Martin King reviews Dominic Solanke’s debut season at Liverpool after the young English forward move from Chelsea last summer.
Mohamed Salah receives the ball on the far right of the opposition half and avoids three men as he sprints towards goal from a central position. Liverpool are fast putting together yet another counter-attack and with 44 goals in his debut season, the Egyptian is expected to end the move with goal number 45.
He shrugs off the temptation, however, and plays a light pass through to his right, finding Dominic Solanke, who belts the ball off the bar and into the back of the net to score his first competitive goal for Liverpool.
Before that wonderful moment, the 20-year-old would’ve been forgiven for feeling a little hard done by, as following a transfer from Chelsea last summer – a move that cost Liverpool a tribunal fee of around £3 million – Solanke endured a season of suffering from the success of his fellow teammates.
Golden boy turned Red
Tall, strong, quick and a good finisher.
Upon joining Liverpool, Solanke brought a lot of excitement to Reds fans, who knew their club would be getting the above-mentioned qualities with a manager revered for being able to further develop them.
The young striker had confidently displayed his talent at the 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup, scoring four goals as England won the title and he won the World Cup Golden Ball, for Player of the Tournament. A solid foundation had already been laid ahead of a new experience as a Red but what followed did little to add to the excitement.
Solanke went on to make 26 appearances for his new club, only six of which were starts. Alongside fellow forward Danny Ings, the youngster found himself playing a backup role, as Liverpool’s fearsome trident of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino made all the headlines with their goal-laden performances.
Solanke’s limited game time means that goal, against Brighton & Hove Albion on the final day, is the only goal of his short Liverpool career, testifying to a first season of disappointing impact.
That the job just gets harder for Solanke, heading into next season, is a fact that can be uttered without doubt. Liverpool are rapidly growing as a side under Jürgen Klopp, who continues to add to his side’s confident ability with more top-level signings.
Those could make the former Chelsea striker’s role in the team further limited and there are silent talks the U20 World Cup winner could be loaned out for some regular game time. What shouldn’t be overlooked, regardless of what happens, though, is that Solanke is a bright prospect, whose talent it would be a shame to waste.
He’s only 20 years old and still has the world at his feet, therefore making the most of any opportunity he gets, either at Anfield or elsewhere, should be taken with an eagerness to do well.
In all fairness to Solanke, the striker has done little wrong in his first season at Anfield.
There will be observers that argue he could’ve made more of his opportunities whenever he received them, but ask any top-flight footballer and they will tell you: it’s very difficult to make any significant impact when there is great inconsistency over your playing time.
Should Klopp bring in a striker during the transfer window, then a loan exit would probably be best for Solanke, who needs game-time to continue his development, however, should the forwards stay as they are, then the Liverpool boss should recognize the importance of giving the youngster more time on the pitch.
Either way, Solanke should be pleased with the experience of his first season at the club, as the U20 World Cup champion seeks to press-on next season.