Liverpool Football Club received another boost on Wednesday when it was announced that young defender Andre Wisdom had signed a new long term contract with the club.
The Reds have already tied down a series of promising youngsters in the past few months with the likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Suso, and Raheem Sterling all signing new deals, and Wisdom has now joined them in committing his future to Liverpool.
Currently playing at right-back for his team, Wisdom only made his debut for the first team in September but has already marked himself out as one of the most exciting youngsters in the league. He will hope the new contract is another milestone on his way to becoming a permanent fixture in the Reds team, and he certainly has the attributes to ensure that happens.
One area of the side Liverpool are not short in is right-back of course, with Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly, Jon Flanagan, and Ryan McLaughlin all in the squad, but Wisdom has the potential to be a massive player for the Reds over the coming years. Here are five reasons why.
Liverpool's No. 47 has barely passed a dozen appearances for the club, but you wouldn't know it by watching him play.
Wisdom is hugely composed on the ball, rarely troubled by opposition wingers, and is a very tough competitor.
After coming into the team through the Europa League initially, Wisdom soon broke into the Premier League side for Liverpool as well, and has rarely put a foot wrong, giving example after example of confident and reliable defending as well as growing in stature going forward.
Perhaps only two of his matches so far have seen him suffer any real kind of difficulties in his own third, one being in the Merseyside derby, but Wisdom is very mature for a 19-year-old defender, and plays the ball safe when necessary.
He is also not afraid to make forward runs into space, and can be counted on to open up the pitch in the final third when the opportunity presents itself.
Brendan Rodgers has made a habit of throwing his young charges in at the deep end, and Wisdom was just one beneficiary of that policy, and clearly has an enormous amount of trust in the defender.
Though he had been out of the league side for a spell after injury around November time, Wisdom seems to have quickly established himself this season as the Reds' third-choice full-back. With Jose Enrique now sidelined, the manager has not been worried about putting Wisdom back in—and the Reds youngster has once more shown incredible consistency in playing at the top of his game from the off.
Having seen his defender sign the new contract, Rodgers told the official Liverpool website:
I'm delighted for Andre because he's a young player that's really impressed me with his attitude and football qualities over the course of these first six months and he's grabbed his opportunity. The exciting thing going forward for our club is that I've come in here with a specific vision to an order of how to work, but also part of that is for young players and they will be fundamental.
Wisdom has the backing of his boss. Now he needs to go on and become an even better player to make his mark on the team on a more long-term basis.
He certainly has the quality to do so.
So what are those qualities which mark Andre Wisdom out as a top talent?
Firstly of course, Wisdom is an incredible physical specimen. His power and speed for a teenager is impressive, but he retains excellent agility along with his strength.
That power lends him to being an excellent defender in both one-on-one ground duels and also in aerial battles, while his determination and will to win also aid significantly.
In possession, Wisdom is naturally a very safe player. Being a youngster in his debut season, he rarely gives the ball away—he has completed 90.5 percent of his passes in the Premier League this season, the same as Joe Allen.
Other than Jamie Carragher, who has started just once, those two have the highest pass success rate in the squad.
Wisdom is also strong in the tackle and competent in clearing the ball. With an average of 3.9 clearances per match, he ranks highest out of all the Reds' full-backs.
As expected, his tactical acumen is improving with each passing month, and as he plays more games against a variety of opponents, this will only get better. His basic positioning is good and his decision making of when to get forward continues to improve too. Within 50 or so appearances for the club, he could feasibly be one of the top full-backs in the country if he continues his rate of progression.
Considering his ability on the ball and comfort in the role of full-back, it is something of a surprise—if you hadn't watched him at reserve level—to know he was brought through the club's academy system as a central defender.
He is in fact now following more or less the same career path at Anfield as fellow defender Martin Kelly, who has established himself as a first-team player at right-back, having initially played centrally.
While it might not be their initial preference, their ability to play in the wide defensive role has enabled them to get fantastic playing time—Kelly has played 54 times, Wisdom 14—for the Reds, which they likely wouldn't have gotten in the centre.
However, over a period of two or three more seasons, Wisdom could find himself moved back into the middle having gained a greater understanding of defensive positioning and responsibilities.
Martin Kelly may yet find himself as a central player next season also when he returns from injury with fierce competition at right-back.
Andre Wisdom is just one of a new batch of Liverpool starlets who are trying to make the grade as Brendan Rodgers rebuilds the team, but though the side is filled with young players there are some valuable experienced heads guiding them.
Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher tally 1,332 first-team appearances between them for the Reds—many of the youngsters currently at the club may not even go on to make 10 percent of that amount.
In fact, since Gerrard made the breakthrough, not one single academy player has reached the three-figures barrier. Martin Kelly should go on to do so, but Stephen Warnock's 67 appearances comes closest to that mark over the past 15 years.
These young players might go on to become the fulcrums of a new successful Anfield side—certainly that is the hope—but for now they need instruction, guidance, patience, and best of all, time on the pitch to grow.
They're getting all of that and it should only help them in the long run, provided they stay grounded and continue to improve as individuals within the team setting.
You strongly suspect Andre Wisdom might just be the best-placed of all Liverpool's youngsters to do exactly that.
Statistical data from WhoScored.com