Liverpool are currently overloaded at right-back. And while this could be argued as a good thing, it does look likely that one of those players will lose significant game time, or, perhaps, even their role at the club.
One of those players facing this prospect is Nathaniel Clyne – who looks to have a fight on his hands for a first-team spot. His career has gone one hundred and eighty degrees from where he was this time last year and it now looks as though his Liverpool days could be numbered.
Grumbles from the terraces in recent years have been aimed at Clyne’s lack of ability going forward from the fullback position. While there is some truth to this criticism, it’s also important to remember that Clyne has been a solid defender for Liverpool for three years. He has brought consistency on his flank; something we haven’t had for half a decade.
His reading of the game, concentration and positional play have all benefitted the club. Adding to that his reasonable pace and ability to show an attacking winger down the line with confidence, you also feel more assured with Clyne at fullback; a lot more so than his predecessor.
He is also a hardworking pro on the pitch, happy to take up wide positions going forward, despite not being the most able attacking full back.
The injury he suffered last season was a cruel blow for Clyne. The layoff has cost him his once-guaranteed spot in the team, as youngsters have blossomed in his absence.
Gomez and Trent both played well last season at right back. They were thrown in, probably more than Klopp will have liked, but there were few letdowns from either player.
Trent played his way to an England call-up and a Champions League final, while Gomez did the job with his customary quality and lack of fuss. Clyne will have been cursing his back injury as the youngsters cemented their places in the team.
Clyne will have to really impress and show his fitness this summer. Upon his return to the first team last season, he looked very short of form and off the pace. This is to be expected with such a lengthy injury, however, we will all hope that it hasn’t hurt his game too much.
Gomez wasn’t flawless last season, neither was Trent. Both were guilty of switching off at certain times and regularly showed their lack of experience.
Clyne is a proven first-team player. His role may be diminished but it would be useful to keep him at the club for his quality. The one thing going for him is that Klopp will no doubt want more experience, and will be aware of the risks of playing too many youngsters.
The German is also rumoured to be keen on moving Gomez over to centre-half next season. It’s a move that looks natural for Gomez, such are his talents. If he does, it leaves a potential opening for Clyne to stay and provide competition for Trent next season.
The presence of Clyne, it seems, could prove to be very useful indeed.
You can read more of Anthony Kelly’s work at Footie Blog #14