Nathaniel Clyne: Liverpool's long-awaited right-back solution?

Liverpool Football Club have had their fair share of problems at the right-back spot over the years.

Last season, 2014-15, was no different. Glen Johnson, for all his undoubted quality, continued to be a figure of frustration for supporters, whilst Javier Manquillo - though not given an ideal amount of opportunities - largely struggled to adapt to English football. Jon Flanagan, who filled in at left-back the season before, was kept out through frustrating injuries - whilst Andre Wisdom was out on loan at West Bromwich Albion

For that, and various other reasons, the Reds turned to a 3-4-3, which instead used wing-backs - Lazar Markovic, Jordon Ibe, Raheem Sterling and even Jordan Henderson - all often used, before Johnson enjoyed a sustained stint towards the end of the season.

The defence has been the pinnacle of the club's problems over the last two years, whilst goals were also missing last year, and though there was a brief run of improvement after New Years' Day - keeping 13 clean sheets between then and the final day of the season.

But, that may be all about to change, at least - that's the plan. With Johnson having been released and Manquillo having also since had his loan terminated, there was the need for a first-choice right-back who could hold down the position for years to come at Merseyside.

The £12.5 million acquisition of Nathaniel Clyne from Southampton is the answer to the Reds' problems, or so they hope.

Move makes sense for both parties

Those who follow the Premier League already know all about Clyne. A 24-year-old full-back who has been consistently impressive on the South Coast, his capture - though the second-highest fee ever paid for a full-back by the club - is certainly smart business.

First and foremost, Clyne is at the perfect stage to take the next step in his career. Ronald Koeman's side were unequivocally excellent last season, but with the Saints set to lose more key players this summer - with Morgan Schneiderlin on his way to Manchester United, they will be hard-pressed to replicate the magnificent form they showed under the Dutchman last year.

Liverpool, meanwhile, with the addition of a suitable goalscorer - should theoretically only improve upon what was a dreadful campaign. That starts with addressing areas of weakness, or areas that can be improved upon.  

Right-back certainly was one of those areas last year, and Clyne's arrival represents an upgrade on their previous options - Johnson and Manquillo.

With other smart signings, such as Roberto Firmino and James Milner, the Reds are seemingly bettering themselves in necessary areas and therefore, should be much improved from last year - if all things go well. 

For that then, whilst Liverpool have not won a trophy for three years, and have been woefully inconsistent in the league over the years, Clyne's move allows him to match his ambition to go to the next level.

Liverpool signing a quality right-back

But the move also makes a lot more sense for the club too. Clyne fits FSG's 'moneyball' approach, in that he has the potential to continually improve and command a higher fee than he was bought for, further down the line, but he also brings a lot to the side at his current level. 

Solid defensively but also threatening going forward, Clyne is a balanced full-back who is technically proficient and full of athleticism - in that he's blessed with pace and strength, but also equally as importantly - Clyne is daring going forward in the right dosage.

His predecessor, Johnson, seemed to foray forward, often overrunning the ball and losing possession before being caught out of possession. Whilst in his early years, the English international seemed to pose a threat when he got into the final third - more recently, Johnson seemed to lose all thought after passing the halfway line. That, added to his defensive instability, lead to him coming under significant criticism from Liverpool fans.

Clyne, meanwhile, is also a front-footed full-back, but is much more efficient in surging up the pitch. Whilst the fact he ended last season without an assist rang alarm bells for some, his crossing, link-up play and even his shooting ability - as he showed at Anfield on the opening day - is there for all to see.

And there is plenty more yet to come, too. At 24, Clyne is still only approaching the average peak for a footballer and so his qualities, both defensive and attacking, should in theory still improve on attributes which are already at a level that put him as one of the better right-backs in England.

Sensible long-term option?  

And at a fee which will eventually rise to £12.5 million via various clauses, the transfer draws slight comparisons to the capture of left-back Alberto Moreno - who is likely to be the full-back used on the opposite side of Clyne this year.

The Spaniard had no Premier League experience prior, and was a few years younger, but the similar playing style and such means that Rodgers must have a plan up his sleeve to employ a system which allows them both to push forward.

After all, in the sensational season of 2013-14 - we saw first hand how Rodgers liked to see Jon Flanagan and Glen Johnson, or someone like Aly Cissokho - in the 4-1-2-1-2 formation, pushing forward and providing outlets on the flanks for a narrow midfield diamond.

If the Northern Irishman does indeed to intend to use similar tactics in 2015-16, Clyne's arrival makes perfect sense. It also frees up Emre Can, who filled in on the right-side of a back three often last season, to move into the midfield - his preferred position.

There is no guarantee that this is the case, of course, but the arrival of Clyne certainly helps to open up such opportunities not just for the coming season, but the seasons ahead too.

Clyne has the potential to hold down right-back spot

It is far from a certainty that Clyne will hit the ground running at Liverpool, but everything about his transfer makes perfect sense and all the signs seem to point towards him succeeding on Merseyside, because his qualities seem to suit those of an archetypal right-back in an attacking Rodgers' formation.

Should he slot in the way he did at Southampton, then there will be no questions as to whether Clyne can hold down the spot in the side for years to come. Liverpool might finally have the balanced top-quality right-back they've been crying out for. 

VAVEL Logo