Will Nathaniel Clyne Improve Liverpool's Shaky Defence?
As Brendan Rodgers continues to flex Liverpool's financial muscles, the club has now turned its' attentions to the their oft-permeable defence.
The Reds have sought to address this with the capture of Nathaniel Clyne from Southampton, for a reported £12.5m. Liverpool and Southampton are no strangers to each other in the transfer market and Clyne will mark the fourth switch between the two clubs in just over a year.
However, given the success - or lackthereof - of their triple additions of Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert last summer, will the addition of the right-back be more of the same? Will Nathaniel Clyne tighten up a leaky defence or merely expose it even further?
In the absence of a fit Daniel Sturridge and with a goal-shy Mario Balotelli last term, Liverpool's main shortcoming was goals. Directly below that on the list of things to do for Brendan Rodgers, was defence (in all likelihood in permanent red marker). Croat Lovren's £20m purchase fell firmly on its' face, as the defender who kept 12 clean sheets and scored twice during his lone season at St. Marys, only kept half the amount after falling out of favour on Merseyside. Lovren failed to make the step up in level. His back up, in Kolo Toure alas, was equally error-prone.
With Rodgers' desperation in trying to resolve his sides' defensive woes, the Northern Irishman stumbled upon a formula that clicked. The five man wing back system - much like Manchester United's - set in, but when it did, The Reds were left short of chances further up the field. So would Clyne bring a new equilibrium, balancing defence and attack?
Once again last term, almost inspite of the arrival of Ronald Koeman, The Saints' defence was their big success, keeping 15 clean sheets for the last two seasons in a row. Nathaniel Clyne's contribution was overshadowed by his opposite flanksman Ryan Bertrand, centre-back Jose Fonte and perhaps Toby Alderweireld - who may yet return permanently to the south coast. That is not to take away from the London born defender, who scored and assisted twice, though with a lowel level of shutouts due to injury.
Liverpool's issue last term was not just on the right of defence. Albert Moreno gave the Merseysiders more punch and a real attacking outlet, but the former Sevilla man's defensive lapses grew as the season progressed. With Clyne's arrival, Rodgers will now surely have to re-adopt the back four system, but even then with Clyne operating at a higher level, how will Liverpool fair with two very attack-minded full-backs? Liverpool may have to put Clyne on somewhat of a leash himself, which may be a feat to achieve.
With both Moreno and Clyne, Brendan Rodgers has to get the balance right to prevent Liverpool from once again exposing themselves in the wide areas. Nathaniel Clyne will without doubt, bring greater width to Liverpool's play and both he and new arrival James Milner will likely strike up a good understanding.
However, all that will be redundant if Brendan Rodgers cannot shore up his back line and there is nothing yet to suggest that Clyne will do more than improve the attacking areas; a problem The Reds already have on the opposite side of the field.
Time will tell with this one.