Ethan Golding gives his opinion on Nathaniel Clyne and whether he believes the right-back is truly irreplaceable in the Reds’ starting XI.
The mantle of Mr Reliable is often seen as the football equivalent of being called nice. On the one hand, you’re not offensive or seen in an outright negative way, but then again there’s really nothing else that can be said about you.
You’re not smart, or funny or mysterious, but you are nice.
Nathaniel Clyne fits this mould better than anyone currently in the Liverpool first team.
Appearing more times in the Premier League than any other player last season (37) – never playing below a 6.5, rarely above a 7.5 – he goes about his defensive work with sureness and consistency.
While his end product in the final third is often questionable, he never shrugs the offensive responsibilities of a modern-day fullback.
Arriving from Southampton in 2015, Clyne shored up the right flank of a notoriously unreliable defensive lineup. Despite his defensive steadiness, Clyne’s low goal/assist return has often left Liverpool fans wondering if right-back is yet another position that needs upgrading.
Of course, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s emergence has rightfully silenced this discourse for the most part, while simultaneously raising the question of whether or not Trent should be made our first choice in the position sooner, rather than later.
My question though is ‘How much is reliability worth?’
We paid Southampton £12.5 million for the services of Nathaniel Clyne. This week Manchester City have paid Tottenham Hotspur £50 million for Kyle Walker (33 appearances last season), who is seen by many as the best RB in the Premier League.
Walker is often spoken about as being strong defensively and excelling in an offensive capacity from the fullback role. Walker is an important cog in the clockwork of one of the leagues best defences so it’s no surprise that he has more clean sheets to his name than Clyne. What may surprise some people is that margin is only 2, Walker recording 14 to Clyne’s 12.
Walker was an important cog in the clockwork of one of the league’s best defences so it’s no surprise that he has more clean sheets to his name than Clyne. What may surprise some people is that margin is only 2; Walker recording 14 to Clyne’s 12.
In fact, across the board, there is not much to separate the two Englishmen. Over 20 categories the pair shares two matching stats while Walker bests Clyne in 7.
What this means, surprisingly or otherwise, is that Clyne came out on top in 11 categories. (All statistics taken from premierleague.com)
|Player||Clyne (App:37/Age:26)||Walker (App:33/Age:27)|
|Big Chances Created||5||4|
|Crossing Accuracy %||19%||14%|
|Aerial Duels Won||13||60|
|Aerial Duels Lost||43||28|
|Tackle Success %||76%||71%|
|Passes Per Match||48.51||44.36|
Walker’s superior stats in relation to duels won is to be commended as he does not appear too much bigger than Clyne; Walker being 178cm and 70kg while Clyne is not too far off at 175cm and 67kg. This similarity in size makes his dominance in the air all the more impressive.
However, this area is the only one in which Walker is clearly superior. Although Spurs’ defence is better as a unit than Liverpool’s, in respect to individual performances, Clyne boasts better tactical stats both defensively and offensively. While Walker leads the way in assists, in terms of clear chances, crosses and crossing accuracy Clyne comes out on top.
Despite Clyne’s ability to produce quality deliveries into the box regularly being called in to question, he is comfortably ahead Walker. Although Clyne only made 1 more cross than Walker last season, he still managed to achieve a success rate 4% higher than his Spurs counterpart.
Although over the course of their entire Premier League careers the statistics prefer Walker by and large, it is worth remembering that he is not only a year older and has almost an entire year more (34 games) of EPL experience, but has also been an important part of a Tottenham side on the rise. Despite this, Clyne has only scored one goal fewer and kept 7 fewer clean sheets.
All in all, I’m happy for Clyne to keep a low profile, to stay our Mr Reliable if it means nobody will be looking to steal him away. However, if somebody were to try to lure Clyne away from Anfield, I for one would be looking at a Walker sized fee, perhaps even more if he continues to build on his two seasons on Merseyside.
Either way, as it stands there is an argument to be made that, in Nathaniel Clyne and Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool have somehow found themselves with one of the most valuable pair of right backs in the Premier League. From Johnson and Manquillo to Clyne and Alexander-Arnold; rags to riches.