Liverpool look to have finally entered a transitional phase following an action-packed campaign that now has them placed as rank outsiders to qualify for the Champions League heading into the final day.
Jurgen Klopp has commented on why their hopes of securing a place in Europe’s elite competition for next campaign have all but faded, as cited by The Liverpool Echo, stating: “I think the whole season is a season where we qualify for the Europa League and not for Champions League.” He then added: “We were too long not good enough or ourselves. I think we made it pretty exciting. I didn’t think that was possible seven weeks ago. The boys did really well in that period.”
Truthfully, Liverpool did come closer than a lot of people would’ve expected in their hunt to sneak into the top-four, though will now be looking ahead to the summer as change engulfs the horizon at Anfield.
Roberto Firmino, Naby Keita, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all confirmed to be leaving the club once their contracts expire in the off-season. Nevertheless, Red TV pundit Paul Machin has a belief that the Reds could turn to their academy to provide squad depth in another positional area come 2023/24.
Who could emerge next season and become a regular first-teamer at Anfield?
Speaking to Football FanCast, Machin believes that youngster Ben Doak, who has been hailed as “unplayable”, could come into the fold next season and help to supplement their squad depth in the wide areas.
Machin told FFC: “We’re looking at who can be Mohamed Salah’s understudy and I think I think one of Doak or Gordon will be that potentially this season.”
In the case of Doak, there is definitely potential for the former Celtic youngster to have a path to first-team opportunities at Anfield and he has even been praised by Liverpool and Celtic icon Kenny Dalglish as his stock continues to rise.
As per Football Scotland, Dalglish said: “He certainly looks the part. He will get there eventually but let’s not push him too quickly. The wee man has done brilliant at Liverpool. “He’s got good vision, he can go past players and he’s not selfish. He’s always looking for team-mates. It’s asking a lot at 17 to go in there with a Premier League team on a regular basis, but, when he’s been in there, he’s done all right.”
In total, he has made five senior appearances for Liverpool in all competitions, though combined with his exploits at underage levels, Doak has registered 11 goals and eight assists in 32 outings across 2022/23, as per Transfermarkt.
WhoScored shows that Doak completed three dribbles in just 16 minutes on the pitch for the Reds in their triumph against Derby County in the EFL Cup last December, demonstrating his capacity to regularly beat his opposition marker and advance into dangerous territory.
Klopp was quick to talk up his performance on what was his senior debut that night, as per Glasgow Live, stating: “That’s Ben. His instructions were easy: do what you do all the time. He’s really a lively boy, a smart player, good dribbler, fast, can use both legs.”
Of course, he is hardly going to be earmarked as a first-choice to replace £350,000 per week earner Mohamed Salah for example, who has bagged 30 goals and 15 assists this campaign, though Scotland Under-21 international Doak could most certainly be used more frequently at senior level.
Starlet Gordon could also be another one to watch going into 2023/24, with the 18-year-old having notched 15 goals and seven assists combined across all competitions he has featured in, as per Transfermarkt.
For now, Doak is probably slightly closer to a first-team breakthrough and has already experienced a taste of a big occasion. In February 2022, at just 16, the Dalry-born speedster appeared for Celtic in the final stages of a vital 3-0 Glasgow Derby victory over Rangers.
Doak looks to have a bright future ahead on Merseyside and there is every chance he could be accelerated into a more prominent role at Liverpool as they gear up for next season.