InterviewThe evolution of Curtis Jones: 'I used to focus on goals - now I know there's more to the game'
"Normally I'd sit here and say, 'I want this amount of goals and this amount of assists.' But I think the biggest thing now is going in the team and showing the real me."
Curtis Jones is listing his aims for the upcoming season and, as a result, showing his continually growing maturity.
The 22-year-old considers himself a more well-rounded midfielder now, backed up by his performances towards the end of the previous season.
Jones made up for lost time, caused by unfortunate and frustrating injuries, with a fine spell of form during an 11-game run in Jürgen Klopp's team.
Although he scored three times and assisted in that period, his manager instead highlighted the player's improved counter-pressing and decision-making.
"My head was always just on goals and assists, picking up the ball and just having the ball," Jones tells Liverpoolfc.com, speaking from the team's hotel during their pre-season training camp. "Then I came around the team and I saw there was more to the game.
"Then I understood what I had to do to keep my shirt and what the staff needed from me as a player as a No.8.
"Yeah, my counter-pressing is huge and how fast I move the ball as well. At the back end of the season, with the games that I'd played, you could see I'm starting to find my goals again and assists as well.
"It's mad because in the lactate test I was always in the top three. So I could always run but I just had a thing in my head that running back to your own goal just felt a little bit harder, you know what I mean?
"But now it's part of my game and it just clicks. If I'm on the ball and give away the ball, the first thought in my head is to be the first one to go and get the ball back. If one of the lads went to press, then I'm making sure that I'm blocking the space.
"It just now becomes a natural thing."
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Lay-offs limited Jones to 23 appearances in all competitions for the Reds last term. But his end-of-season momentum carried into the summer by playing a starring role in England's victory at the U21 European Championship.
Young Lions boss Lee Carsley declared Jones 'one of the best players at that age that I've worked with'.
The Academy graduate was deployed in a deeper midfield role than normal but was glad to showcase some versatility.
"I'm a kid who just wants to go and play, I wouldn't care if I was a right-back or a centre-half," he says. "I just want to go and play.
"I adapted well, I did well. If you want to be the best, you've got to play in the team.
"With the team we have now, there's going to be times when I might have to change roles a little bit to get game time. I've shown that I can play in a deeper role as well, so it will help me."
Jones attributes his recent success for both club and country to his resilience and perseverance through some particularly difficult moments.
The No.17 continued: "You can go and speak with the staff and the team, they saw how much I was around the team, I wasn't sulking, I was doing more in the gym, how well I was training week after week and session after session.
"For me, the biggest thing was I was waiting for the chance. The chance came and I took the chance and kept my shirt.
"After the first game, I knew then, 'OK, my fitness and that is now there.' So I was more relaxed and game after game I was finding my feet again and was more calm, and it was me."
Jones was afforded extra time off following his international commitments. He returned to Liverpool's set-up on Thursday, warmly greeted by teammates and staff in the state of Baden-Württemberg.
Despite a brief break, he's declared himself ready to go in 2023-24, eyeing up fitness and consistency.
"I've been around the team now since I was 18 and it's been up and down," Jones finished. “Now I just want to go up, so that's what I'll aim to do."