From the moment that he took over at Liverpool Jurgen Klopp has shown great faith in youngsters, which has come at a great cost to one man in particular; Nathaniel Clyne. Clyne was Liverpool’s first choice right-back from the day he signed in 2015 until last season, which the English international spent the majority of on the side-lines due to a troublesome back problem. This meant that Clyne had to largely watch as Liverpool made the Champions League final with the exciting prospects of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez deputising for him. However, not only did Trent and Gomez deputise for a more experienced player they made the right-back slot their own and have left Clyne struggling to regain his spot in the team with him only making one appearance so far this season, in the Carabao Cup against Chelsea, making you wonder what is next for Clyne’s career?
Before His Injury
As mentioned earlier, prior to his injury problems last season, Clyne was Liverpool’s first choice right-back. During the 2016-2017 season, Clyne only missed one league game for the Reds, away at Manchester United, and was very much seen as a key player in Klopp’s Liverpool. Despite this, it was not reflected in his attacking statistics over that season, only getting two league assists, a tally that Alexander-Arnold matched last season in just 19 league games. As well as this, from just watching match footage you can see that the time spent as a midfielder in Liverpool’s youth teams has given Trent a much more extensive passing range to Clyne, offering a different weapon to Liverpool’s armoury and allowing the young right-back to release Liverpool’s attackers with devastating effect when starting a counter-attack.
Defensively, the Clyne of the 16/17 season was around the same level as Alexander-Arnold was last season, despite the perception that the weakest part of Trent’s game is the defensive side. Clyne averaged 2.2 tackles per game during that season, higher than Trent’s average of 1.9 last season, but appeared to be slightly less suited to Liverpool’s pressing style making just 1.2 interceptions per game, with Trent making 1.5 last season, allowing for the youngster to be more effective in the transition phrase, something so crucial to how Liverpool play under Klopp.
Should a Loan Move be Considered?
Personally, I am surprised that Clyne has not had more of a role for Liverpool so far this campaign. If he was performing at the level he showed prior to his injuries he would prove to be a serviceable alternative to Trent, allowing the youngster a rest during the hectic schedule that Liverpool hope to have this season. However, Klopp’s current preference appears to be rotating in Dejan Lovren and moving Joe Gomez over to right-back to allow Trent a rest. If this trend continues over the course of the season, then it is inevitable that Clyne will look for a way out of Anfield, with a January loan exit being an attractive option for both parties.
By going out on loan Clyne will be able to showcase the quality that not long ago led to him being widely regarded as the best right-back in England, despite only earning 14 caps. By showcasing his quality at another Premier League side, like his former clubs, Southampton or Crystal Palace, Clyne would be able to stake a claim for a greater role at Liverpool in subsequent campaigns or even force his way back into the England picture with only a handful of right-backs ahead of him in the pecking order, despite his year out injured. As well as this, several Premier League teams would be happy to embrace a player of Clyne’s experience into their defences with the league being as tight as ever in the bottom half. All of this would also give Klopp a chance to see if Clyne still has what it takes to play regularly for Liverpool without disrupting his relatively settled back-line.
Fight or Flight?
If a loan move is deemed as inappropriate by either Clyne or Liverpool, then the right-back will face a case of fight or flight. It is already clear that Clyne faces an uphill task to force his way back into the Liverpool side, with his main chance of game time likely coming as the fixtures build-up around Christmas. It will be in these games that Clyne must perform well and make a lasting impression as they could be the matches that decide his future and if he will play a part in Liverpool’s run-in and therefore have a presence as Liverpool target trophies at the end of the season.
If Clyne does not get a chance to perform then he is likely to choose to leave Liverpool to progress his career and begin to move back into the England frame. There would be a host of Premier League clubs willing to sign Clyne, because despite the lack of football last season he has played 25 games or more every season since his breakthrough at Crystal Palace in the 2008/09 season, except for last campaign, resulting in 341 career appearances, a record that shows he is far from injury-prone. However, the fact that he is not in Liverpool’s current first-team means it is unlikely that Clyne will receive any offers from other members of the Premier League’s top-6 with the likes of Manchester City, Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal and United having their own trusted options on the right-hand side of defence meaning that if Clyne wants to be playing European football in the coming years he may have to look abroad or remain patient, proving his worth at a less illustrious Premier League side, with the hope of having one of the big boys pick him up again at some point in the future.
At the age of 27, Clyne has time to forge a career at a big team still and possibly get back into the England squad, just look at what Manchester United’s Ashley Young achieved last season. However, the world of football has a short memory and if Clyne hasn’t found himself regular game time by the end of the season it will be close to two seasons since he played regularly for Liverpool, something very few players recover from.