Nathaniel Clyne has become a forgotten member of the Liverpool squad. The England international has barely featured since returning from the back injury that ruled him out for most of last season. He managed to make five appearances last season, but has faded into obscurity since. And a few Reds are beginning to ask why that might be.
Clyne has been at Anfield since the Summer of 2015, when the club paid Southampton a reasonable fee of £12.5m to make him a part of Brendan Rodgers’ squad. He didn’t play under the man who signed him for long, with the Northern Irishman being sacked a couple of months later. But Jurgen Klopp kept him in the side and he was a regular for the first his first two seasons at the club before suffering that back injury during the Summer of 2017.
While he was working on regaining fitness last year, he had to watch on as young English duo Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold rotated his right-back position in the side, with both going on to get international recognition for their fine form at club level. Clyne missed out on the World Cup and was an unsued substitute in the Champions League final as Liverpool went down 3-1 to Real Madrid in Kiev. He will feel that a lot has happened while he has been getting himself back to fitness – and he’s missed out.
So far this season, he has been limited to one start and two appearances on the bench for the first-team. The start came in the 2-1 League Cup defeat against Chelsea at Anfield back in September – which meant that further chances in the competition for him this season were gone. He was an unused substitute against West Ham for the season opener in the Premier League and didn’t reappear until the 3-0 win at Watford last month. Things are not looking good for his prospects at Anfield.
And other clubs are taking note of his situation, with the likes of Fulham and West Ham reported to be keen on trying to convince Liverpool to part with Clyne when the transfer window opens next month. It is unlikely that Klopp will allow the defender to make an exit midway through the season, especially since Gomez is going to be out for up to six weeks following his fractured leg injury suffered against Burnley. It leaves Trent Alexander-Arnold as the only fit right-back in the squad, although Brazil international Fabinho has shown that he can fill in there. But having a player of Clyne’s quality and experience in reserve can only be seen as a good thing and he may yet be called upon to take the pressure off young Alexander-Arnold over the busy festive period.
Quite why Clyne has been frozen out by Klopp is a matter for debate and discussion. Many feel that the German has taken the opportunity to move him out of the picture while he was injured having become unsatisfied with his performances. Clyne is a solid, all-round full-back. He has reasonable pace, energy and technical ability and will always give his all on the pitch when called upon. But he doesn’t offer enough going forward. He only got one goal and two assists across his first two seasons at Anfield, when he was a regular, and that isn’t enough in a system where the full-backs have plenty of attacking licence. His crossing is an area in serious need of improvement, with many promising attacks broken down with a poor ball into the box by the defender during his time in the side.
It looks increasingly likely that he will leave the club during 2019, but January doesn’t look to be the right time for that to happen. His value isn’t going to dramatically drop from then to the end of the season and he could prove valuable if we have further injury issues in his position. He is also able to play left-back, if desperately needed to, and that could prove useful should Robertson and Moreno both be absent for any games. Klopp has recognised the need to add depth to his squad, especially if he wants to push Manchester City all the way in the title race, and letting a player in Clyne’s situation go in the new year could prove foolish.
When the campaign is over and the Summer transfer market kicks into life, there will be plenty of interest from other Premier League clubs in Clyne and he will have his pick from at least two or three. He will just have to sit tight until then and do his best if called upon.