In August 2022, when the new Premier League season gets underway, Liverpool will travel to Craven Cottage to take on Fulham with a new-look front three. All being well, Darwin Nunez will line up with Mohamed Salah to his right and Luis Diaz to his left as the Reds enter a new era.
That’s because Sadio Mane’s six-year affiliation with the club ended on Wednesday afternoon as he sealed a move to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. However, the Senegal international won’t be the only forward from the Reds’ frontline departing Anfield this summer, as both Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino will end their stays on Merseyside.
While Mane’s trophy-laden time at the club will be remembered for consistent moments of undoubted brilliance, Origi and Minamino will leave with a slimmer portfolio of goals, performances and highlights having found it hard to break into Liverpool’s starting XI for a prolonged period of time during their stints at the club.
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Nevertheless, the pair were both influential in the club’s cup success during their days at Anfield, with Minamino finishing as the top goalscorer in both the League Cup and FA Cup for Jurgen Klopp’s men last season as they secured their first domestic cup double in 21 years .
But despite earning a starring role in the early rounds of both cup triumphs, the Japan International only accumulated 1,021 minutes across all competitions in 2021-22, with just 186 of those coming in the Premier League. Meanwhile, 2019 Champions League semi-final and final hero Origi only managed 607 minutes for the Reds across their 63 games in all competitions, although he did miss large parts of the campaign due to a knee injury sustained in December.
However, their desire to seek new pastures will allow the likes of Kaide Gordon, and a whole host of academy graduates, to fast-track their development into the first team next season. Gordon, who was signed from Derby County in early 2021, is one of the brightest prospects coming out of Kirkby and has been name-dropped by Trent Alexander-Arnold as someone to keep an eye on over the coming years.
The 18-year-old has already made a sizeable impression during his time with the senior side so far, having scored on his full Anfield debut against Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup last season, which made him the club’s second youngest goalscorer at 17 years , three months and four days. After which Liverpool boss Klopp said: “I know he’s the second-youngest goalscorer for Liverpool, which is absolutely exceptional, but there’s a way to go. No problem, Kaide has time, we will give him time, he will have his minutes here and there.”
The club’s faith in the youngster was further highlighted when, in the absence of Mane and Salah, who were participating in the Africa Cup of Nations, Klopp started Gordon in the Reds’ League Cup semi-final second leg away to Arsenal.
And while plenty of his fellow academy team-mates will soon head out of Anfield for a temporary loan move elsewhere – Conor Bradley sealed a switch to Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday – it appears that Gordon could be sticking around to allow Klopp and Pep Lijnders to monitor his development closely over the course of the next campaign.
The departures of Minamino and Origi could mean there are more minutes open for the teenager. And something that will also benefit Gordon’s chances of picking up further game time is the heavily-condensed fixture schedule the Premier League’s top-six clubs will find themselves adhering to as a result of the Qatar World Cup. Klopp’s men will face six Champions League matches before the start of November, with three batches of back-to-back games, in addition to the League Cup third-round tie that will take place on November 8/9.
Further, teams in the Premier League will face 16 rounds of matches before the World Cup break comes into effect, which means Liverpool could find themselves playing 23 games by the middle of November – not including their Community Shield tie with Manchester City.
It’s a gruelling fixture list that will take its toll on even the well-stacked sides and it appears inevitable that the upcoming season of Premier League football will feature a higher number of academy players as a result. And if Gordon continues his promising trajectory, he who knows what role he could have to play in the team once the international stars have concluded their commitments in Qatar.