Joseph Kavaloski explains where Nathaniel Clyne still has a lot of work to do to improve as a well-rounded fullback.
Ever since arriving from Southampton last season, Nathaniel Clyne has been one of Liverpool’s best and most consistent players. The England international played in an incredible 52 matches last season and 22 more this year somehow without any fitness issues. For a diminutive player in the world’s most physical football league, Clyne’s ability to never miss a match is extremely impressive.
Clyne’s awesome fitness levels should not go unnoticed, but he is a very good right back as well. Clyne is ever reliable in his ability to never sustain an injury and he is just as reliable in his play. He rarely makes a defensive error and consistently moves forward down the right flank, providing support in the final third.
Clyne’s tremendous pace will always cause problems for a defence and he uses this ability to his advantage, combining well with the equally fast Sadio Mane. However, the Englishman does have times where his technical ability lets him down in the final third.
Unfortunately, one of the most common sights for Liverpool fans over the past year and a half has been Clyne’s patented shot that flies about 28 yards over the crossbar. His tactical intelligence and ability to interchange with Mane down the flank is impeccable, but the final ball continues to elude Clyne and it has cost Liverpool at least a few goals since his arrival at Anfield.
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Being a right back, Clyne does not often find himself in shooting situations. When he does, though, he has not taken advantage. This season, his shot accuracy is only 25% on his 12 attempts. Considering that Clyne usually only shoots when he has a clear opportunity, a 25% accuracy is far lower than what it should be.
Only pointing out Clyne’s nerves in front of goal would be ignoring what he does bring to Liverpool’s attack. The former Southampton man leads all Premier League defenders in key passes at 26. In addition, he has improved his passing accuracy by about 5% from last season to a solid 83.2%.
Clyne is a stalwart in the side and a consistent threat down the flank, but he does not challenge defences with his shooting ability. It may be a relatively small part of his game being that right backs are not really expected to chip in with goals, but if Clyne could add this dimension he could become almost impossible to stop.
Clyne simply does not threaten opposing defences in the penalty area. There have been a few chances this season where Clyne has received the ball in an excellent position to let loose an effort on goal, but he has let these chances go without giving the keeper any sort of challenge.
The Reds do not need Clyne to score five to seven goals per season, but when he is in on goal, if he can at least put his shot consistently on target, it will force defences to account for him in the penalty area.
Being a right footed right back, Clyne is not much of a threat to cut in, but there have been times on the overlap where he has found himself with a great shooting opportunity. If he can consistently challenge the keeper in these situations, defences will be forced to stay tight to him in the 18-yard box, opening up more space for Liverpool’s dynamic attacking threats.
It may seem like splitting hairs with all that Clyne offers his side, but improving this area of his game could certainly make a difference. Against the best teams, these small weaknesses are almost always exposed. It may not matter when the Reds can easily score four against Stoke City, but it could make the difference in matches against top level teams.