The once dormant Liverpool youth academy has sprung back into life with a bang in the last few years. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s meteoric rise has caught the headlines. But youngsters the likes of Curtis Jones and Rhys Williams have also started to become regular fixtures in Jurgen Klopp’s thinking.
Here, @LFCUncensored takes a look at a man who could quickly become the next breakout star and save the club millions – burgeoning midfielder and ‘set piece king’, Jake Cain.
Wigan-born Cain, 19, signed his first professional contract with the Reds in 2019 after rising through the club’s youth ranks.
He played a key role in their successful FA Youth Cup campaign of 2018-19 in a team that boasted current first-teamers Rhys Williams and Neco Williams.
Cain made his senior first-team debut for the club in their FA Cup fourth-round replay victory over Shrewsbury Town last season. That particular line-up was the youngest Liverpool have ever fielded in a competitive fixture, but the only thing young about Cain on that day was his appearance.
His rapid rise and transferable skillset has seen him awarded a spot on the bench of each of Liverpool’s three Champions League group stage matches in the current campaign.
Why the hype?
The first thing you’ll notice when watching Cain is just how simple he makes the game look. A common appraisal of midfield maestros the likes of Xavi and David Silva was their ability to control the tempo and never appear rushed.
Despite his tender years, the classy Cain already possesses an innate ability to make the right decision 99 times from 100, regardless of the opposition’s best attempts to stifle him.
He possesses an exemplary first touch and will always seek to play forward if the situation allows. If not, he has already shown the calmness and composure required to shelve his ego and keep it short and simple.
Describing his natural ability to carve open defences, Cain said in a June interview with the club’s official website: “Since a young age I’ve been a very good passer. I can see passes which the opposition can’t defend really well. I like to get into positions where I’m behind the defence and thread balls through.”
But his most eye-catching attribute is undoubtedly those deadly set pieces.
Goal!!!!! Stunning free-kick from Jake Cain. What a strike. #LFC lead v Tranmere Rovers
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) September 29, 2020
Concede a free kick within 30 yards of goal at your peril. Cain can (and has) tucked them away from just about anywhere.
Reminds you of a young…?
Early comparisons have been made between himself and Jordan Henderson, but whether he develops the drive, determination and leadership that typify a Henderson performance won’t become clear in his formative years at elite level. His current body size and shape certainly don’t lend themselves to comparisons with such a robust performer right now.
Instead, his technical prowess reminds us of the Chelsea iteration of Juan Mata.
The Spaniard scooped up back-to-back club player of the year awards while with The Blues as his pinpoint set pieces and precision through balls racked up 30 league assists across a two-year span.
Cain too appears destined to excel in the role of provider, though with three goals to his name from seven Premier League 2 matches this season, expect him to contribute his fair share of goals along the way, à la Phil Foden.
A quite outstanding 19 assists from 42 league appearances have been notched with Liverpool’s various youth teams over the last three years.
Cue a wide grin forming on the faces of Messrs Mane and Salah as we speak.
It’d be remiss of us not to provide proof of his set piece wizardry. We’re not here to disappoint…
The Experts’ View
Jurgen Klopp has spoken only briefly in his praise of the youngster, but that is more to do with the German preferring to compliment multiple players at once rather than single out the individual.
The buzz has begun to grow among those who cover Liverpool the closest, however.
The Liverpool Echo described him as a man who could ‘save Liverpool millions’. While The Athletic’s James Pearce – a frequent coverer of the club’s Under-23s – outlined the impression he is making on Klopp.
“Academy youngster Jake Cain was on the bench for #LFC again last night. It’s reward for his outstanding start to the season at u23s level and the manner in which he has impressed Klopp at Melwood”.
Tell us something we don’t know…
Cain’s rise to prominence has gone hand in hand with another Liverpool prospect – Leighton Clarkson.
The duo have played in the same teams dating back to Under-7s football. They say some players develop an almost telepathic understanding in football. We’d wager to say these two already have.
A perfect fit for…?
Should he showcase the drive and durability to last 90 minutes in the hectic world of top flight football, Cain – along with recent first-team graduate Curtis Jones – could be the natural successors to the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner in the Reds’ engine room.
Klopp’s side have occasionally come in for criticism for a lack of creativity from his midfield trio.
The bulk of responsibility to provide and manufacture chances is often placed on their full-backs, not those in the middle. But the old adage of the whole being greater than the sum of their parts has never rung truer for Henderson and co.
Regardless, the addition of Cain to the mix would remedy that lack of incisiveness entirely.
The simple and efficient passage of play of defender finds Cain, Cain picks out forward, forward breaks the deadlock could become a common sight sooner than you might think.