Harry Wilson has reached the stage at which a young player needs a reasonable amount of first-team football.
His 14-year association with Liverpool, therefore, will be at something of a crossroads in the summer, when the 22-year-old returns from his loan spell with Derby.
His time in the East Midlands has delivered several outstanding moments of brilliance that has not only helped the Rams – 11/4 with Betway for a top 6 finish as of 28th March – it has also made one think he might be considered Liverpool standard.
The Welshman has scored seven goals from outside the box in the Championship this season, which is in part down to his agility and spatial awareness.
If there’s a simple pass played slightly behind him, rather than run straight to the ball and end up with his back to goal, he will be aware of the space and anticipate the ball’s trajectory, so that he can adjust his body posture and get himself in a position to shoot with venomous power and impeccable accuracy.
Wilson is also a serious threat from set pieces: he scored an excellent free-kick at Old Trafford in Derby’s 2-2 penalty shoot-out victory over Manchester United in the EFL Cup.
He has talent – of that there is no doubt.
Where one might question Wilson is precisely how he would fit into Liverpool’s system.
The Reds tend to set up with a 4-3-3: Roberto Firmino pressing from the front, then wide forwards Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane breaking beyond the Brazilian in transition.
Perhaps, since Xherdan Shaqiri’s summer arrival, it has sometimes been more akin to 4-2-3-1 with the Swiss technician on the right and Salah in more of a central role just in front of Firmino.
Shaqiri has not been particularly productive on the right, mainly because he does not have pace and needs passing options either side of him to maximize his creative qualities.
The main example of how to fit into a wide forward role in Jurgen Klopp’s setup would be Sadio Mane, who generally plays on the left but can play on the right – as he sometimes did prior to Salah’s arrival and Phillipe Coutinho’s move to Barcelona.
Because the Malian is such an athletic performer, he forces defences back with his pace, power, willingness to run at opponents and break into goalscoring positions.
Although it would be difficult to find and man manage an understudy to Mane with the same level of ability, it is important that the younger, next wide forward in line provides similar qualities.
When Mane went away to the African Cup of Nations during the 2016-17 campaign, Liverpool’s form suffered massively.
That was because nobody deployed out wide could offer a trace of what Mane offers and thus Liverpool were not merely losing the individual ability of one player, but rather they suffered from a breakdown of the entire system.
Now, the situation is slightly different with Salah offering pace in behind, but the principle remains the same: try to avoid letting injuries force a re-jig of the setup and the tactical instability that can lead to.
If Liverpool were to turn the ball over in the opposing half with Wilson on the left, he would stay in front of the defence because he is not the type of player to push in behind: his instinct is not to get into the penalty area.
Wilson has taken just 0.7 shots from inside the box per 90 minutes this season – 206 Championship players have taken more in 2018-19.
He has scored only three goals from inside the 18-yard area – 60 Championship players have scored more.
Furthermore, he has only completed 0.5 successful dribbles per 90, 299 second-tier performers have completed more.
That is not to say that Wilson is not a prodigious talent, because you do not become the youngest player ever to play for the Wales senior side – as he did back in 2013 – without being very gifted.
His presence in this Reds side, however, would make Salah potentially the only option for an early ball in behind; opposing teams would wise-up to that and thus play would become congested in a way that would not suit the fabric of how the team plays.
The Reds would be best-advised to cash in on Wilson, because there are a lot of clubs that would be interested in securing his services – possibly in the Premier League – based on his form for Derby this season.
With that income, Liverpool could aid a possible pursuit of PSV’s Hirving Lozano or Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt.
Fundamentally, they need somebody, perhaps from across Europe, who would not only add to competition for places in forward and wide areas, but who could also very quickly become ensconced in the team’s DNA.