Scout Report: Rhian Brewster, Liverpool's next top star-in-the-making under Klopp
The past year has seen a rise in the number of youth players stepping up at Liverpool. It is no coincidence that Jurgen Klopp is the manager giving them the chances. The lack of academy graduates and local players has been a major source of concern for the Reds in recent years.
The likes of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen had great careers and have retired as well. However, Liverpool are still waiting for their next big player from the academy.
There have been occasional flashes in recent years with the likes of Jay Spearing, Jack Robinson, Adam Morgan and Jon Flanagan trying to make the cut. Barring Flanagan, the rest are plying their trade outside the Premier League. Flanagan is unsure whether he will be at the club when September arrives.
Nonetheless, there is a new batch of players who have stepped up in the past 18 months or so. Trent-Alexander Arnold is the local boy who has grown in spades during this time. The 18-year-old is now the 2nd choice right-back and pushing the incumbent Nathaniel Clyne very well.
Ben Woodburn is the youngest-ever goalscorer for Liverpool and for a 17-year old, his game intelligence is world-class. Ryan Kent looks to be an answer to Liverpool's wing problems and can serve as a back-up to Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah at the moment. Ovie Ejaria is another exciting prospect with a calm head.
The aforementioned players are already in and around the first-team. Now, there is one more player, highly-rated in the academy who is set to enter the first-team fray sooner than later.
The youngster almost came close to becoming the first-ever Premier League player born in the 2000s to play for the Reds. This person is 17-year old Rhian Brewster and is a goalscorer by nature.
Brewster belongs to the category of Chelsea rejects who have found success elsewhere. Liverpool have reaped the rewards of signing Daniel Sturridge and more recently, Dominic Solanke from the London club. Brewster started out at Chelsea and spent seven years with them until the age of 14.
However, unlike many Chelsea players who continue to go out on loan only to be sold eventually, Brewster did not wait for the same to happen. In Brewster's own words, “I was at Chelsea from the age of seven to 14 but then I told them I wanted to look at my options because I didn’t see a pathway to become a first-team player there. There were a few clubs interested but once I knew Liverpool were one of them it was an easy choice. Liverpool is a club that does give young players opportunities and it’s a great feeling to play for this club."
Thus, the Englishman moved to Liverpool in 2015 and made his U18s debut one day after Klopp was appointed as manager. To his luck, the German gaffer with a reputation for nurturing youth was there to witness Brewster's debut.
The rise has been nothing short of rapid since then. Brewster made his first start for Neil Critchley's U18s at the start of the previous season and scored a hat-trick in a closed-doors friendly against Accrington Stanley with Klopp watching.
His superb performances led to a promotion to the Under-23s in January at the age of 16. Unsurprisingly, the youngster scored on debut and became the star man of the team. The player he came in as a replacement for was Ben Woodburn - another talented youngster who has been a part of the first-team since then.
Brewster came extremely close to making his first-team debut against Crystal Palace in April when he was named on the bench. However, the striker was not handed a debut and the wait is still on. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Klopp rates him highly.
The Londoner has starred for the England U17s as well, scoring a hat-trick against Croatia. He also scored three goals in the U17 European Championship this summer where his team lost to Spain in the finals. Thus, Brewster has so far taken the right steps and is closer to making it to the first-team than most other players in the academy.
Style of Play and Strengths
(Video Courtesy miroP10 YouTube Channel)
Rhian Brewster is a natural goalscorer but the traits that set him apart from other players of his age group are his work ethic and versatility. The youngster can lead the line or play in wide areas, making him an ideal modern-day attacker.
The former Chelsea academy player is blessed with pace and power to suit his versatility and his work-ethic implies, he has all the necessary qualities to become a Klopp attacker. In the German boss' own words, Rhian Brewster is "Physically stronger, wonderfully skilled boy, real striker, good finisher, fantastic work ethic and all that stuff."
Klopp spoke about a "special kid" back in January and many expect he was speaking about Brewster, with a few of the journalists rating him higher than Woodburn. The prime reason for this praise is his game awareness that complements all his remaining skills.
The natural goalscorer idolises former Reds maverick Luis Suarez and in the current squad, his role-model is Roberto Firmino, which makes complete sense due to the similar styles of play. "I try and mimic the way he plays and try and be myself as well. Firmino is a team player and he scores goals,” Brewster replied in an interview this year.
There is a reason a number of strikers who came up through the ranks have failed to make the grade at Liverpool. Scoring goals naturally becomes difficult at higher levels and if the youngster lacks in confidence, then he can never succeed as a striker.
Brewster so far has progressed well till the U23s but it remains to be seen whether he will follow Michael Owen's path or the one set by Adam Morgan. While his versatility suits the U23s, he needs to have a clear-cut idea about being a goalscorer or a wide player when he makes the step up or risk getting lost in the mix.
Further, he needs to get physically stronger if he has to make the grade at Liverpool as the physicality of the Premier League is completely different to the academy levels.
Thus, physicality, clarity of role and temperament are three key aspects Brewster needs to keep working on to stake a first-team claim down the line.
There is no doubt about the ability Brewster possesses, but not every talent materializes and caution needs to be exercised. Further, Liverpool are well-stocked in the attacking department with the arrival of Solanke and Salah. Also, the attacker suffered a foot injury towards the end of the season, requiring an eight-week layoff that led to Brewster missing out on pre-season with the first team
Thus, Brewster might not see any first-team action anytime soon. However, Liverpool will be competing on four fronts this season and Klopp is bound to give the talented youngster an opportunity or two.
Furthermore, Brewster is just 17 years of age and he could also find himself loaned out in the near future to gain experience before playing for Liverpool's first team. Ryan Kent's career path is a perfect example for the youngster although he is more likely to follow Woodburn's and enter the first-team fringes by the end of the 2017-18 season.
Finally, Brewster has the potential and in Klopp, the right manager to nurture it. Thus, the young attacker needs to continue working the way he has so far and a bright career awaits him, either at Anfield or elsewhere.