Why Liverpool must give game-changer Harry Wilson a chance next season

Whether Liverpool should keep or sell Harry Wilson is a debate which has long divided supporters. DANIEL MOXON explains why he wants to see the Welshman stay at Anfield.

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I was delighted to read that Liverpool will allow Harry Wilson to spend the remainder of the current Premier League season on loan at AFC Bournemouth — it will allow the Welshman to continue his fine work there.

He has proven to be an important player for the Cherries this season as they look to avoid relegation. The 23-year-old has taken part in all but six of their league outings in 2019/20.

Seven goals across 19 starts and a further four appearances from the bench show his impact. While this may appear to be a modest total, it’s important to take into account the context.

That number is the second-highest of any other player in the Bournemouth squad this campaign — only his namesake Callum has hit the back of the net more times in the league with eight. Harry Wilson, a wide midfielder, has netted almost twice as many goals as forward Josh King, and is one of only five Cherries players to have scored more than once in the league this season.

All the more impressive is that this is his debut season in the English top flight, having garnered a year’s experience in the Championship with Derby County in 2018/19. A first campaign in a fiercely competitive league is always difficult, especially when you’re at one of the teams struggling the most — Bournemouth currently sit in the relegation zone with 27 points.

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But his most eye-catching attribute, and the one that could be a very useful weapon for Liverpool, is an innate ability to create something out of nothing — a rare and extremely desirable trait.

Wilson’s expected goals (xG) stat for the Premier League season so far stands at 3.37. This is the number of goals that he could be expected to have scored this term based on the quality of the chances he has had.

With seven strikes on the board to date, the Welshman has more than doubled his expected goals total since making the move to the south coast. This indicates that he has been making the most of the chances he has been afforded and scored from unlikely scenarios.

Many of these situations have been direct free-kicks. Wilson proved in his spell at Derby that he is particularly dangerous from dead ball situations, most notably firing home from range against Manchester United in a cup tie.

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He has showed this season that the increased pressure of playing in the Premier League has not impeded his ability to take a free-kick, guiding the ball perfectly into the top corner against Manchester City back in August before netting another against Tottenham Hotspur at the end of November.

A knack of scoring these goals from unlikely situations would be extremely useful to Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp next season. Despite romping to the 2019/20 Premier League title, many games this season have been decided by the odd goal, often through sheer perseverance or a moment of magic.

It’s a quality demonstrated by many title-winning teams through the years, and one that the Reds will need to continue to show if they are to continually challenge for the league crown. Wilson has the quality and the unpredictability to play a key role in this.

There’s no doubting that the Wales international would struggle to dislodge any of Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah or Roberto Firmino from their starting positions. If Wilson is introduced into the first team at Anfield next season then his role would be a rotational one, where he would be asked to make an impact from the bench and start sparingly in cup games or to give one of the aforementioned trio a rest.

But this is precisely what Liverpool need right now. Finding any player to uproot one of the front three right now would be an extraordinarily difficult task, and an expensive one at that. Wilson is perfect for the job, and is already on the club’s books.

Divock Origi is currently the unofficial first reserve to the front three. While the Belgian has been responsible for some of the Reds’ most memorable moments in recent seasons, there have been too many times when his impact from the bench has been negligible, especially when deployed out wide instead of his favoured central role.

In an ideal world Xherdan Shaqiri would be the reliable rotation option to play on the flanks, but his fitness record of late has been far from good enough and it seems to have dented the manager’s confidence in the Swiss to do what Klopp needs him to.

With neither of them representing an ideal backup to the attacking line, this could be where Wilson shines. The 23-year-old has had a lot of game time over the last two seasons and it may be difficult to convince him to accept a lesser role by staying at Anfield in 2020/21, but if the club can persuade him to stay then they will have a real weapon on their hands.

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Don’t get me wrong, he is far from perfect — his goalscoring record is strong, but it tends to mask some weaknesses in his play and the fact that he has failed to lay on a single assist for a teammate so far this season. Also, at 23, he can hardly be labelled a prospect any more.

But the positives far outweigh the negatives. Wilson has a penchant for important, spectacular goals, is cultivating a reputation as a match-winner and would contribute to the first team’s quota of home-grown players — not an unimportant thing considering the imminent departures of Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne.

Most importantly, the pacy winger has now proven that he can perform in the Premier League. He has impressed in a struggling Bournemouth side, so has every chance of progressing well when appearing alongside elite internationals in a Liverpool team full of players who are becoming very much used to lifting trophies.

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The world laughed when Liverpool spent more than £30m to bring ‘Premier League flop’ Mohamed Salah to Anfield. His rise since has been monumental, and the Egyptian has been the most potent goalscorer in the division over the last three years.

Wilson’s debut Premier League season has been far better than Salah’s first spell in the division ever was. There’s no reason why the Welshman can’t go on to massively improve his game in the same way the Egyptian did.

If another team came in with a crazy offer for Wilson then I could understand if the decision was made to cash in on their asset, but the club is highly unlikely to receive a sum close to what they’d like because of the financial crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a year when spending on all fronts will surely be limited, Liverpool must get the most out of one of their brightest talents while he is still on the books.

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