Liverpool: 5 Youngsters Set to Emerge as Potential Stars in 2013
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has made ground this season in bringing through some talented youth prospects into the Liverpool first team. As he continues to plan improvements for the club, moreover, he can rest assured that there are plenty more youngsters who are capable of ultimately achieving great things.
While Raheem Sterling has already assured himself of a first team place for years to come after signing a new contract, several more young players are waiting in the wings for their chance in red.
Andre Wisdom has also figured heavily over the first half of the season in defence, though the youngster has lost his place recently.
An entire clutch of under-18 and under-21 players have either made their debuts or added appearances this season, including the likes of Conor Coady and Jerome Sinclair.
Here are five young players at Liverpool who could really have an impact during 2013 and make a name for themselves in a big way.
Suso, Attacking Midfield
Starting with Suso might seem a cop-out, but the Spanish playmaker hasn't quite established himself yet and has been the easiest player for Rodgers to haul off when things aren't going according to plan.
Having battled hard to win his chance in the first team, Suso deserves a few more chances to show what he's capable of, but perhaps an inconsistent team and a general rotation of the role he's expected to play is hindering him at present.
Suso is marvellously talented, has a great eye for the pass in the final third and can commit defenders to make room for his fellow attackers. But the teeager needs more game time to be confident enough on a regular basis.
Appearing as a regular substitute for the final 30 minutes of games is the way forward for Suso at the moment, who has 15 appearances for the first team under his belt this season.
Over the next 12 months he has the ability to make himself not just a regular squad player but a key first teamer if he continues to progress. He will surely add more pace and consistency to his own game, while the first team in general tries to do the same.
Ryan McLaughlin, Right-Back
One of the most promising youngsters in the Reds' youth programme is right-back Ryan McLaughlin.
His athleticism, good acceleration and strength in possession are his best physical attributes, but the attack-minded defender is also calm on the ball and feels right at home running at the opposition with the ball at his feet.
McLaughlin hasn't played for the first team in competitive games yet but has been named in the squad on several occasions, as well as playing in the preseason tour of North America.
He has also been called up to the full Northern Irish squad twice and is a regular in the lower age groups for his country.
McLaughlin has the likes of Andre Wisdom ahead of him, and Jon Flanagan is also still at the club, of course, but he should certainly make his debut during the next 12 months and is the kind of explosive player who could have an immediate impact.
Don't bet against him reaching double figures for first team appearances in 2013.
Jordan Ibe, Winger/Forward
Another youngster who joined McLaughlin in gaining experience around the first team this summer was Jordan Ibe.
The pacey forward is a real threat in the final third with good skills on the ball and an eye for goal.
Capable of playing the entire way along the front three, it seems likely that Ibe's eventual preferred position will be on one flank or the other, cutting infield to add speed and support to the central areas of attack.
Ibe has only just turned 17 years old so he still has plenty of time to continue developing. Nevertheless, he has the raw potential to be an impact substitute, perhaps in the final games of this season or early next season, just as Raheem Sterling did seven months ago.
Jack Robinson, Left-Back
Put simply, Liverpool need a new left-back.
As a youngster in the squad who has a chance of having a good career at the club, Jack Robinson is in prime position to challenge for the role.
Robinson has already played nine times for the first team and though his appearances have been spread far apart at times, he rarely puts in anything less than an assured performance.
The left-back is quick, strong, has a decent cross on him and is not scared to go forward, though still needs work to become a regular in a successful team.
Even so, Robinson should get a chance early in January when the Reds play in the FA Cup. If he does well, he could keep his place for the league thereafter.
Yalany Baio, Central Midfielder
Another area of the pitch that Liverpool could use some reinforcements in is central midfield. The squad is filled with technical players who can pass the ball well and fill a variety of positions, but since the sales of Momo Sissoko and Javier Mascherano, the Reds have lacked a truly physical player to dominate matches.
At 18 years of age, Yalany Baio might be some way off from being that player just yet, but he is definitely a powerful and imposing talent in midfield.
Entirely unafraid in one-on-one battles and possessing a crunching challenge, Baio can win the ball back and distribute it cleverly to his teammates, while also helping to keep the team's shape.
Central midfield is one of the positions that the Reds are most stocked in at present in terms of pure numbers, but those numbers lack a certain trait or two. Baio could get his chance during the coming year to show what a little steel added to the team can do.