By Dave Davis – @DaveD0106
“Not many young boys want to say they want to be a full-back but they are now much more important.
“The game has changed now and you have to be really strong defensively but now teams clear the wings for the full-backs you have to have the football quality to put crosses in at the other end too.” – Jurgen Klopp
The delivery service of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson proved their importance time and again last season.
Klopp started the season with a number of options at right back, which were quickly whittled down for various reasons.
Having finally returned to the first team picture, Nathaniel Clyne’s solid performance against Manchester United at Anfield was followed by a loan move to Bournemouth.
Despite varying reports that both parties were keen for the break, the former-Crystal Palace full-back appeared unlikely to ever get what he wanted at Anfield. At 28 and with Trent Alexander-Arnold breaking assist records, it was unlikely that a solid defender with little attacking nous would get the nod on many occasions.
Joe Gomez’s season may never have seen another minute at full-back had injuries not landed such a cruel blow. A leg fracture against Burnley curtailed a promising partnership with Virgil van Dijk and, in the final months of the season, Gomez found himself used as later cover to give Alexander-Arnold the odd rest.
Despite the resurgence of Joel Matip, it’s hard to believe that Gomez’s future at Anfield isn’t viewed in the heart of defence despite the flexibility he may provide. Young centre-halves only blossom with minutes in such a specialist position and, for all the admirable qualities the former Charlton man possesses, consistent delivery into the danger area isn’t one of them.
If a solid head and reliability have ever been needed, Madrid proved that James Milner is the manager’s go-to man. Whilst seamlessly filling in for Andy Robertson, the 33-year-old has found himself first choice right-back cover as Klopp wanted the former Leeds man’s influence directly on the pitch.
The Englishman’s usefulness within the squad cannot be doubted, but there a number of other factors to be considered. With 12 months to go on his current contract and very much in his twilight years, it’s hard to believe that right-back would be Milner’s first-choice, even if there would be no complaints. Wilfried Zaha proved that teams will target him there with pace, too.
With Clyne expected to depart and whilst Milner and Gomez will be focusing on a central role, a full-back to cover the right side seems a natural move, though with Alberto Moreno’s departure competition for Robertson could be viewed as a higher priority.
Liverpool do potentially have options but, if the ‘football quality’ that Jurgen Klopp seems to value so highly is needed, don’t be surprised to see a further defensive addition.