The deeply underappreciated player at the heart of Liverpool’s title….

Mohammed Salah will get the headlines for his swashbuckling role when Liverpool put Newcastle United to the sword on Monday evening, but while the Egyptian was the sharp point at the end of wave after wave of attacks on Martin Dúbravka’s goal, he wasn’t the man making everything tick. That would be Curtis Jones.

The 22-year-old has been in and out of the Liverpool side since establishing himself in Jürgen Klopp’s first team squad back in 2020, always showing promise and a maturity beyond his years but never really putting himself on the map as a truly outstanding player – at least until this season. Jones has quietly improved over time without getting the plaudits he deserves and has added intelligence, economy and dynamism to his game. He is now filling the void left by Jordan Henderson’s controversial departure with grace and apparent ease and his outstanding performance against Newcastle, perhaps the best of his young career, felt like a statement.

He scored, of course, but that wasn’t really the most important thing he did even if the match was still, improbably, on a knife-edge at that point, and even given that it was a crucial intervention which may end up having a substantial impact on the title race, which Liverpool lead. When it comes down to it, he’ll probably never get an easier goal in his life, a simple tap-in from no distance after a sharp interchange down the right channel which allowed Diogo Jota to square the ball to Jones, who had ghosted through a tired defence without being detected. But what really counted was the way he recycled possession with remarkable speed and efficiency all evening, teeing off the barrage of attacks that were unleashed on the Newcastle goal.

Where Jones stood out was in his smart, simple passing, his understated first touch which always shifted the ball away from the nearest Newcastle player and into his own stride, and most of all his increasingly sharp movement. Jones, who has generally gamely plied the left-hand channel this season without much in the way of adventurous variation, found space and freedom across the field and took full advantage, drifting away from markers to find pockets of space left, right and centre, most of which were exploited to their fullest extent.

He will have tougher games, admittedly. Newcastle looked bedraggled and exhausted and neither midfield nor defence seemed willing or able to get close to Jones’ darting runs. Had Eddie Howe’s side been in better condition, a midfield assignment which saw him playing in spaces occupied by Bruno Guimarães might have been considerably tougher, but instead Jones found himself flitting effortlessly past the Brazilian’s ghost all night.


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