Nathaniel Clyne is finally fit again. The 26 year-old managed to complete 90 minutes for the under-23 side in their 4-0 victory over Stoke in the confusingly titled Premier League Cup on Sunday, which marks his first competitive appearance of the season.
With Clyne, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Joe Gomez all genuine options for the right back role, and Andrew Robertson and Alberto Moreno (and even James Milner in emergencies) competing for the left back position, Jürgen Klopp has the old cliché of a ‘nice problem to have’. And he seems to think this is quite significant.
“[Full back] is one of the most important [positions] in world football because they were defenders but now they are sometimes defenders and sometimes attackers”, the German told the official site. Praising each of his three right back choices, he added that “Clyne is the most experienced one but was injured. He has speed, is technically good, he is not really an offensive player, but he protects well and helps a lot in defensive moments”.
In comparison, Trent Alexander-Arnold was praised by the boss as “very offensive-orientated, fantastic crosses, a good footballer”. Joe Gomez was also praised, albeit with the caveat that he is not a natural full back, “coming from the centre more, he will in the future play there. He has to improve but is more the defensive part for a full-back”.
Having worked hard all season to recover from his back injury, and seeing two youngsters excel in the position he is a specialist in, the best news for Nathaniel Clyne here is probably that Gomez is seen by the manager as a centre back first and foremost, which just leaves him in direct competition with Trent Alexander-Arnold. While the young Liverpudlian is six and a half years Clyne’s junior and surely has ambitions to cement his place in the starting eleven long term, it is clear that Klopp views the two of them as quite different options, with Clyne offering defensive solidity against Alexander-Arnold’s more expansive game.
Since the manager has opted for a heavy rotation policy this season, we may well see Clyne make a few appearances in the side between now and the end of the season, with the return leg at home to Porto an obvious time to reintroduce him to the first team.
Liverpool will strengthen in a number of areas this summer, but one imagines full back is a position where all is fine.