Liverpool have been busy in the transfer market this summer with both incoming and outgoing deals, with the wide areas of attack particularly benefiting from expenditure over the past couple of months.
As a partial result of that, young forward Jordon Ibe looks set to depart on loan for the first part of the season at least, as Alan Nixon of the Mirror linked Ibe with a temporary move to Championship side Bolton Wanderers, where he will get regular first-team football.
Although Ibe has already played for the Reds and was on the bench for the opening game of the season against Southampton, it's a move which should suit all parties and further the footballing education of one of Liverpool's best teenage talents.
Sub, by Default
Ibe has been close to the Liverpool first team, close enough to make the bench at Anfield on Sunday—so why let him go on loan?
In truth, Ibe was a sub on this occasion only because others were not available. Adam Lallana remains sidelined from his pre-season injury, while the game came just too soon for Lazar Markovic to make a return after a minor knock.
Fabio Borini and Oussama Assaidi are both being left out ahead of potential departures, though either could be reasonably in the squad ahead of Ibe if still at the club in September. Elsewhere, Liverpool still want to sign another striker who could therefore either take a place on the bench or else in the starting XI—thereby pushing an alternative final-third option to the bench.
Ibe is a talent, but Liverpool's squad ability and depth has increased significantly over the past three transfer windows.
Given his ability to make an impact on the ball in friendly matches—post-season against Shamrock Rovers and pre-season against Brondby and Preston in particular—there are already expectations for Ibe from fans.
Some took to social media around 10 or 11 months ago to suggest he was already ahead of Raheem Sterling in his development—clearly not the case—and Brendan Rodgers will understandably want to protect the youngster from taking on too much pressure at this point.
Ibe is fast, direct, has good dribbling ability and is clever with his movement, but he still has some ground to make up on his team-mates in terms of end product and decision-making with the final pass. His shooting also needs more work, but these are all improvements which can come with greater game time and composure on the ball.
Thus, Liverpool isn't really the ideal scenario for him right now: The Reds face pressure to win almost every game to keep in the top four and in the Champions League once it gets started. Domestic cup games alone will not give Ibe enough game time between now and the end of the season, so a loan outside of Anfield will offer perhaps 2,000 to 3,000 extra minutes of game time this season.
Bigger than Bolton?
The one question mark which could be levelled at the move is that heading to Bolton would once again see Ibe in the Championship, where he spent time with Birmingham City last season, playing 11 games.
He's almost a Liverpool attacker, in one of the best attacks in the league. That surely warrants a lower-end Premier League club taking a look and thinking he could perhaps offer more to their side than a Michael Kightly, a Yannick Bolasie or a Marc Albrighton, no?
On the other hand, he could easily be used as an impact substitute for top-flight teams rather than as a starter for Bolton.
Either way, Ibe needs minutes and the freedom to develop his game, and Rodgers has already proven himself capable of improving and honing young talents. If his decision is that Ibe is best served by regularly starting in the Championship, Reds fans should have no doubt that this will be for the betterment of the player and, in turn, the club in the long run.
Ibe fulfilling the clear potential he has is the ultimate ambition, and if he does so Liverpool will have an extraordinary attacker on their hands this time next season, or perhaps even the one after.
Another extraordinary attacker, that should read.
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