-boy who passed the ball to Trent Alexander-Arnold on that famous Anfield evening. It is a tag that is likely to follow him around for much of his career but Oakley is proving to be a handy player in his own right. Unfortunately, being one of several players to have seasons blighted by injury meant that he could not capitalise on a blossoming scoring record, recording a goal every other game with four goals in eight matches.

Cannonier missed the second half of the season in its entirety – 14 league games and the entire cup campaign. Trialled and rotated up-front as well as on the right following Layton Stewart’s promotion, Cannonier showed he is a good finisher of the ball with wicked pace. His movement in behind into space is impressive. Sometimes, though, on the games fringes, Cannonier will hope his injury problems are behind him with another U18 stint next year.

MATEUSZ MUSIALOWSKI

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

DOB: 16/10/2003 APPEARANCES: 24 LFC ENTRY LEVEL: U18 FORMER CLUB(S): SMS LODZ POSITION: LW CONTRACT STATUS: Scholarship

Everybody has heard of the affectionately named ‘Mati’ by now.

Shaking off a small injury in the opening month following his arrival in England, he was eased into Premier League North life by Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, making Musialowski wait until the end of October for his debut. Like a spring coiling more tightly the longer the wait, Mati burst on the the scene and has not look back. Quickly becoming a key attacking component of an exciting side, Musialowski starts on the left but it is perhaps when he drifts centrally we see his best work. Slaloming runs have been the Pole’s trademark. The aesthetically pleasing style of play has garnered attention far and wide. It is a disservice to reduce his game to numbers but 12 goals in 24 appearances is a more-than respectable debut return.

Mateusz Musialowski is different. Not in the sense of the superlatives bandied around. But Liverpool certainly do not have a player of his profile in the club. An exceptional dribbler of the ball, a whizzing ball of energy, like a rabbit who is able to burrow its way through the smallest of gaps. It is natural to be excited. Being plucked from the sixth tier of Polish football by a top tier club, Musialowski is the quintessential football manager signing. This is Mati’s first professional academy at the age of sixteen so naturally there are things to iron out.

An naturally gifted footballer with a potentially high ceiling; but there is a long way to go. Before Liverpool’s quarter-final with Real Madrid Musialowski was singled out to join in with first-team training which will do him good. It shows how well thought of he is in the set-up and perhaps quickens the ironing out of any bad habits. Needless giveaways and dribbles into corridors must be eradicated but the Liverpool coaching staff have the difficult job of finding the balance because to coax the joy that Mati brings out of with game would be a crime against football. Furthermore, fitness is a self confessed problem of his and he has, on occasion, struggled with the physicality up against bigger players. He is ready to play U23 football but it would not be surprising to see a period of adaptation in the opening stages as the intensity increases. Next season we can expect U23 football and the first team pre-season tour. Expectations should be tapered so he can grow at his own rate.

Perhaps the most important development is the scouse twang in his accent. Bodes well.

LUKE CHAMBERS

KIRKBY, ENGLAND – APRIL 06: (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

DOB: 24/06/2004 APPEARANCES:12 LFC ENTRY LEVEL: U9 FORMER CLUB(S): N/A POSITION: LB CONTRACT STATUS: Scholarship

Another that fell victim to injury.

Chambers started the season strong completing 90 minutes in every single one of The Young Reds opening five league fixtures. Chambers provides energy in abundance. He has a powerful running style. He can get up and down the wing, and is comfortable playing ahead of the ball which has seen the Marc Bridge-Wilkinson use Chambers as a wingback when in need of a reshuffle. He loves powerful lung-bursting dribbles from deep. He fits in the side well and exactly what you would expect as a Liverpool left-back.

At still just 16 and one of the younger members of the squad, the minutes Chambers had garnered were positive with plenty to look forward too next season as he potentially battles with Summer signing Calum Scanlon to cement more minutes in next seasons U18 campaign.

LUCA STEPHENSON

(Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

DOB: 17/09/2003 APPEARANCES: 19 LFC ENTRY LEVEL: U15 FORMER CLUB(S): Sunderland POSITION: DM CONTRACT STATUS: Professional

The Ying to Liverpool’s Yang. The Equilibrium.

A side renowned for goal-scoring exploits, Stephenson has providing the balance that helps Liverpool function as a side that can win football matches.

Sitting at the base of midfield, Stephenson is tasked with plugging the gaps, eating up the second ball and screening the centre-backs. He has done a fantastic job this season with his performances somewhat going under the radar – even of late when the likes of Quansah and Koumetio are praised, Stephenson’s name is kept out of the media’s eye. Perhaps for the best but he certainly deserves some level of praise. I am sure Marc Bridge-Wilkinson and the backroom staff know they have a talent on their hands. Stephenson not only provides midfield bite, but has a lovely range of passing should be expressed more.

Speaking of hands, though, he also showed remarkable reflexes against Wolves earlier in the season with a remarkable goal-saving save.

Eligible again for U18 football next season, it will be decided by the coaching staff whether to step up Stephenson. Much will depend on who Liverpool have coming through in the U16s and the outgoings of the U23s.

An impressive campaign.

LEE JONAS

(Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

DOB: 06/07/2004 APPEARANCES: 18 LFC ENTRY LEVEL: U12 FORMER CLUBS: EVERTON POSITION: CB CONTRACT STATUS: Scholarship

The accompanying Scouser alongside Harvey Davies and Luke Chambers in the group.

Jonas, at just 16, was trusted to start the season alongside captain Quansah. The pair make for a complimentary partnership with Quansah the more measured of the two and Jonas the aggressor.

Jonas made good strides towards in his development playing a significant number of minutes. Next season Jonas will be looking to iron out some lapses in his game in which he gives away possession cheaply in dangerous areas. On the other hand, mistakes are not always capitalised on due to Jonas’ impressive recovery pace and combative style. At this stage, one can’t be too critical and the overall package has been good. A solid platform moving into next season in which he will be trusted as the leader at the back as another U18 season beckons, with Quansah moving up an age group.

MELKAMU FRAUENDORF

(Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

DOB: 12/01/2021 APPEARANCES: 22 LFC ENTRY LEVEL: U18 FORMER CLUB(S): Hoffenheim POSITION: LW/CAM CONTRACT STATUS: Scholarship

Frauendorf was one of the players Liverpool had sought out to sign before the impending Brexit deadline.

Arriving from Hoffenheim, it has been an important year of adaptation for ‘Mel’. Used as either a left-winger or the highest midfielder in the team, Frauendorf has banked significant minutes in the league as he gets to grips with the intensity of the game. He was thrown into the deep-end at the off and will be better for it in the long-term. At times, he has looked to be on the fringes of the game, but that was to be expected. He has shown plenty of promise in spurts with a particularly strong end to the season, capped off by scoring the Semi-Final winning goal against Ipswich Town. Moving countries in the midst of a pandemic at 16, with occasional flares up of injury would not have been easy.

The platform he has given himself to end the campaign, sets himself in good stead for the U18s next season.

FABIAN MROZEK

(Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

DOB: 28/09/2003 APPEARANCES: 9 LFC ENTRY LEVEL: U18 FORMER CLUBS: FC Wrocław  POSITION: GK CONTRACT STATUS: Scholarship

It was a long wait for Mrozek to get his chance between the sticks for Liverpool as he was either out of the squad or named on the bench or out of the squad for the first half of the campaign for reasons unbeknown. Perhaps he was initially a training ‘keeper.

Finally called into action in February, Mrozek has been solid in a much improved second half of the season for minutes. Hard to gauge the performance of a goalkeeper, he has not made any notable errors during his run in the time and remains reliable.

It is difficult to predict what will happen for Fabian next season due to Liverpool’s hoarding of academy goalkeepers.

HARVEY BLAIR

(Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

DOB: 14/09/2003 APPEARANCES: 4 LFC ENTRY LEVEL: U12 FORMER CLUBS: MANCHESTER UNITED POSITION: ST CONTRACT STATUS: Professional

Keeping with the regular theme of Liverpool U18s, Blair, unfortunately struggled with injury wiping out a large portion of his season.

A promising season had beckoned for Blair, who Liverpool pinched from rivals Manchester United at U12 level, only to be struck down by a persistent hamstring and ankle problem.

In his few minutes though, Blair ensured it wasn’t an entirely hollow season managing to net twice across 123 minutes. Blair has since received surgery hoping for a healthier Liverpool U18 campaign in 21/22.

JAMES BALAGIZI

(Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

DOB: 20/09/2003 APPEARANCES: 22 LFC ENTRY LEVEL: U12 FORMER CLUBS: Manchester City POSITION: CM/AM CONTRACT STATUS: Professional

A campaign split into two by injury, Balagizi is trundling along nicely in-line with his high trajectory.

Potentially a standout performer in the academy this season. He has certainly shown enough to be tried and tested at U23 level, which will be an interesting gauge of his potential as we see the 6ft 2 midfielder play at a higher intensity against more physically embellished players.

It would be a disservice to reduce Balagizi’s game to his size, while it would be disingenuous to ignore its advantages. Often the creative heartbeat of the Liverpool side, Balagizi’s best position is by no means set, able to play all the way through the midfield and comfortable out wide. Balagizi excels at finding space between the lines and connecting attacking patterns with quick speed of thought and in-game IQ. He has been pivotal in Liverpool’s cup run. Nicked from Manchester City at U12 level, there is still a long way to in development but this season has been a promising marker for Balagizi.

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