Liverpool have only won one game in seven, looking frail at the back and stagnant up top, but Dominic Solanke could be the perfect remedy for the Reds’ malaise.
Touted by Jürgen Klopp as “the biggest English talent” in the No.9 position, the England youth international has looked active and bright despite having played just 166 minutes so far this season.
Solanke first impressed in pre-season after his move from Chelsea’s academy, usurping Divock Origi in the pecking order and forcing the Belgian striker to move to Wolfsburg on loan in the search for more playing time.
With Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge ahead of him, Solanke was never likely to get a huge amount of playing time in his first season, but a chance has risen with Klopp’s two main strikers failing to produce.
Firmino has not scored since Liverpool’s Champions League game against Sevilla and looked well off the mark as a whole. The Brazilian forward is not linking up with his attacking partners, miscontrolling simple balls, and his characteristic pressing has looked lethargic of late.
On the other hand, Sturridge has not netted since August. His dynamism and mobility are nowhere near where they used to be, either due to past injuries or because the player himself is afraid of picking up a knock.
These issues came to light after Sturridge’s painful game against Newcastle. He missed a fairly clear chance early in the second half and was then hooked off for Firmino. Despite having stayed in Merseyside this summer, a few poor performances have made Sturridge’s future muddier than ever.
Solanke is yet to score in an official game for Liverpool, but his cameos indicate that the future is bright. Unlike Firmino and Sturridge, who like to vacate the box and roam around the final third, the 20-year-old is more of a reference point in the box.
While playing wide is an arrow in his quiver, Solanke prefers to stay around the box and occupy opposition centre-backs. Additionally, his 1.87m frame provides a target for Liverpool’s crossing. The Reds’ recent creative woes have meant resorting to deliveries from wide areas to smaller players. Solanke would be a far better option for that strategy.
Dom Solanke, along with his teammate Joe Gomez, was shortlisted for the European Golden Boy award – an award for the U21 player who has had the best calendar year. Solanke played a big part in England’s successful U20 World Cup victory in the summer, scoring four times and being awarded the Golden Ball as he won the Player of the Tournament.
📋 Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Dominic Solanke all start for the England U21s tonight against Scotland. 🦁 https://t.co/GlGbyrFi5b
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) October 6, 2017
Most recently in his international career, Solanke scored just 63 seconds after Scotland’s only goal in the U21 European Championships and faces a decision as England and Nigeria are vying for his service as he is eligible to play for both countries.
Klopp can only stick with his current first-choice side before giving someone else a go until he gets it right. Following the international break the Reds face Manchester United and it might be too big of an occasion for Solanke, however that did not stop Klopp from giving youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold his full league debut at Old Trafford last season.
Solanke should be given a chance against Slovenian side Maribor in the Champions League in midweek and will hopefully impress on his full debut, meaning we will see a lot more of the striker.