It’s safe to say that Jack Hallows has been impressed with Liverpool’s 19-year-old new-boy Dominic Solanke in pre-season thus far.
I don’t think Dom Solanke quite got the memo that he was meant to be starting the season playing U23s football. The Englishman has been superb for the Reds during pre-season and has hit the ground running, scoring goals against Crystal Palace and Hertha Berlin while also impressing with his movement, game intelligence and positioning.
At just 19-years of age, Solanke arrived on Merseyside on July 1st as very much a prospect for the future. Expected to be behind Firmino, Sturridge, Origi and even Danny Ings in the pecking order, it was expected that the former Chelsea man might even spend the season out on loan in a bid to ensure him extra first-team experience.
However, one month and five games into Liverpool’s pre-season, it’s looking far more positive for the U20s World Cup winner.
The youngster looks incredibly mature for his years, displaying impressive work ethic, intelligent in-game movement and positioning and he’s not exactly a bad finisher either – as shown through his superb strike against Palace in Hong Kong and clever, looping header on Saturday evening against Hertha Berlin.
With Danny Ings still continuing his recovery from injury, Solanke should see his performances put himself ahead of his countryman – at least for now – but it shouldn’t stop there for Klopp.
There were suggestions last season that perhaps Divock Origi wasn’t as good a fit for Liverpool as we’d initially thought and now, the Belgian has good reason to be looking over his shoulder.
Despite a run of five goals in five consecutive games last season, Origi drew criticism from all corners over his work ethic, lack of fit to Klopp’s system and seeming inability to make his first-team opportunities count.
The Belgian still got himself on the score sheet regularly, netting 11 goals in 43 games across all competitions – most of his game time coming from the bench – but there was a general feeling that the striker caused a lack of fluidity when acting as the focal point of Klopp’s system.
Solanke, on the other hand, looks a natural.
Two goals in five games isn’t a return to absolutely rave about granted, but the striker still has more pre-season strikes than Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi put together and while they’ve been great to see, it’s not just his goals that have caught my eye.
Solanke looks a stellar fit for what Klopp wants in a striker.
He’s tall, strong, deceptively quick and has more than once exhibited his ability to beat his defender and fashion a shooting chance with a fleet-footed piece of skill. This combination of technical ability, combined with his seemingly tireless energy and raw understanding of what Klopp wants from him work-rate wise potentially makes him the perfect package.
Just watch the Reds’ second goal against Hertha Berlin on Saturday (1.56 in the below video) for the perfect example.
Solanke runs the ball down near the corner flag and despite the defender getting there first, the Englishman doesn’t give up on the chase, times his tackle well, robs the helpless defender and squares early for Sadio Mané. The Senegalese then has the easiest job in the world to set up Gini Wijnaldum for a finish that was just as simple.
All of that came from what initially looked like nothing and that’s the beauty about Dominic Solanke. He has the air of a younger, fit Daniel Sturridge about him with his ability to make things happen.
If Klopp can continue to nurture Solanke’s raw talents – which, let’s be honest, is one of the German’s biggest managerial assets – then he’s going to have a real player on his hands but for me, this can only be done by giving him game time.
With Ings’ injury record against him and Origi’s struggles to fit into Klopp’s system continuing, Solanke should, in my opinion, be working his way right into the German’s thinking – especially for the early rounds of domestic cup competition football.
The former-Chelsea man looks very comfortable leading the line by himself while his movement and ability to drop off defenders, peel out wide and take part in interplay exchanges with advancing midfielders all suggest he’d be more than capable of playing with a strike partner. A certain Daniel Sturridge perhaps anyone?
Whatever Klopp does with him, one thing is clear. Solanke looks a better fit than Origi and if this pre-season is anything to go by so far, should definitely be ahead of him in the pecking order.