Liverpool’s transfer activity is underway in January with Dominic Solanke and Nathaniel Clyne both departing the club for Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth. The news of either player’s exit shouldn’t come as any great surprise to Liverpool fans as both players were trapped on the periphery of Jurgen Klopp’s plans and struggling for game time.
What we can take from their departures is yet more evidence of just how far the squad has come under our wonderfully mad German boss. Clyne and Solanke are perfectly adequate Premier League players, capable of operating at a decent enough level. However, where this was once deemed acceptable by Liverpool’s previously shaky transfer policy, the standards have been dramatically raised and there is clearly no room for passengers in the Liverpool team that Klopp continues to mold and grow to new heights.
When Nathaniel Clyne became the latest player to switch from St Mary’s to L4, it was clear from the outset that we had signed a superior defender to the departing Glen Johnson. The club had endured six years of defensive mishaps and terrible lapses in concentration from their former Chelsea and Portsmouth defender. Clyne presented a stable and reliable presence at full back and many of us breathed a sigh of relief.
However, Klopp’s arrival and the ever evolving nature of the Premier League has seen full backs become just as vital to a team’s offensive capacity, as they are to it’s defense. This is not something which came in over night, but with Liverpool’s new found high press, high octane style under Herr Klopp, accelerated the need for dynamic full backs.
It was one aspect of Clyne’s game that was sadly lacking. He offered little going forward and his distribution was simply not at the required level for a side looking to regain their status as one of Europe’s elite football clubs. Such are the demands at the very top, that even a good, solid player such as Clyne struggled to adapt. Injuries opened the door for Trent to come through and the youngster has since slammed it shut behind him.
The stats tell you all you need to know. After just forty-two outings in the Premier League, Trent is already averaging double the number of crosses per game and with a better rate of accuracy than his former teammate. Trent’s frequency for assists and chances created from right back are also much higher after barely a quarter of the games that Clyne has managed in the top flight. In short, he is an upgrade to what we already in that position.
You have to feel for Solanke as well in all of this. A lot of people are quick to dismiss the plight of a modern footballer, pointing, with some justification at their wage packets as solace for their woes. However a player like Solanke, is only going to whither and stagnate as a fourth or even fifth choice forward. He needs game time if he is avoid his talent spoiling on the fringes of a big club. And that would be a hell of a lot of talent for the English game to loose.
Whether it be in Liverpool’s second string or England youth level, the former Chelsea man has done plenty to demonstrate his capacity to go on and be an excellent centre-forward. He is a wonderful presence to lead a forward line. His movement is smart and his footwork pretty impressive. In the brief outings he did get last season, he seldom let anyone down and showed that if he was to get some genuine game time and supply, he would be a decent option to consider.
The expectations and demands at a club like Liverpool are immense though. The problem for Solanke was that he simply couldn’t make any headway past the outstanding talent ahead of him. Whereas in the past, you’d look at Liverpool’s reserve options of Lambert, Borini, Balotelli et al, and shudder, you are now looking at reserve options of Sturridge, Origi and Shaqiri. Solanke didn’t stand a chance against such competition.
The fate of both departing Reds this month, does provide a moment to reflect on just how far Klopp has taken us. Two decent England International players are simply nowhere near the required level to get into his team.
The defeat to Manchester City was a staggering reminder that good doesn’t quite cut it at this level. Liverpool have accepted too many players down the years who where simply not good enough to deliver them back to the title winning glory we all yearn for. Klopp’s ruthless jettisoning of Clyne and Solanke should be viewed as necessary and welcome progress of a manager gearing his team up to mount a sustained challenge for the top honours.