By Lewis Rooke – @LV_Rooke
Well, what a start to 2019. Liverpool have locked horns with champions Manchester City in a top-of-the-table title deciding clash, lost their invincible unbeaten record and sold outcast Dom Solanke for a kings ransom of £20 million – and at the time of writing, we are only four days into the new year.
But amidst this already chaotic January, one piece of business may have shown Liverpool’s hand for the coming month – a hand which, if played well, could help see the Premier League title arrive at Anfield for the first time in its history.
I am of course talking about the departure of Nathaniel Clyne – who has joined Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth on loan for the remainder of the season, along with Solanke who has joined permanently. The initial reaction would be that Clyne is a bit-part player at best, who is surplus to requirements in this well-already stocked Liverpool side.
Yet, I would argue this is not the case. The common perception around the departure of the Englishman is that Liverpool are well stocked in the right back area, with Trent Alexander-Arnold occupying the first team berth backed up by Joe Gomez and Fabinho – both of whom are capable of playing in the position.
However, whilst still out injured, Gomez has established himself as one of the most accomplished centre-backs in the Premier League, while Fabinho is truly finding a home in the middle of the park for this Liverpool side. Neither are, should I say, ‘wanted’ at right-back, with their skills more suited to the positions they have truly made their own.
With the departure of Nathaniel Clyne, and the transfer coffers boosted to the tune of £20 million thanks to Dominic Solanke, there could well be a reason for Jurgen Klopp to dip his hand in his pocket to boost his defensive options – and not just at right-back.
With Joel Matip and Joe Gomez both sidelined due to injury, Liverpool’s options at centre back have taken a severe blow – a blow that could become critical should unfortunate circumstances see Virgil van Dijk pick up a knock.
Such a chain of events could theoretically see Dejan Lovren starting at centre back with youngsters Nat Phillips or Connor Masterson – not an ideal situation for a title-chasing Jurgen Klopp.
Clyne’s departure may well have freed up a first-team space for a new arrival at the back for Liverpool, and whilst it’s only a loan move – it is likely Clyne may well be moved on in the summer.
With the Reds approaching the “business end” of the Premier League season in the hunt for the title, a new arrival in central defence could give some added assurance to a backline flirting with an injury crisis.
As to who may be the man to arrive at Anfield, that remains to be seen…