With Liverpool reserves sitting comfortably at the top of Reserve League North, 7 wins out of 8, it begs the question why hasn’t Rafa tried to put more of them on the bench for FA Cup matches or started some in the Carling Cup earlier in the season? The most obvious answer is that many of them are too young or not quite ready for first team but others, especially the likes of Dani Pacheco, David Amoo, Nathan Eccleston and Daniel Ayala no doubt have the talent to step up now, why hasn’t Rafa taken a gamble yet? Even yesterday, Rafa praised the progress of the youngsters, and especially Eccleston:
“It is important for us to keep the young players we have now. Eccleston is doing well and he played for the first team against Arsenal and Fulham. He is doing well with the reserves. He has quality but the main thing is he keeps working hard because with his talent he can be a player. We have some good young players. We are really pleased with Emiliano Insua, Peter Gulacsi, Nabil El Zhar and other players coming from the reserves. Hopefully we’ll see more of these players in the future.”
The question remains why haven’t young players been tried out more? The only real answer that I can come up with is that Benitez doesn’t rate the level of football played at reserve level. Despite Liverpool reserve teams being consistently successful over recent seasons, winning the title in 2008, Benitez plainly believes that the players are not tried and tested enough in matches for them to be ready to play in the first team. There is an element of truth in this, the intensity of matches at reserve level is hardly at Premier League, and probably not even at Football League standards, and although there is certainly a high level of technical ability, the physicality and pace of first team action is decidedly absent.
It seems that for some players, reserve team football can hold a player’s development back, rather than progress and hone a player’s skills through game time. What certainly doesn’t help is the lack of games that reserve teams play. Liverpool reserves have only played eight league games this season with the last game against Hull on 10th November. A long winter break means that they will only start up again against Manchester City next week, 2 months without a game. So what is the solution for some of these players?
Something that Manchester United especially do with a great deal of success, is to put some of their most promising players out on loan. That is not to say Liverpool don’t put their young players out on loan too, as Krisztian Nemeth is on loan at AEK Athens currently while Mikel San Jose is at Athletic Bilbao learning his trade, but on many occasions, players who have not made the grade, such as Craig Lindfield, were put out on loan in a view to be sold. It is a measure that Liverpool take when they believe the player won’t succeed at the highest level. With Man U on the other hand, it is a way of getting players first team experience. Need I remind you that David Beckham all those years ago was loaned out to Preston.
First team football can do wonders for a player’s development. The intensity of play is far greater, the pace is faster and it is far more physical. Boys can grow into men very quickly while out on loan at smaller clubs, as they develop both physically to cope with the demands of the game, and technically as they are forced to make decisions both quicker and more intelligently so as to outwit experienced defenders. If the player is good enough, he will excel at the level and it will give a great indication to the manager as to whether he will succeed in the Premier League.
For a player such as Pacheco, I would really like to see them play in the first team now, but for others, it might be time to put them out on loan just so they can have some first team experience, playing above reserve level. There would certainly be no harm in trying it.