Scott Groom discusses Liverpool’s current situation at right back and ponders over whether or not Jürgen Klopp should sign a new one in the summer.
The position of fullback in a Liverpool team has been a somewhat poisoned chalice in the last few years, with many trying their hand in the roles but failing to nail down a decent reputation.
However, Jürgen Klopp’s side seemingly has fewer problems in these areas as of late, with some very eye-catching performances coming from the Reds flying fullbacks recently.
We’ll forget the left hand of the Red’s defence for now, as Andy Robertson seems to have that in pretty safe hands, so we’ll have a look at the right-hand side – which is also in pretty good condition.
The position was largely one of the first to be settled when discussing the starting 11 each week as Nathaniel Clyne patrolled the right flank with unwavering consistency. However, a long-term back injury sustained at the beginning of the season has meant that Klopp has had to call on two youngsters to fill the void this season – and boy, have they done well.
Joe Gomez, almost 21 years old, and Trent Alexander-Arnold, just 19-years-old, have been nothing short of superb for Liverpool this season, with both players putting in performances beyond their years and almost making Kopites forget that the injury to Clyne was ever a worry.
They have both been in fine form, and both offer something slightly different – Trent is perhaps more apt at breaking forward with searing pace and a Gerrard-esque range of passing and crossing already, while Gomez strikes a figure more akin to your typical defender with his strength and aerial ability.
Trent has been particularly pleasing and has won a whole host of admirers for his maturity and impressive form, particularly when challenged on the highest stage in the Reds’ march towards a sixth Champions League title.
Of the two, Trent perhaps edges things for me in terms of being an out-and-out fullback ahead of Gomez, who is a centre-back by trade, make no mistake about that.
With the recent addition of Virgil Van Dijk to the Reds’ defence, things have certainly become more solid, and he seems to be forming a good partnership with Dejan Lovren – however, Klopp has shown a large degree of faith in young Gomez already, which makes me think he will, in an ideal world, play him in his preferred position: alongside Van Dijk in the middle of the defence.
This is a win-win really, as we will likely see Gomez flourish further and grow into an even better player, and also then gives Klopp an extra choice at centre back on top of Van Dijk, Lovren, Matip and Klavan. And Gomez could provide cover at right-back should Clyne and Trent both be unavailable. That can’t be bad.
So – this would suggest the battle for a starting place at right back next season would be a straight shoot-out between Clyne and Trent. Again, that can’t be bad.
The decision will be then whether Klopp decides to keep the faith in Trent and continue to give him invaluable first-team experience, or whether to give the job to a more experienced head in Clyne, who has always done a solid job when called upon.
Personally, I think it will come down to the degree of attacking threat that each can offer. While Clyne may be the safer choice in terms of experience in defending, Trent looks a more potent option going forward.
It is true that he’s been caught cold on a couple of occasions defensively, but that is perhaps to be expected for someone who is only 19. On the whole, he’s been exceptional for someone so young – and he’s only going to get better.
Should Clyne be picked as first choice right back, will that see Trent shipped out on loan, or will Klopp try to use him differently as an attacking wing back as he did against Chelsea?
A lot remains to be seen, but it’s nice to have so many options, isn’t it? And for what it’s worth, I think Klopp will opt for Trent. He’s the future that lad.