Nathaniel Clyne had been a huge miss for Liverpool in the past couple of games prior to Swansea. He is usually an ever present in the side. Until his rib injury, he was the only member of the current Liverpool squad to play every minute of every premier league fixture. In my opinion, he is a key player in the current set up, his statistics put him as the best overall full back in the Premier League. His fitness levels are remarkable, allowing him to perfectly slot into Klopp’s attacking full back counter-pressing system. He also possesses great composure and his excellent passing statistics support this. Altogether, he is a very assured, reliable, athletic modern day fullback – with the ability to both competently attack and defend. From observation it has become clear that opponents prefer to attack James Milner at left back rather than face Nathaniel Clyne. Opposition wingers get little joy out of Clyne.
Clyne’s complete overall game is a key tool in Jürgen Klopp’s changeable system at Liverpool. He is able to rely on Clyne’s composed, intelligent and controlled defending as well attacking technical skill. Clyne has created 31 chances in 21 Premier League games so far this season, although he has not registered a goal. His shot accuracy is 23%, this can be improved as can his 49% duel success (Squawka, 2017).His biggest weakness at present is his aerial duel success rate, this is just 17.6% (won 6, lost 28). Clyne is perfectly suited to a ball possession and high press off ball system. He is very strong at forcing opponents into tight spaces and timing his challenges. Klopp has spoken of his full backs also having the duties of a conventional winger in his system. I believe Clyne has the attributes to excel in this system.
Nathaniel Clyne has not been substituted this season and has not suffered any major injuries since he has been at Liverpool. This is testament to his athleticism and supreme fitness levels. His attitude perfectly matches the ethos that Klopp has instilled at the club. Recently, Clyne spoke to the Liverpool Echo, revealing he observes opposition defenders and prepares tactically beyond training sessions, in between matches. “You have to check out who you might be coming up against because you want to see what they do, which foot they prefer or whether they look to come inside a lot or go down the line during a match.” (Liverpool Echo, 2016) This illustrates a desire to keep improving and a strong commitment to Jürgen Klopp’s detailed match preparations.
Another example of Clyne showing a desire to improve his game and listen to Klopp is shown within his off ball statistics. Clyne has only given away 7 free kicks in the Premier League this season, after being told to stop diving into rash tackles (sportsmail, 2017). This is the lowest in the Premier League. In terms of on ball, Clyne has recorded 1,093 passes (50.65 per 90 minutes) with 83.5% passing accuracy over 20 Premier League games this season. Only 8% of these are long balls, with the average pass length 16 metres (Squawka, 2017). However, a defensive line requires a team effort rather than individual successes, and there are improvements to made overall defensively. Liverpool need to cut out individual errors and work in cohesion as a defensive line. Clyne has the qualities to perform consistently, something the team must also replicate in the remaining months of the season.
Written by Ben Wade