On a day that has seen Ian Ayre reflect on his greatest transfer success, it seems appropriate that Nathaniel Clyne gets an honorable mention. Arriving from recent feeder club Southampton for a mere £10.5m last summer, he immediately locked down the right-back spot that had been so troublesome for Liverpool ever since 2010 Glen Johnson, combining tireless overlapping into opposition territory with the sort of watertight defensive game that saw many a left-winger switch sides at half-time. Clyne may have come third in this year's LFC hip hop quiz, but he deservedly won TLO's player of the year award in his first season, and we're not the only ones who appreciate the Londoner's abilities. Up-and-coming fullback prospect Trent Alexander-Arnold chimes in:
"I’m trying to watch him and learn how good he is because he’s probably the best right-back in the league for me, defensively and going forward.
"He’s so consistent in everything he does. I want to still play the way I play but if I can learn things from him then I’ll try and do that every day."
You got that right, kid. He may have been Roy Hodgson's second choice behind Kyle Walker at the Euros this summer, but it'd be hard to argue that any Premier League right-back outperformed Clyne week-to-week last year. His durability saw him finish the season on 52 appearances and over 4600 minutes - bested in all of Europe only by the indestructible Luis Suarez - while becoming one of only two senior players to go through the year without missing any time through injury.
It's a lot to live up to for whoever is going to replace him, but Alexander-Arnold - who first caught the eye with some auspicious performances in pre-season - relishes the opportunity to train with the first team, all the while keeping his eye on the fight for his favoured spot:
"It’s unbelievable, every day just going in there and being round top quality players and top quality management as well.
"Every day I’m learning something new as well and hopefully if I keep learning I’ll keep pushing on and fighting for places.(...)
"I’m just going to keep working hard, keep learning, do the things in training he wants me to do. With time I’ll mature, I should be fighting for places.
"Hopefully if I keep training well I’ll get into the manager’s books.
"I’d say all the team have a chance of breaking into the first team, it’s just about timing and positions really, so everyone has got a big amount of quality and we all want to push forward as a team and do well."
Respect for the quality of the first team, but enough faith in his own abilities that he believes he can give them a stiff challenge for their spot. That's just about the ideal amount of confidence you want to see in a young prospect. The 17-year old may not possess the defensive acumen of his mentor quite yet, but he displays a willingness and ability going forward that has seen him score in consecutive U-23 games in recent weeks. With Jon Flanagan out on loan, and no other options currently available behind Clyne, there's every chance we get to see the young gun given a chance or two in cup competitions this year. If so, make sure you're watching closely.