Although he has only recently started playing regularly, it is clear what type of player Curtis Jones is. He exploded into Liverpool’s first team when it was hit by an injury crisis. He has impressed with his composure and passing skills, ensuring that the absence of certain elite players has not been felt. His real challenge in the near future is going to be establishing himself in the team when Jurgen Klopp has more options in midfield.
Bio and playing style
New Kid on the Kop
Curtis Julian Jones was born on the 30th of January 2001 in Liverpool, growing up as the youngest of four siblings. He played on the streets as a kid before joining Liverpool’s academy aged 9.
At youth level, Jones showed his class and composure at various levels. While progressing through the academy, he was noticed by the U-18s manager and club legend Steven Gerrard, who made Jones pivotal to his side. He attracted interest from the Manchester clubs, which he rebuffed in order to play for Liverpool. He subsequently signed a professional contract and made his debut in January 2019.
Curtis Jones stands at 185cm tall and weighs 75kg (BMI 21.9). He is pretty mobile and agile considering his height, and uses his technique to evade pressure from opponents even in tight situations, showcasing remarkable composure for such a young player.
Jones demonstrates excellent passing skills, recording high volumes of passes (54.6 P90 in the opposition half) with outstanding accuracy (92.1% in his own half, 91.4% in the opposition half). In this season, out of all of the U-20’s in Europe, he has the highest accuracy for passes in the opposition half. If we consider all the midfielders in our database, regardless of age, he ranks fourth in passing accuracy in the opposition half, marginally behind his teammate Wijnaldum (92.3% vs 92.5%).
|Player||Team||Passing accuracy in the opp. half|
|A. Witsel||Borussia D.||91.5%|
As a result of these outstanding stats, Curtis Jones showcases the third-highest passing index among U-20’s, 1st in the top 5 leagues, as shown in the chart below. We point out, however, that this number is not particularly high in absolute terms (from the amount of passes as well as from the accuracy ratios one could expect an even higher passing index) which is mainly because of two factors: 1) Jones often goes for the lateral pass (slightly less than 60% of the time) and; 2) he doesn’t often go for long passes (2.4 per 90 minutes, vs the role average of 4.8).
Jones’ skill-set is quite well-rounded: aside from his passing, he has good ball control (possession losses P90 of 12.1 vs 15.8 average for the role) and is a capable dribbler, completing 1.59 dribbles per match.
In the defensive phase, his contribution is comparable to that of the average central midfielder, with the exception of 7.04 ball recoveries P90 (4th best outfield player at Liverpool) and a very low tackle success rate (43.8%).
Curtis Jones has plenty of room for improvement regarding the offensive side of his game. The number of shots he takes is low (1.7 per 90 mins) and so is the number of chances created (0.8 P90). This probably has a lot to do with his role at Liverpool, since when he has had more opportunities to push up he has remarkably increased his offensive output (often in the Champions League).
Jones started his youth career playing as an attacking midfielder or as a winger, but at the senior level with Liverpool he has mainly featured as a central midfielder in Klopp’s 4-3-3 system. His qualities and passing abilities suit the position very well, with the young Englishman acting as a roaming playmaker or a mezzala. He stepped into a side that was really struggling with injuries and became an important part of the team, helping it stay top of the league and their UCL group.
Curtis Jones displays relatively little attacking contribution for his position. This was not the case at youth level, when he played in more advanced roles, but his output has been relatively constrained so far in senior football. This is mostly due to the role he has been given at Liverpool, which prioritises ball distribution rather than chance creation, as seen also with other midfielders. A reason for this is the presence of Robertson and Alexander-Arnold, full backs who push up and create a lot of chances from wide areas. This means that Curtis Jones could see his goal numbers rise, rather than his assists, if he manages to get on the end of those crosses. As shown in the table below, low chance creation is common among Liverpool central midfielders. Milner’s 1.6 chances created per 90 minutes are the exception and not the rule.
Potential and outlook
Great impact, but consolidation is always tougher
On the one hand, it cannot be understated just how well Curtis Jones coped with the sudden transition into the starting XI of a top club. On the other, his performances so far have highlighted that there are certain areas of his game that have plenty of room for improvement. In our view, he will need to work on the defensive phase of his game, as well as on optimising his playmaking: he often goes for the easy lateral short pass (around 60% of the time), which might inflate his passing accuracy numbers but slows down the buildup.
Offensively, he should look to improve his runs into the box and to consolidate his dribbling skills in order to become an elite mezzala (we feel that his characteristics preclude him from being considered a box-to-box midfielder).
Will he get playing time when all the stars are back?
Curtis Jones seems like a good fit for Klopp’s 4-3-3 system and he has benefitted from the severe injury crisis that Liverpool have faced this season, giving him a lot of minutes under his belt. This will likely change in the near future, given that he is competing with world class players such as Thiago Alcantara and Wijnaldum.
Still, the 2020/21 season is like no other and has lots of games packed into a short period of time, and so he is still likely to start in numerous matches. After all, he has proved that he has the talent necessary to feature in the Premier League and the Champions league. Furthermore, the coming months will be important for him to assess what he can improve and take on as much as possible from his world-class teammates and coaching staff.
– Passing (>90% accuracy in the opp. half)
– Tackling (>45% success ratio)
– Learning from elite players
– Winning titles
– Limited playing time when all the stars are back
A transfer is extremely unlikely, a loan less so
Born and raised in Liverpool, playing for Liverpool: it is difficult to imagine Jones playing in any other club colours. It’s not only his affection for the Reds that make a departure unlikely, but as stated, his characteristics perfectly suit the ones his team need.
The only risk he faces regards competition for playing time as he is playing in possibly the best club in the world: to get into the starting lineup he will have to put players of the calibre of Thiago, Wijnaldum and Henderson on the bench. So although keeping a starting role with all this competition when everybody is fit is unlikely, such a packed season means that Jones is still going to be getting lots of playing time, especially if he can maintain his performance levels. Reinforcing this view is the fact that he signed a new contract in July through his agency, Midas Sports, which ties him to the Reds until June 2025.
However, if the competition proves too tough and playing time too limited, the player might consider a loan move.
This analysis is part of our ‘Wonderkids: 2021 Outlook‘. Please find the link for its download here. A printed version is available too.