Home News Who is James McConnell? 19-year-old midfielder making first Liverpool start

Who is James McConnell? 19-year-old midfielder making first Liverpool start

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James McConnell makes his first-ever start for Liverpool as they take on Norwich in the FA Cup fourth round, so who is Jurgen Klopp‘s latest debutant?

McConnell was the surprise name on the teamsheet ahead of kickoff in Liverpool vs. Norwich, replacing Alexis Mac Allister at the base of the midfield.

READ: Confirmed Liverpool lineup vs. Norwich with 5 changes

It brought the teenager’s fourth appearance for the first team, but also his first start, having previously come off the bench against Toulouse, Brentford and Union SG.

So who is McConnell and what can we expect?

 

Who is James McConnell?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 29, 2023: Liverpool substitute James McConnell before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

McConnell arrived at Liverpool from Sunderland following a successful trial spell in 2019, as one of three young arrivals from the Academy of Light.

Joining goalkeeper Luke Hewitson and midfielder Luca Stephenson, he initially took a place in the U16s before making swift progress.

After debuting for the U18s as an U16 player in 2020, he moved up through the ranks to eventually captain the U21s this season, having already caught the eye of first-team staff.

 

What is his style of play?

PRESTON, ENGLAND - Monday, August 7, 2023: Liverpool's James McConnell during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and SV Darmstadt 98 at Deepdale. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

During his early years in the academy, McConnell was more of an attacking midfielder, providing goals and assists with a penchant for long-range shots.

But upon his promotion to the first team for pre-season training over the summer, the teenager was tasked with adapting to a new position as a No. 6.

It fits in with the new blueprint for Liverpool’s deepest midfielder, with combativeness required but more of an emphasis on dynamism, press-resistence and starting attacks with pinpoint passes.

McConnell has impressed there so far, with his ability to keep things simple and build tempo in possession clearly admired by Klopp.

 

What has Jurgen Klopp said?

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - Thursday, December 14, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp with James McConnell after the UEFA Europa League Group E match-day 6 game between Royale Union Saint-Gilloise and Liverpool FC at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. Union SG won 2-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Following the 4-0 friendly win over Leicester in pre-season, Klopp hailed his latest academy talent as a “joy to watch”:

“James in the six is just a joy to watch.

“The boy never played in that position before, we put him there and he throws his heart on the pitch.”

Meanwhile, in October, U21s coach Barry Lewtas praised McConnell’s progress after time spent with the first team:

“He is showing us lots of different things to his game this year, playing as a No. 6, scoring headers.

“It just goes to show what he can do.”

 

What has McConnell said?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 9, 2023: Liverpool's substitutes (L-R) Ben Doak, Conor Bradley and James McConnell before the FA Premier League match between Crystal Palace FC and Liverpool FC at Selhurst Park. Liverpool won 2-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Speaking to the club’s official website in November, McConnell reflected on his change of position and how training with the senior squad at the AXA is aiding his development:

“I’m learning every single day, especially if you look at the fact that I’m playing in a slightly different position this season.

“I still back myself playing the attacking role but this season I’ve been playing in the No.6 deeper role and learning on the job so to speak.

“I’m learning off all the players, learning from players like Dominik Szoboszlai, the younger ones like Curtis and Harvey who have given me great support and help.

“Being around these top players, you are only going to learn and get better.”

Hopefully his next step will come with a bright display against Norwich.