40% of Liverpool's summer loans failed - what's happened to the club's loan system?
Of the 19 different loan spells the club have completed this season, 68% have so far been unsuccessful - what's going wrong?
This summer, Liverpool sent 18 players out on loan and seven of these young men have already returned to the AXA Training Centre in Kirkby. There are certainly a multitude of different reasons as to why this has happened but there’s also enough time left of the January transfer window for more to be sent back to the club.
In the hope of remaining as positive as possible, let’s start with the good news…
Tyler Morton (Blackburn Rovers - 27 apps, 0 goals)
After an impressive introduction to Jurgen Klopp’s squad last season, the midfielder managed nine appearances before being sent out on loan to Blackburn Rovers in the Championship, this summer.
The 20-year-old has clearly impressed his new boss Jon Dahl Tomasson and has been rewarded with 27 appearances so far for the Lancashire club that was hugely beneficial in the development of Harvey Elliott. The Wirral-born defensively minded midfield man has also seen his loan form rewarded by the Reds.
Speaking with the club’s website, he described being awarded a new long-term contract at Anfield by stating: "I'm absolutely buzzing. The little dream is coming true, so I couldn't be happier”. The boyhood Red is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the loan system and looks set for a big second half of the season with the Rovers, before what could be a long and successful career with his club.
Conor Bradley (Bolton Wanderers - 25 apps, 4 goals)
At just 19-years-old, Bradley has already represented his nation at senior level on 10 occasions and the Northern Irishman has blossomed for Bolton this season already. With five first-team appearances for Jurgen Klopp under his belt too, the right-back at Anfield has been deployed in a more attacking role for his League One club.
He’s played 90% of all available league minutes that manager Ian Evatt could have played him in this season and has flourished as a right-winger for the Trotters. His tally of six goals and six assists in all competitions this season shows how potent he has been in front of goal.
The main issue for the full-back turned winger is that his pathway at Anfield is blocked by Trent Alexander-Arnold and now Calvin Ramsay, so should he return in the summer - it’s going to be a hard fight for a place in the squad. What he does have on his side is youth though and perhaps another loan spell could continue to bolster his chances of playing for the Reds in the future.
Leighton Clarkson (Aberdeen - 18 apps, 4 goals)
If this article was written last season, Clarkson would certainly not be in the good news section. The midfielder only managed seven appearances for his boyhood club last season, with his loan spell at Blackburn Rovers being cut short in the winter. Now though, the 21-year-old is enjoying life in Scotland.
Playing in all central midfield positions and even briefly moonlighting as a centre-forward, Clarkson had to fight his way into the first-team but has been entrusted with featuring in 18 of the past 21 league games for the Dons.
It does seem very likely that the long-term future of the midfielder lies away from Anfield but having three senior appearances for the Reds under his belt and scoring some of the goals we’ve seen him provide in the SPL already, should mean that a bright career can be planned out - especially after this successful loan spell.
Adam Lewis (Newport County - 17 apps, 1 goal)
In what is his fourth loan spell, in three countries, in three years - Adam Lewis seems to have found a happy home in Wales with Newport County.
The Scouser has already made more appearances in all competitions with the League Two outfit, than he had with Amiens, Livingston and Plymouth Argyle in previous years. Now 23-years-old, the versatile left-back and left midfielder’s contract at Anfield ends in the summer and so he will be keen to impress this season and prove that he deserves a chance at a club as high up the footballing ladder as possible.
Having played 50% of the available minutes with his current club, maybe he has found his level and Lewis will be able to finally settle into life with a new club this summer and start enjoying a stable football career.
The rest who are still out on loan
Before we delve into those where it perhaps hasn’t worked as well, there are some players who still out on loan with their current clubs. Although they may not have been the success stories of above - they haven’t gone as badly as those to follow.
Starting with the unfortunate injury cases, both Sepp van den Berg (FC Schalke - 4 apps 0 goals) and Paul Glatzel (Tranmere Rovers - 1 app, 0 goals) have suffered serious injuries already this campaign and haven’t been able to yet make an impact in their current loan spells.
Owen Beck (Famalicão 0 apps & - Bolton Wanderers 5 apps, 0 goals) had a rather unusual start to the season with Portuguese club Famalicão, with his loan spell ending after just 46 days and no game time. The great-nephew of legendary striker Ian Rush soon joined Conor Bradley with Bolton but has yet to really break into their side either.
Before Luis Diaz, Liverpool’s first ever Colombian player was actually Anderson Arroyo (Alavés - 9 apps, 0 goals) but work permit issues have halted his progress as a Red. With fewer than 10 appearances in the Spanish second division, the full-back is struggling to make a name for himself.
Marcelo Pitaluga (Macclesfield) and Vitezslav Jaros (Stockport - 11 apps, 5 clean sheets) are our two ‘keepers currently out on loan. It seems clear that the club have attempted to toughen both younger stoppers up with challenging loan spells in the lower leagues. However, the decision to loan Pitaluga to the eighth tier of English football is certainly a strange one. Some reports are suggesting the Brazilian, who is still training with the Reds full-time, may be about to head out to a league club - hoping to at least match the League Two status of Jaros’ current team.
Jack Bearne (Kidderminster Harriers - 11 apps, 3 goals) is enjoying a relatively successful season with the National League North club but the attacker should really be operating at a higher level. The 21-year-old’s contract comes to an end in the summer and it seems clear that he will not have an Anfield career.
Finally, Jarell Quansah (Bristol Rovers) is the most recent player to be sent out on loan. The central defender will be hoping to impress under Joey Barton and to carry on his impressive form with England’s Under-19’s whom he helped with the Euros this summer, into League One. This could be a big few months for the 19-year-old to prove how good he is and could be.
The loan deals that have been cut short already
The overarching aim of sending any player out in the summer is that they can enjoy a season of playing for a new club, whilst still building upon the skill set that our club wants them to develop. However, for a variety of reasons, this hasn’t happened for many of the current crop of loanees.
Rhys Williams (Blackpool - 17 apps, 0 goals)
Much like Leighton Clarkson, Williams endured a tough loan spell last season and his time at Swansea was cut short in the January. This has again happened for the central defender but his time with the Tangerine’s may have been unfairly judged already, with him featuring in nearly half the game time available to him.
Instead, it seems that the 21-year-old was sent to Blackpool because of our relationship with the club through their former manager Neil Critchley. Now that they have hired Mick McCarthy though, there’s a clear ideological shift in play that will occur and it seems that we don’t want to subject our defender to this.
Instead, he will play out the second half of the campaign in the academy, like he did last year. This may also pave the way for Nat Phillips to get his move away from the club and be handed some first-team football on a permanent deal.
Billy Koumetio (Austria Vienna - 5 apps, 0 goals)
It was clearly not the Austrian dream that Koumetio would have hoped for and with such little game time given to him, the club were quick to pull the defender back home from his loan spell.
Now he will be facing more time with the academy, scoring from the half-way line on his return wasn’t a bad way to start trying to prove Vienna wrong.
Max Woltman (Doncaster Rovers - 13 apps, 0 goals)
Woltman’s loan spell with Doncaster didn’t look to be going too badly in terms of appearances but with the attackers inability to register a goal with the League Two club, it’s obviously been an issue for them.
The Wirral-born forward was slowly being handed less and less game time and it appears that the 19-year-old wasn’t quite ready for the step up.
Fidel O'Rourke (Caernarfon - 10 apps, 7 goals)
To see Liverpool send a player on loan to a semi-professional Welsh football club is rather unusual. Much like with Marcelo Pitaluga heading to the eighth tier of English football, it may have been a decision to try and toughen O'Rourke up but it’s hard to see what benefit the 20-year-old can get from such a lowly club.
His return was impressive in Wales but it should be. For a player older than Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho to be facing players who aren’t even full time, suggests that he is destined to move away from Liverpool when his current deal expires. Despite all this though, then ending the deal seems equally as strange and it will be interesting to see where the striker plays in the second half of the campaign.
Jakub Ojrzynski (Radomiak - 1 app, 0 clean sheets)
Ojrzynski is another ‘keeper who was sent to the lower rungs of the European footballing ladder but a return back to his native Poland was clearly a decision that worked for the player and his family.
With just one league game under his belt though, this again seemed like a strange deal as he surely would have learned more training with Jurgen Klopp’s first-team. Instead, he struggled to make a name for himself in the Ekstraklasa.
James Balagizi (Crawley Town - 14 apps, 2 goals)
Balagizi has been very unfortunate to have been sent back to the Reds, after what was a successful start to the season. However, the club who hired The Only Way is Essex star Mark Wright in previous years, carried on their pursuit of stardom by signing two YouTube footballers.
Instead of nurturing the budding talents of our attacking midfielder, the 19-year-old struggled to get back into the side after a groin injury saw him sidelined for two months. Perhaps realising that the player deserved better than to be competing with celebrities for a place in the side, we made the right decision for his future by bringing him back to Kirkby.
Of the 18 players that Liverpool sent out on loan this summer, seven of the loan spells have ended already.
Of the 10 players sent out on loan this summer and who are still with their current club, three of these have still yet to make 10 appearances this season.
Of the 18 players that were sent out on loan, only five (Tyler Morton, Conor Bradley, Leighton Clarkson, Adam Lewis and possibly Jack Bearne) are currently benefiting from the experience.
This means that 40% of the completed summer loans were returned to the club already.
Of the 19 different loan spells, 68% haven't worked at all or so far.
It’s quite hard to quantify success of a loan deal but you would surely expect that a player would make at least 10 appearances in the first half of the campaign. If that doesn’t happen then it can’t be seen as successful. The same would apply if we have had to recall them from their time on loan, as none of the above players have been brought back to aid the first-team.
There are mitigating circumstances like the injuries suffered by van den Berg and Glatzel, as well as the perceived reasonings behind Williams returning to our club but on the whole - the current loan decisions are not working.
Sub-standard club choices shows a lack of research into where our players are going, as well as a low quality of player in the club’s academy at this stage. This isn’t all the club’s fault and the players need to also take advantage of the opportunity handed to them but the above numbers show that this is an area that we can vastly improve.
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