Curtis Jones gets his annual F365 battering to usher in end-of-season excellence

Will Ford
Jones Liverpool
Curtis Jones isn't having a great time of it at Liverpool.

Curtis Jones has been a bit rubbish again, and is losing a close ally in Jurgen Klopp. A pure profit sale, perhaps? We’re doing Liverpool a service here…

This time last year, we claimed Curtis Jones had failed to live up to expectations and had, if anything, gone backwards at Liverpool. The midfielder appeared to take that criticism as a personal affront; no sooner had our slam piece been published than Jones’ form improved.

After playing fewer than 300 Premier League minutes by mid-April, Jones went on to start each of Liverpool’s last 11 games of the 2022/23 season, in which they went unbeaten, moving from eighth to fifth, with no team accruing more than their 25 points.

Jurgen Klopp described his form in that F365-debunking period as “exceptional”, blaming injuries for a “difficult spell” beforehand, hailing his improvements in counter-pressing, “speed of play” and finishing. The praise was well-founded, and tail between legs, wiping egg from our faces, we graciously accepted the thanks Jones would surely have bestowed on us for kickstarting his revival had he not been focused on playing excellent football.

Unfortunately, our role as Curtis Jones’ motivator wasn’t done, and with Liverpool winless in their last three and looking as though they’re set to send Klopp limply on his way from Anfield at the end of the season, we’re more than happy to provide the service of giving the 23-year-old another kick up the a***. He needs it.

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He carried his form from last term into the start of this season, with fans and pundits alike suggesting Liverpool’s revamped midfield should include Jones as a staple part. But then injury followed suspension for his red card at Tottenham; Jones missed five games and has started just eight of 20 Premier League games since.

The injuries have been significant, with three separate absences this season meaning three separate periods of rehab and three spells of getting back to match sharpness while others played in his stead.

But Ryan Gravenberch, his closest like-for-like replacement, has been easily the most disappointing of the summer midfield signings, and in truth no one would have been a match for Jones in that role on the left of a midfield three had the academy graduate been anywhere close to a peak he’s currently nowhere near. The defeat to Crystal Palace brought his struggles into sharp focus.

Anyone can miss a chance. Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota and Mohammed Salah all missed more glaringly than Jones on Sunday, and Liverpool’s finishing in general has been woeful this season, with only Everton (-15.2) and Brentford (-6.4) having a worse goals minus expected goals score than the Reds (-5.4).

But it was a big opportunity missed in what had turned into a big game, and added weight to a growing suspicion that – surrounded by supposed mentality monsters – Jones is rather more meek, and his confidence superficial.

He was taken off early in the second half before Trent Alexander-Arnold’s late goal salvaged a point against Manchester City, was ineffective home and away against Arsenal and had little-to-no positive effect from the bench in either game against Manchester United. There’s a case to be made that he goes missing in big games.

His outstanding display in the 4-2 win over Newcastle goes some way to disputing that, and he also impressed in the 4-1 win over Chelsea, but memories are short and it may be fair to question whether they could even be classed as big games.

The good news for Jones is that it’s one big game after the other for the rest of the season, assuming Liverpool cling to the coat-tails of City in the title race. There will be ample opportunity for Jones to prove to a new manager that he has what it takes to be a key cog next season.

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Because with the departure of Klopp, Jones will be losing a close ally, the guy who’s plucked him from the academy and consistently backed him to reach his potential that – save for all-too-brief periods of excellence – remains largely unrealised. And with FFP in play, dare we say it, Jones offers a not-insignificant opportunity to bring in some of that sweet, pure profit if he’s not to the new manager’s liking.

Given the title race and the managerial change afoot, the time has come for Jones to prove himself worthy of Liverpool once again. And having written this, we fully expect him to do so.

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