Ahead of the 2013-14 season, The Scout's Notebook will profile emerging talent at some of the Premier League's top football clubs, and discuss the players' prospects for the season ahead. With the sides now playing preseason friendlies and tournaments ahead of the campaign, we are beginning to see which players have the potential to feature in their manager's plans this season.
Today: Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool side
Liverpool will start the 2013-14 Premier League season full of optimism, with a positive start to the Rodgers era built upon with some well-regarded signings this summer. The Reds are a very different side under their Northern Irish manager than in previous years; looking to retain possession and move towards a more fluid, skill-based attacking unit. While the current impasse over Luis Suarez will be far from welcome, there are positive signs coming out of Anfield.
Part 1: Manchester United
Part 2: Chelsea
Another key facet of Rodgers' reign thus far has been his decision to trust in youth talent, aided by the academy restructuring work begun under Rafael Benitez and continued under subsequent managers. He arrived to find a club blessed with a handful of very promising youngsters, but has made a noted effort to give such players a chance -- aided by the club's lack of squad depth last campaign. In that respect, the future looks bright for Liverpool.
It had been a barren few years for a club of Liverpool's size in terms of bringing academy graduates into the first-team and many of those who had been given a chance fell short of the standards required. While many of those blazing a trail for the current next generation have been bought in from other academies during their teenage years, there are also signs of young Liverpool-produced talents emerging.
Leading the way once more this season will be two players brought into the club at the age of 15 -- Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom. The pair made a combined 36 appearances in the Premier League last campaign and showed initial promise, but they will hope to build upon their initial successes.
Sterling, 18, is perhaps the most hotly anticipated talent in the English game, with many who have watched him from an early age expecting him to go on to achieve significant feats within the game. Fast, skilful and intelligent in his play, Sterling showed that he has everything needed to succeed at the top level last campaign before fatigue eventually took its toll late in the season. Having been thrown in at the deep end, it was an impressive start to what should be a successful career.
Wisdom, meanwhile, was able to enjoy a more measured adaptation to the first-team setup, first playing in several cup and Europa League games before stepping up. A natural centre-back, Wisdom showed his adaptability and comfort in possession to adapt to a right-back role, but may well revert to a central position in the coming months. With the more established Martin Kelly returning from injury, though, it will be interesting to see how Rodgers uses his two younger defensive options.
Like the other two clubs we have featured in the series thus far, Liverpool will also look to use the loan market this season to develop some of their better prospects. Diminutive playmaker Suso has moved on to La Liga side Almeria, as the arrivals of Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas would have limited his first team opportunities. Interestingly, the 19-year-old played a deeper midfield role for Spain's Under-20 side this summer and could well continue to be used in that manner by his new club side.
Reserve team captain Conor Coady, 20, has also headed out on a six-month loan with League One side Sheffield United. A tenacious customer, who can also play centre-back, local boy Coady must prove that he has the ability to succeed at the first-team level. Left-back Jack Robinson, 19, has a similar task on his hands in the Championship with Blackpool, while gangly forward Michael Ngoo will hope to impress at Yeovil.
There are still several impressive talents remaining at the club who will feature predominantly for the Under-21 side, although some first-team outings should not be discounted.
Jordon Ibe, now 17, would seem most likely to make an impact, having featured heavily in pre-season. Ibe rose to fame in August 2011 when he became the youngest player in Wycombe's history, before moving to Liverpool just months later. Two-footed, quick and excellent with the ball at his feet, the comparisons with Sterling are easy to make and Ibe will hope to make a similar impact to his colleague in the coming months.
Returning from injury, Germany youth international Samed Yesil will hope for minutes later in the campaign, but must first ensure he fully recovers from cruciate ligament damage. A 19-year-old centre-forward, his finishing prowess is undoubted, but he still has much to learn before being ready to make an impact at senior level.
In a similar position is former Sporting attacking midfielder Joao Carlos Teixeira, 20, who will be hoping for a chance to prove himself in the first-team. After a back injury halted his progress initially at the club, he impressed greatly at the Under-21 level last season in his central attacking midfield role. Well-suited to Rodgers' preferred style of play, it would be little surprise to see the Portuguese youngster given some minutes later in the campaign. Along with 18-year-old right-back Ryan McLaughlin, though, Teixeira may find that first-team depth in his position limits opportunity.
As far as opportunities to make an impact at first-team level are concerned, the players listed will probably be the only few in the coach's mind at present. For the likes of winger Seyi Ojo, midfielder Jordan Rossiter and striker Jerome Sinclair, all 16, it is still far too early -- in spite of their burgeoning reputations. The same, also, likely applies to 17-year-old centre-back Lloyd Jones.
Somewhat unknown quantities to most in England, meanwhile, will be recent 16-year-old signings Sergi Canos and Pedro Chirivella. Signed from Barcelona and Valencia respectively, the striker and midfielder come with sizeable reputations and will be key members of the club's side in both Under-18 Premier League and NextGen Series action.
Liverpool have put a lot of effort into youth recruitment and improving their academy setup in recent years, including hiring Under-21 manager Alex Inglethorpe following his success at Tottenham. With Rodgers having shown willingness to utilise the club's young talents at first-team level, the academy is currently a source of much hope for the club's supporters. It has been long overdue, but the club now appear to be finally getting back on track.
For further discussion on any of the players featured in The Scout’s Notebook, Christopher can be found on Twitter – @chris_elastico. More of his work profiling rising talents can also be found at TheElastico.com.