By Harry Siddle – @HS_10Ftbol
Since Harry Wilson’s rise from the under 18’s to competitive professional football, it has been clear for any Liverpool fan to see that the talent of the young Welshman is undeniable.
Despite struggling to break into Liverpool’s starting eleven, Wilson’s decision to go out on loan to adapt and evolve his game in the Championship with Hull City, and now the white of Derby County this season has certainly been a positive decision for the winger.
Since his loan spells to both of these clubs, traits and attributes of Wilson’s game have become apparent to me, and dissecting whether Wilson is good enough for Liverpool or whether he is good enough for the Premier League has been on the mind of mine for a while.
One of the hardest things to learn and to master for any footballer is knowing the correct technique and skill when striking the ball for all different types of shots regardless of how old someone is.
Despite Wilson not mastering every type of shot, the fact that he has mastered the technique and skill of a free kick or dead ball is not only incredibly impressive but invaluable for any squad.
As seen in the video above, the Welshman applies the technique of striking the ball with the inside of his left foot to not only shots outside the box but to dead ball situations. He does a great job in combining the correct power in his shot and knowing when to stop his striking leg from moving too far away from his body, to maximise the reduced spin and movement of the ball in the air.
The fact that Liverpool lack a specialist free kick taker since the Brazilian of Phillipe Coutinho departed to Barcelona, Wilson can use this as a reason for being a valued member of the senior squad. The addition of a handful of goals from a free kick situation is incredibly valuable to any team, as it could make all the difference in the long run.
Most notably recognised as a pacey winger for much of his career, the 21-year-old has shown his talents in a more central role in an advanced midfield role on occasions this season.
The creative responsibility that Frank Lampard has trusted Wilson with has proven fruitful as his creative output has increased tenfold. With three key passes per 90 minutes at the advanced midfield position, Wilson has seen his creative output increased considerably from his 1.3 key passes per 90 when he’s deployed as a winger.
To add to this, most noticeably in his impressive cameo against West Brom he had the intelligence to constantly receive between the lines, behind the Baggies’ midfield line to make himself an even greater threat.
From the footage of when Wilson has played as an advanced midfielder, it’s clear to see that he’s more comfortable with receiving in the second phase (just before the final third), than the 1st phase (when the ball is typically between the centre backs and defensive midfielder).
This is significant as it highlights the fact that he is extremely comfortable receiving and combining under pressure and in different angles closer to the opponent’s goal than he is when he is facing his own goal.
Another trait I noticed of Wilson’s performances at the advanced midfielder position was the fact that he sometimes can be immature and erratic with his pressing. Often tending to press on his own without help from teammates can mean that the opposing team can expose the space Wilson leaves behind quite easily.
Probably Wilson’s most valuable and effective trait to his game is his elusive dribbling. Whilst not lacking the explosive and quick burst over the first few metres that you would associate with so many wingers, his close dribbling makes up for it. Knowing this, the Welshman prefers to keep the ball close to his foot and takes lots of small and quick touches after each other when he picks the ball up and goes.
He combines his excellent close ball control with quick body feints and movements to get himself into open positions or create separations from his defender. He also has shown the ability to receive and play in tight areas, often choosing to come inside from the wing and combine with his teammates.
Despite all the positives, as is common with every player they come with their negatives and weaknesses. The worry I have with Wilson’s lack of explosiveness and burst of pace is the fact it might not translate very well in bigger leagues.
The difference that pure pace has in and around the elite players can make all the difference, and considering the fact that a lot of Liverpool’s chances come from quick transitions where you need rapid wingers like Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to make most of those opportunities, I have small doubts about Wilson in that regard.
Despite this, Wilson can use the example of Xherdan Shaqiri’s game as a way into Liverpool’s starting eleven or considered as a valuable member in the squad. Whilst not blessed with blistering pace, Shaqiri is equally as comfortable as playing as the creator either on the wing or through the centre, which can also be said of Harry Wilson’s game.
Over his career, we may see Wilson come back into a more advanced midfield position where he can combine his creative abilities and close control with the ball to the best of his ability.
Despite having such a small sample size of minutes in competitive football, it seems to me that not only does Wilson have extremely valuable traits for any Premier League club, whether that be Liverpool or someone else, he also comes across as a player who you could call a “match-winner”.
His ability to score crucial goals already in his short career, most noticeably two sublime free kicks against Ireland and Manchester United, should make sure he has a successful career.