Out of the blue, Liverpool announced on the 30th of May that Dominic Solanke would join the Reds upon the expiry of his Chelsea contract.
It was not an announcement that filled Liverpool supporters with undue excitement or incited fear in opposition fans in the way the signing of Mohamed Salah did.
Although the 19-year-old would go onto be named the best player at the U20 World Cup in South Korea, the expectation was that Solanke would be joining the likes of Ben Woodburn and Ovie Ejaria in the U23 setup.
In retrospect, after a superb pre-season from Liverpool’s young guns, it would appear as though Jürgen Klopp will be relying on his Academy graduates to make their mark this coming season.
Last season, Ben Woodburn was hugely impressive as he took on the pressure and expectation that comes with play for Liverpool’s first team at the ripe old age of 17 years.
The Welsh prodigy took his goal against Athletic Bilbao with the confidence and maturity of a veteran not a fresh academy star. Ryan Kent also impressed hugely during pre-season, with a step over sending Bayern Munich right back Rafinha tumbling before playing a cute cut back for Marko Grujic to finish.
Yet, for me, the most impressive performer in Liverpool’s pre-season, and not just among the kids, was big Dominic Solanke. He gets the mention ahead of record buy Mohamed Salah for me.
Although Salah came out of pre-season as the Reds’ top goalscorer and embarrassed more than a few defenders with his ridiculous pace, Solanke went into pre-season as an unknown element at senior level.
The former Chelsea striker might have spent a season on loan with Vitesse Arnhem and scored 7 goals in 25 appearances, Liverpool fans had little to no knowledge of how the young Englishman would operate under Klopp.
It’s safe to say that from his short time with Liverpool so far, he has won over a large portion of the fans. His pace, strength and brilliant finishing have many supporters wondering if Klopp would be better served playing him instead of the frustrating Divock Origi.
Solanke’s first strike for Liverpool came against Crystal Palace at the Hong Kong Stadium and it was a superb goal.
Running off his strike partner Origi, the 19-year-old received the Belgian’s cute flicked pass just to the side of him and without looking up to see where the goal was, fired the ball into the bottom net with power.
Social media exploded as fans realised just how good Solanke might be. Until that point, we had seen some of his accurate shooting, with Pedro Chirivella benefitting from a rebounded effort against Tranmere Rovers.
— Dom Solanke (@DomSolanke) August 7, 2017
Part of what makes Solanke so impressive is not his pace or his power but it’s his work ethic. There are very few forwards that work as hard as the likes of Solanke and Roberto Firmino.
As far as the latter is concerned, some might say that his excessive running causes him to score fewer goals as he is then not in the right position to score when the ball breaks loose as a forward like Daniel Sturridge would be.
Yet, this is due to the footballing philosophy that is driven home by Jürgen Klopp. The German manager has managed to get an assortment of players that work for each other even if it means that personal goal and assist tallies are lower.
Solanke seems to have bought into this philosophy already as he showed against Hertha Berlin. He worked his socks off to close down the Hertha defender and after dispossessing him near the box, he squared for Sadio Mané who set Wijnaldum up for his goal.
In the very same game, Solanke showed off his aerial expertise as he floated into the box of the shoulder of his marker. Adam Lallana picked him out perfectly with a chipped pass and the young striker used his neck muscles brilliantly to head the ball over the stranded ‘keeper.
A big turning point for Solanke came in the final game of pre-season at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin where Divock Origi continued a frustrating pre-season campaign. The Belgian spurned two glorious first half chances before being replaced by Solanke for the second half.
The tall forward powered down the left flank and found fellow youngster Ben Woodburn whose mature finish was the perfect way to cap off a fluid move by Liverpool.
It didn’t end there for Solanke as he found the net himself toward the end of the game as Ragnar Klavan picked out a great pass into the box and the former Chelsea striker’s powerful header flew past the Bilbao ‘keeper.
Despite going into pre-season with very few fans signing his praises, Solanke now finds himself in a very promising situation heading into the new Premier League season.
Not only has he given Jürgen Klopp a selection headache, he may well have edged out Divock Origi as far as Liverpool’s striker pecking order is concerned.
I would not be surprised to see Solanke start domestic cup and even Premier League games for Liverpool given how he impressed this summer. Klopp gave him his chance and he took it and he couldn’t really have done much better.