It’s been a tough eighteen months for Nathaniel Clyne.
He has gone from being a regular in the England set up to not even being in Liverpool’s matchday squad for the vast majority of this season, mustering just two appearances to date. Having played just seven games in that 18 months, Clyne has become something of a forgotten man at Liverpool.
He is therefore worthy of the highest levels of praise for the way he deputised against Manchester United in our 3-1 victory last weekend. With Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez out of action, Clyne played the full 90 minutes in his first Premier League game of the season and did not for one moment look like he was out of place.
Given that he was up against one of the brightest young attacking talents in the league, Marcus Rashford, it is testament to Clyne’s fitness and mentality that he put in such a solid defensive display. Manchester United didn’t do much attacking (for which their former manager paid with his job earlier this week) but when they did, Rashford was nullified by Clyne’s safe and steady approach.
A regular in the side when Jürgen Klopp first arrived, people will argue that the way the Reds play has evolved past Clyne’s abilities and that’s a fair point of view. He is a very solid and dependable fullback defensively, and it is very rare he is out of position or anyone easily gets past him. He’s everything I want out of a full back in that aspect.
Unfortunately, he is not up to scratch offensively. He charges forward with intent but he does not have the requisite end product to play as a full back. His crosses often find the stand or he takes a touch and passes the ball which can kill all the momentum of an attacking move. Alexander-Arnold doesn’t hesitate to take people on and beat them for pace, and has a very good delivery on him and he is the biggest reason that Clyne is largely a spectator these days.
Andy Robertson and Alexander-Arnold play on the front foot and are essential to the way we attack. They provide width when we have three forwards who are as happy to drift centrally as they are play out wide. The fullbacks we prefer are solid defensively and are very, very dangerous when going forwards.
High quality attacking full backs are vital to the way we play and as such, this is why Clyne has found himself nowhere near the first team this season. He spent much of the last campaign with a serious back injury that cost him the best part of nine months of his career and in that time, the right back spot has been sewn up by two young, hungry and extremely talented players. With 16 year old Ki-Jana Hoever catching the eye in the youth teams, you’d suggest that come the opening of the transfer window in the summer, Clyne may be looking at pastures new.
With this being said, Clyne has been a consummate professional. He has never complained to the press, he has not manoeuvred for the exit and the shortage of players at the back means that we now need to fall back on him. It is another calling card of the hugely talented squad that Klopp has assembled.
And with Alexander-Arnold ruled out until at least Boxing Day and Joe Gomez until late January, it is likely that Clyne will put together a sequence of games over the festive period, with the games coming thick and fast. It is important that we have players like Clyne to fall back on and deputise when needed.
So I expect him to play against Wolves and maybe even Newcastle United on Boxing Day. As the season wears on again, injuries permitting, we may not see him again unless we make a run deep into the Champions League. But it is a credit to the club that we have such a good player to fall back on and a credit to the player himself that he can be completely depended upon to slot into the team as though he has played in every game this season.
*Odds subject to change