Liverpool may have finally unearthed Gini Wijnaldum’s replacement and saved millions

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Liverpool have won their past five Premier League games with Curtis Jones impressing in each.

At the interval of Liverpool's 1-0 victory over Fulham, there was only one topic of conversation that was going to rage. Whether that was in the concourses of Anfield, the executive lounges, the media area or elsewhere.

The decision to award the Reds a penalty when Darwin Nunez was adjudged to have been felled by Issa Diop indeed split opinion. Fulham manager Marco Silva called the decision embarrassing. The Cottagers were fuming. Some Kopites may privately have thought Stuart Attwell had awarded a soft spot-kick. Not that they would have cared, that it.

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Trent Alexander-Arnold's virtuoso display in his new right-back/ midfield hybrid role would also have been extolled. So would Mo Salah’s composure to slot home the penalty.

Yet what was perhaps overlooked by most was the performance of Curtis Jones. The Liverpool midfielder was quietly excellent. So much so that he did not give the ball away once. One hundred percent of his passes found a red shirt. No matter the level, that is a rare feat

That number dipped slightly in the second period, partly because one through ball after winning possession back with intensity couldn't quite find Mo Salah. But when Jones was substituted in the 83rd minute, he could be highly satisfied with another sound display.

Amid a stuttering season, Jurgen Klopp's decision to deviate from his favoured 4-3-3 system has delivered emphatically. Worries that Liverpool may not even finish in the Europa Conference League have been put paid to. A handful may even still harbour improbable aspirations that either Manchester United or Newcastle United will implode and a Premier League top-four finish is achieved.

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Regardless, the Reds have had the upturn over a sustained period now they've recorded five straight wins. Jones has featured in every game.

When you think of Jones, memories of his sublime goal against Everton in the Merseyside derby as a teenager and highlight reels of him toying with opponents for the academy are evoked. During his breakthrough years, he was the paragon of a mercurial, upcoming talent.

However, Jones has been deployed as a centre-midfielder for the most part under Klopp - rather than on the left flank where he spent plenty of his days in the youth team.

Klopp's engine room demands control, composure and efficiency. The Liverpool boss would never shackle his midfielders completely yet their chief remit is to win and keep the ball. Those were traits that Gini Wijnaldum had in abundance. When the Dutchman arrived at Anfield in 2016, he'd plundered 11 goals for a Newcastle side that suffered Premier League relegation. In the previous season, he'd netted 18 goals for PSV Eindhoven.

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However, Wijnaldum was never prolific on Merseyside. Never did he surpass six goals in a single campaign, albeit there were some crucial ones he recorded.

Jones is approaching 100 games for Liverpool. And now aged 22, he's showing the signs of maturity required to be a mainstay. The Toxeteth lad will be the first to admit he's not short of confidence - perhaps that has spilt over onto the pitch in the past.

A freak eye injury last season along with an abnormal leg issue this term has meant that prior to his latest run in the team, opportunities were scarce. When fit, Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho, Harvey Elliott, Stefan Bajcetic and Naby Keita have been preferred. However, having made seven successive starts - helping the Reds yield 17 points in that period - Jones’ berth presently feels untouchable.

There's been a goal and an assist in that period but his remit has been similar to Wijnaldum's before his exit in 2020. During his five years at Anfield, Wijnaldum averaged a 91.8% successful pass rate and 2.9 interceptions per game. Jones' successful passes completed in his run in the team is 91.57 while he's registered an average of three interceptions.

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Of course, there is still room for improvement. There will likely be dips to come as he continues to head towards his peak years. Some fans have bemoaned that Liverpool have never quite replaced Wijnaldum. In truth, they never might know Klopp has switched systems. Yet Jones is displaying he can be as close as possible.

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