When the news first broke about Nathaniel Clyne’s back injury during the pre-season, nobody thought the right back would still be absent as the busy festive period is quickly approaching.
Since his arrival from Southampton back in 2015, Clyne has been Mr Consistent. Rarely has a player’s role in the team been as little maligned as his.
The only bad thing that has been said about him is that perhaps he lacks a little panache in the final third on occasion, but even this is sometimes a little harsh.
His ratings in many a post match write-up have rarely been lower than a six and frequently coming in at a seven or above, further establishing himself as Mr Consistent in a squad that James Milner is playing in.
But it is perhaps this consistency that has meant that Clyne’s work so often goes under the radar and didn’t leave too many people worried about his absence. Yet as Liverpool’s leaky defence continues to prove a major headache for manager Jürgen Klopp, his absence is really being felt.
Much has been said about Klopp’s readiness to rotate the Reds’ defence this season as he seeks to find a combination of players that can stop the rot. Having a settled group can really help a team to find good form.
Clyne has been an almost ever-present since his switch from the south coast, and that in itself has it’s benefits.
The old saying is ‘if something ain’t broke, don’t fix It’s, and that’s something that’s ringing so true with Clyne. While his absence from the side is not something that has come out of choice, this change in the defensive line has certainly not helped.
While young Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez have deputised well at times, the lack of experience sometimes has shown in abundance. Clyne’s wealth of Premier League experience has been sorely missed, both going forward and when carrying out defensive duties.
Liverpool’s continued failings at the back have been screaming out for all of these things: consistency, stability and experience.
While calls for Trent to replace Clyne in the defence have their grounding, as he clearly has huge potential And talent at his disposal, his stint in the team has shown that he is not quite yet ready to usurp Liverpool’s number two.
There have been countless occasions when I can remember thinking in games that Clyne got himself in the way of crosses coming in from the wings, made a timely interception to relieve pressure on the back four – something that is surely an appeal to Klopp given the side’s current inability to keep a clean sheet.
His decisiveness has been missed dearly in a defence that has, quite frankly, crumbled at any sign of pressure this season.
And when Joe Gomez has played at right back, the same can be said: especially regarding his final ball and delivery into the box, which have often been found wanting.
While he doesn’t set the world on fire with his attacking game, Clyne is a strong runner, is fast, makes brilliant overlapping runs and cab deliver a decent ball into the box which could have potentially resulted in more, possibly crucial goals for Liverpool this term.
Although understated as his role may seem, another big marker of how crucial Clyne is to Liverpool’s defensive security is that in a summer of insane transfer speculation surrounding defenders coming to Liverpool, there were little to no calls for Clyne to be replaced before his injury struck him down.
Numerous calls were made to sign a centre back (Virgil Van Dijk, mainly) and a left back which calls were answered in the form of Andy Robertson – where were the Clyne Out cries? Nowhere.
He is one of the biggest unsung heroes in modern Liverpool history. Almost Steve Finnan-esque.
It can be of no coincidence that Clyne not being available for selection has resulted in such uncertainty and lacking of confidence and thus such a torrid start to the season in terms of form.
It makes such a difference having someone there next to you that you know you can depend on, and, while I’m sure the current centre backs have faith in the two youngsters who have been deputising for Clyne, they will always be looking out for them, making sure more so than usual to ensure they’re coping.
This could be providing a distraction that Lovren and Matip, even Klavan, don’t need, taking their eye off the ball and pulling them away from their responsibilities
Fans will argue that he’s not good enough, not world class and thus not good enough for Liverpool. I strongly disagree.
Strong and steady and a man you can rely on. That’s what Clyne is and that’s what Liverpool need in defence at the moment because it is certainly lacking.