Jarell Quansah: Liverpool’s next academy star?

According to nearly every outlet, Liverpool are in the market for a central defender this summer.

The new system – if it is here to stay – has opened another spot in the squad in defence, as the left-back is now asked to slot in as a left centre-back, allowing Trent Alexander-Arnold to push into midfield in attack. There’s been a few names linked, and the one that has gripped the attention of fans is Chelsea’s Levi Colwill (who spent last season on loan at Brighton). However, Chelsea hold the central defender in the highest regard and letting him go to a direct rival makes neither business nor footballing sense – after all, he stood out for De Zerbi’s side in the back end of last season and has just come off the back of a standout campaign as England lifted the Under-21 Euros. While it remains to be seen who Jürgen Klopp brings in, Liverpool have their own English Euro winning centre-back who is making noise in the academy.

Jarell Quansah has been at Liverpool since he was five years old. He hails from nearby Warrington, and although he’s eligible to play for Scotland, Barbados, and Ghana at international level, has been a key part of England’s youth sides in recent years. Including winning the Under-19 Euros in 2022 and starting every game in this summer’s Under-20 World Cup in Argentina.

At club level Quansah has been an integral part of Liverpool’s youth sides. He captained the Under-18 side in 2020-21 as they fell to Aston Villa in the FA Youth Cup final, the next season he was captain again, this time for the Under-19’s in their UEFA Youth League campaign. That same season he was promoted into the Under-21’s side for their Premier League 2 campaign and Lancashire Senior Cup win. While he’s only made it into the matchday squad for the senior side twice, he has experienced senior football – spending the second half of last season on loan in League One, at Joey Barton’s Bristol Rovers.

© Proshots - Jarell Quansah

Style of Play

Quansah is a modern central defender – and his strengths (we’ll get into those) give him massive upside at the elite end of the game. The twenty-year-old is a proactive defender and progressive with the ball. He is comfortable in both four-man (at Liverpool and Bristol Rovers) and three-man (England youth) defences and has even spent some time in youth football at right-back due to his ability on the ball. At 6ft 3in, Quansah has almost always been more physically developed than his peers. This combined with his playing style has often seen him play at a level above his age group.

If we look at this through a Liverpool focused lens, positionally he prefers to play as the right-hand-sided centre-back. This allows him a more natural starting position in build-up, an area in which he excels. Liverpool – like most top-level sides – implement an almost unified ‘style of play’ that is dictated by the senior sides. From the first team down to the Under-16’s, if you’re watching Liverpool, it’s almost certainly going to be a recognisable 4-3-3 shape. In a purely positional sense, Quansah is ideal for what is required of the right sided central defender in a Klopp team.

His on the ball play is the standout. He likes to punch balls between the lines, firing the ball into the midfielders or attackers. He’s brave with the ball (or if you’re a bit more of an old-fashioned view, needlessly risky) and is composed – for the most part – under pressure. The early stages of his performance against Bolton for Bristol Rovers last season show some of the good (and bad) of his passing game.

Within the first few minutes he is pressed (loosely) on the ball and plays a rushed and overhit ball back towards his goalkeeper, resulting in a corner for the opposition. For a lot of young players getting their first taste of senior football, this could be discouraging. Yet instead of his head going down he immediately gets back into his own game, constantly looking to move the ball forward, either through his right-back or into the midfield areas. Some of the numbers he has put up in a side that finished 17th in League One show a player filled with self-confidence in their own game, offering composure in a side (and league) that can often be frantic.

 

He’s also extremely comfortable in progressing the ball through his carries. Quansah is relaxed with the ball at his feet. He has the composure and awareness to, in the words of Kenny Rodgers, know when to hold em’, know when to fold em’ (or in actual footballing terms that make sense – he’s able to recognise when to drive the ball forward himself or when to release it to a teammate). This isn’t to say that he’s fully developed – or even close – with his in-possession skillset. Mistakes are still made, but the raw tools and potential are there for all to see.

The defensive side of his game, though, can still be hit or miss. On the positive side of things, we have a young player that reads passing angles well in his positioning, shown through his high interception numbers (6.79 per ninety in League One as of 23rd March 2023 as per Bence Bosak’s informative piece for Liverpool.com). He is also comfortable in ground duels, aggressive and strong in the tackle and won’t often get beat by a man in one-on-one situations. He was also strong in his aerial duels in youth football – often as he was much taller and physically developed than those around him. However, in his six-month spell in League One, he struggled to dominate aerially. In a division known for its physicality and more direct style of play, the centre-back was often outsmarted or outmuscled by more seasoned professionals.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of his game though – particularly in youth football – is his tendency to get beat by the movement of quicker, more agile attackers. His reaction times can often be a second to slow, and that can make all the difference at the top end of the game. This is something he’ll need to work on. Senior football, especially in the lower leagues, where the stakes are much higher than academy football, it’s something he must get used to quickly.

Although it remains to be seen whether he ever will, at just twenty-years-old and in a position that tends to peak slightly later than other positions, the Englishman has more than enough time to break into Liverpool’s first team. In the immediate future Quansah needs more senior football experience. After an overall successful six-month loan in Bristol (with manager Joey Barton predicting him to go to the very top of the game) a loan to either the top end of League One or to the Championship seems like the logical next step. He isn’t yet ready for Premier League football. Liverpool could afford him some pot three or four Europa League group games and cup minutes. Yet more consistent game time against physical opposition will allow him to work on the defensive side of the game – in particular his positional awareness.

Stylistically, Quansah is everything Liverpool and Klopp want in a central defender. There isn’t an easy route into the first team at Anfield, especially with Ibrahima Konaté still only 24 and on his way to being one of the best centre-backs in world football. But if he can keep developing and puts it all together, there is little doubt that Quansah has what it takes to make it as a Premier League player.

Share This Article