Life at one of the biggest football clubs on earth can be very difficult for young players. Across Europe, one doesn’t have to work incredibly hard to come across the story of a highly touted youngster struggling for minutes. Sometimes, the circumstances of the club make it difficult and the player must go elsewhere to find the pitch and success. One can look - in my case, wistfully - at Suso and how well he’s done for AC Milan since transferring, coming good on his potential. Sometimes, the harsh reality is that the player simply isn’t up to the quality needed to compete at the elite level. There are too many names for that category.
It remains to be seen in which category Dominic Solanke might eventually be sorted into, but given his rousing performance during the international break where he bagged a brace with the England U21s, the hope in his potential has once more sprung. For supporters of Liverpool, Solanke has always been a bit of an enigma. Clearly gifted in terms of movement, Solanke is also a bit of a stats darling. As noted in Stats Bomb’s Liverpool season preview, Solanke has quite the talent in generating goal scoring chances. The only thing is that he hasn’t been able to convert that into actual numbers for Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp, however, seems to be taking a patient and positive approach. When asked about Solanke struggling to find minutes in the squad during the pre-Watford presser, the gaffer has measured affirmations on hand.
“The situation here is a bit difficult, you all see it. But if Dom continues like he did so far then everything will be fine, 100 per cent. There’s nothing to say about the short or long-term things. He’s our player and if I have to decide that, he will stay that as well.”
That’s great news for Solanke and even better for Liverpool. Because the truth is precisely as Klopp has indicated: part of the problem for Dom is that he’s got a world class Roberto Firmino and a resurgent Daniel Sturridge ahead of him in the pecking order. And while one might find it reasonable to be anxious about Solanke’s development, one might also be able to find some peace in that he’s embedded in Klopp’s first team preparations and learning from one of the best attacking sides on the planet. That Solanke needn’t be rushed because the team aren’t needing him to come good on his potential right now is a take that isn’t often raised.
Either way, Klopp seems to see enough in Solanke to warrant keeping him around. Here’s hoping that, when given the opportunity, the young striker is able to seize the moment and make good not only on his potential as a player, but cashes in on all of those xG moments he creates.