Appearing to improve with every passing game at present, Curtis Jones is fast developing into an integral member of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool squad.
Jones was very much at the fore as the Reds moved three points clear at the top of the Premier League following an emphatic 4-2 win against Newcastle at Anfield, with Liverpool registering a top flight xG record of 7.27 against the Magpies.
Singled out for praise by Klopp after an all-action display in Liverpool’s midfield, Jones’ second-half tap in from a Diogo Jota assist was his fifth goal involvement in his last seven outings for his hometown club.
We examine Jones’ development at Liverpool, his current role in the side and more in the latest instalment of In Focus…
The latest in a distinguished line of Liverpool greats from the local inner-city area of Toxteth – including the club’s all-time record appearance holder Ian Callaghan and the prolific Robbie Fowler – Curtis Jones joined the Reds at the age of nine.
During his time in Liverpool’s academy, Jones would be coached by club legend and fellow Scouser Steven Gerrard at under-18s level, with the former Reds skipper since heralding his former protege as “more talented” than himself from a technical standpoint.
“He’s a different type of player to me in that I was more of a runner, a passer. Curtis is more of an individual – a soloist, if you like,” Gerrard said.
Signing his first professional contract aged 17 in February 2018, Jones made his first team debut for Liverpool in January the following year in an FA Cup third round match against Wolves.
From this point onwards Jones continued to gain more and more first team exposure, with a breakthrough moment arriving in January 2020 when he became the youngest goalscorer in a Merseyside derby since Robbie Fowler in 1994 when netting a sensational winning goal in a 1-0 triumph for the Reds in an FA Cup third round tie against Everton at Anfield.
The following round of the FA Cup would mark a further milestone in Jones’ career, with the midfielder becoming Liverpool’s youngest ever captain aged 19 with a youthful Reds team overcoming League One side Shrewsbury 1-0 at home.
Although growing into an established member of the first team squad trusted by manager Klopp to support the team’s push for silverware on several fronts – winning both the FA Cup and League Cup in 2021-22 – Jones has struggled in recent seasons to evolve from a fringe squad option to first team starter at Anfield.
Making just one Premier League start last season up until April, albeit having been hampered by injury problems, Jones’ long-term future at Liverpool has not always appeared assured.
I remember having a conversation with Jurgen talking about Curtis and he was saying he has little things to improve, and I said stay with this kid, he will not let you down.
- Former Liverpool captain and Under-18s manager Steven Gerrard, May 2023
Signing a new deal in August 2022, Jones is contracted to Liverpool under the summer of 2027.
Returning to Liverpool’s starting XI in the Premier League for the first time in 17 matches against Chelsea at Anfield last April, Jones went on to enjoy a run of 11 consecutive starts as Liverpool secured Europa League qualification at the end of the 2022/23 season.
A man-of-the-match performance in a 3-0 away win for Liverpool over Leicester was the notable highlight of this extended run in the side, with Jones netting an impressive brace of goals at the King Power Stadium.
The 22-year-old was able to carry this end-of-season form into the Under 21s Euros with England in Romania and Georgia, with the Liverpool academy product scoring the winner in a 1-0 triumph for the Young Lions against Spain in the final.
Buoyed by the trust club manager Klopp had placed in him at the back end of the 2022/23 season and his exploits at international level over the summer, Jones will likely have entered the current season in confident mood.
After shaking off an ankle injury which hindered him at the beginning of the campaign, three consecutive starts in three successive wins for Liverpool in September will have only contributed to Jones’ confidence.
A red card against Tottenham and a thigh issue would again thwart Jones’ progress, however, in what has been a stop-start campaign for the midfielder to date.
Back to full fitness, Jones’ starring role in Liverpool’s 4-2 dismantling of Newcastle on New Year’s Day at Anfield – arguably the Reds’ most complete performance of the season – prompted widespread praise from the club’s supporters and Klopp himself.
Lining up as one of the two number eights in Klopp’s preferred 4-3-3 setup - alongside Hungarian Dominik Szoboszlai and in front of Japanese anchor Wataru Endo – Jones delivered an imperious midfield display which was capped off with a decisive second-half goal which gave Liverpool a 2-1 lead over the Magpies on the night.
One of Liverpool's standout performers on a night in which Klopp's men sent a signal to the rest of the league by going three points clear at the summit, Jones cast a figure of a player who is finally primed to realise his potential and emerge as a regular first team starter at Anfield.
He has a Scouse mentality. Same as Trent [Alexander-Arnold], their dedication is hard to describe. They are passionate about the game, the ball, there's nothing else in their life.
- Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders, Sep 2023
1. Curtis Jones - 91.6%
2. Virgil van Dijk - 90.5%
3. Ibrahima Konate - 89.3%
4. Alexis Mac Allister - 88.1%
5. Joel Matip - 87.6%
* - Minimum of five 90 mins of action
To Win Outright - 9/4
To Win Outright Without Man City - 1/2
To Finish in Top 2 - 2/5
To Finish in Top 4 - 1/50
Not to Finish in Top 3 - 18/1
To Win Outright - 12/1
To Win Outright -
To Win Outright - 9/4
Jones’ midfield masterclass in the Reds’ eye-catching victory over Eddie Howe’s Newcastle offered an exciting showcase of the role the Scouser could play within Liverpool boss Klopp’s envisioned ‘Liverpool 2.0’ – a term expressed by the German when outlining his commitment to the club at the start of this season.
At 6ft 1, Jones is tall in stature for a midfielder who is both technically excellent and physically unrelenting.
A terrific dribbler with silky close control, Jones is adept at getting out of tight areas on the pitch and taking players on.
He is also a tenacious operator, something he has harnessed to maximise his value within Liverpool manager Klopp’s preferred ‘heavy metal’ style of football which revolves around counter-pressing.
The Reds' current average of 6.3 final third ball recoveries per game in this Premier League season is only topped by two teams across the past six top flight campaigns, both of which were also Liverpool sides - in 2021/22 when the Merseysiders finished second and 2019/20 when they claimed the title.
Jones has more than played his part in this high-press approach, with the midfielder making the most final third ball recoveries in Liverpool's win over Newcastle with four, with his manager Klopp describing his counter-pressing against the Geordies as "absolutely exceptional."
With Klopp having overhauled his midfield in stark fashion in the summer with experienced duo Jordan Henderson (33) and James Milner (38) moving on and youthful trio Dominik Szoboszlai (23), Alexis Mac Allister (25) and Ryan Gravenberch (21) arriving, suddenly the Reds' engine room seems far more dynamic.
22-year-old Jones himself is a key part of this midfield facelift which has underpinned the implementation of Liverpool 2.0, with this mobility and thrust from midfield notably absent at Anfield in the last couple of seasons.
Should Jones be able to pin down a regular starting berth in Liverpool’s midfield, and Jurgen Klopp’s charges be successful in a push for their second Premier League title under the German, the 22-year-old could end the season in contention for a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the Euros.
England’s depth in central midfield can be argued to represent one of Southgate’s problem areas at present, and with Jones already boasting international pedigree as a crucial member of the Under 21s side who won the Euros last summer, the Liverpudlian appears a credible dark horse to sneak a place on the plane to Germany.
We all know how good Curtis is, he is incredibly skilled technically, but he finds more and more direction in his dribbling, he gets out of tight spaces and his pressing sets the level.
- Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, Jan 2024
Jones has received 20 caps for England's Under 21s, scoring five goals.