Liverpool have a serious number of talented individuals out on loan this season, 14 to be exact. A handful of players have thoroughly impressed during their time away from Anfield (Harvey Elliott at Blackburn Rovers), whilst others have struggled for form or game time (Marko Grujić at Porto).
Two players who left Merseyside during the 2020 summer window – and did so looking for minutes – were Harry Wilson and Sheyi Ojo. Both relocated to Wales for the 2020/21 season to apply their trade at Cardiff City in the Championship.
The pair have seen this as their last opportunities to impress Jürgen Klopp, having been consistently loaned out since the German arrived. Out of the pair, Welshman Wilson has showed the most promise with impressive seasons under Frank Lampard and Eddie Howe at Derby County and AFC Bournemouth respectively, putting his name once again on the radar at Liverpool fans and staff.
During the 2018/19 season with the Rams, Wilson amassed 18 goals in 49 games, which included several highlight reel finishes. His main strength proved to be set pieces, as his deadly accuracy from the dead ball secured several key wins for Lampard’s side, including a ferocious free kick at Old Trafford that knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup.
After this positive spell in the Championship, the following season he was once loaned out, this time to south coast side AFC Bournemouth. Despite the sides low league position and eventual relegation from the Premier League, Wilson thrived for the Cherries before the lockdown struck the country. Upon the return of football, the youngster would struggle to regain his form, as an alteration to a deeper right midfield position saw his effectiveness diminish, eventually losing his starting sport before the end of the campaign.
Ojo on the other hand has spent time with Wigan, Wolves, Fulham – all whilst in the Championship – Reims in Ligue 1 and Rangers over in Scotland. In each spell he has struggled to set the world alight, with his displays enough for each team to provide him with regular game time, however each spell failed to impress Liverpool’s manager.
Knowing this is likely the last chance for the pair, they set out to make their mark in Wales. Cardiff sit in eighth place, four points off the playoff places. Each has contributed somewhat to the campaign, with Wilson having more of an influence on the side.
The Welsh international has managed 33 games in blue, scoring four goals and managing ten assists. He has mainly featured behind the two strikers in a 3-5-2 formation, which is heavily favoured by current manager Mick McCarthy.Embed from Getty Images
Elsewhere, Ojo has found himself spearheading the Cardiff team when he has made an appearance off the bench. He has scored five goals and assisted seven in 37 games in all competitions thus far.
With the stats clearly not mind-blowing, Cardiff City football journalist Nathan Walker – who has worked with Media Wales, TalkSport and LoveSportRadio – had this to say on the two young Liverpool loanees:
“Well with Wilson it’s quite hard to judge him. Cardiff are a side that hate having the ball and would prefer to defend well and score the odd goal which doesn’t really suit Wilson’s game.
“He’s scored some great goals and provided some assists in his limited time with the ball but I wouldn’t say he’s set the league alight this year.
“But I have to stress that he doesn’t suit our style of play at all and I think he’s a better player than what he’s shown at us this year.Embed from Getty Images
“Ojo has done okay in patches but he’s not a player that will give a side seven out of 10 every week. He has moments of quality where you think he could be a great player but then you won’t see him for weeks.
“He featured a lot under Neil Harris in the first half of the season but he’s not getting a lot of game time under Mick McCarthy, where he’s mainly used as a late sub.”
Loans are a fantastic opportunity for players to get game time and make a name for themselves before returning to their parent clubs with valuable experience to kick on. But, is this the case for Wilson and Ojo after their performances for the Bluebirds this campaign?
On this, Walker said: “Do I think either will make it at Liverpool? Not a chance. I don’t think either perform consistently enough to be at a top, top club.
“Wilson can be a Premier League player if he’s at a club that likes to be on the ball, but I think Ojo is a Championship player.
“They’ve been decent loans for Cardiff as they have chipped in but I don’t think either will be featuring at Anfield any time soon.”
With a plethora of wide options for available to Klopp, the two wingers have their work cut out for them if they want to find a way into the extremely competitive Liverpool team. It appears – on the lengthy experiences they have had away from Anfield – that they currently don’t have the quality to play at the highest level that a club like Liverpool demands.
Unfortunately for the pair, it is likely that permanent moves away from Merseyside in the summer await, where their careers will hopefully develop for the better.
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