Dominic Solanke is at a critical juncture in his young career, and it will not have been missed that while Liverpool were taking on Tottenham in the capital yesterday, the 21-year-old striker was with the U23 squad taking on Swansea. Solanke was never going to be the first choice to lead the line this season, but the unexpected resurgence of Daniel Sturridge as a threat off the bench has meant that opportunities are fewer and farther between this time for the former Chelsea product.
Unsurprisingly, some of the experts have chimed in to offer unsolicited advice. The latest contribution comes from Rio Ferdinand, who, in the wake of Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Spurs, urged Solanke to look for minutes elsewhere.
“Players are sitting on the bench now who are £50 million players,” said Ferdinand to BT Sport. “The pathway for these young players to the first team is so difficult because of the investment that’s going on.”
“Solanke is sitting at Liverpool, he was sitting at Chelsea,” noted the former Manchester United defender. “He has gone to Liverpool for opportunities and he’s not getting that. He has got to get out.”
On the one hand, it’s true that this is probably not the ideal situation from Solanke’s perspective. He has shown flashes of great promise since joining Liverpool in a move that was widely hailed as something of a coup, but a combination of not-great finishing and poor luck has blunted Solanke’s impact. Being behind Sturridge on the list of options makes the hill that much tougher to climb.
On the other hand, Roberto Firmino was a few centimeters away from being out for a long spell with an eye injury (or worse), which would likely have meant more significant roles for both Sturridge and Solanke, given the crush of key fixtures coming up. And if Solanke needs evidence that Jürgen Klopp is not shy about turning to youth, he need only look to fellow England players Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez.
Klopp is not blind to the pressures and preferences of his fringe players, and in choosing to keep Solanke at Melwood rather than let the striker go north to Rangers, showed that he believes minutes are there to be had. Reds supporters will be hoping, however, that those minutes don’t come by virtue of an injury to a key player.