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Amid the deserved recognition for Andre Wisdom’s rapid rise to Anfield stardom, Jon Flanagan’s quiet descent from the first team back into the reserves has filled few headlines.
Indeed, Flanagan was first called on by Kenny Dalglish to fill in at right-back due to Martin Kelly’s absence through injury, and he made an accomplished debut at Anfield against Manchester City in April 2011. For the rest of the campaign, he contributed strong and steady performances on the right and looked destined to be Liverpool’s next first-choice-right-back-in-the-making.
Following a few unsteady performances in the beginning of the 2011-12 season, however, Dalglish eased him out of the first team, only making the odd appearance in domestic cups. Brendan Rodgers gave him his first appearance of the season in Liverpool’s Europa League loss at Anzhi Makhachkala.
Ryan McLaughlin, on the other hand, has been an up-and-coming star for the Liverpool youth team this season. His match-winning performance for the Liverpool U19s in the 4-1 win over Internazionale in the NextGen series confirmed his attacking threat, winning two penalties for his side.
He had been taken by Rodgers to the Reds’ summer American tour, where he first caught the eye with a series of confident performances, including a man-marking assignment against AS Roma’s Francesco Totti.
While Flanagan provides decent backup to the right-back slot, the reality is that he will not usurp Wisdom, Kelly and Johnson in the right-back pecking order anytime soon.
A solid start has been impeded by a relative lack of confidence and assertiveness—perhaps due to being played a bit too often, too early—and a loan away from Anfield looks to be the best option for him to regain the necessary match fitness and confidence.
As for McLaughlin, the 18-year-old has time on his side. Given Wisdom’s prominent place in the first team, he will perhaps see out the season in the U19s and the reserves before making yet another push for the senior squad in the coming preseason.
His main worry has to be whether Rodgers will grant him the first-team experience that he will need at this stage of his career amid such strong competition.
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