Nathaniel Clyne has been ruled out for up to another three months after having surgery on a back injury. The Liverpool right-back hasn’t featured for the Reds since July and will be left sweating ahead of the World Cup, with his chances of making the squad looking thinner based on this news. Jurgen Klopp suggested that the full-back had suffered a small setback earlier this month, but this news is a huge blow for the club as they will be without a first-team starter until February at the earliest. Even at that stage, he won’t be fully fit and will need to be eased back into the squad.
Although it is a blow for Clyne, his absence will present an opportunity to other players in the squad. It has been Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold that have benefitted from the injury, with both playing prominent roles during the opening months of the season. There is also an option to play James Milner in the position if Klopp feels that he needs a more experienced player. The England international deputised at left-back last season and will be more comfortable on his natural side.
When looking at the Premier League stats for the two young full-backs, it is evident that Gomez is the one that is trusted more to start regularly for Liverpool. The following numbers need to be treated with caution as Alexander-Arnold has played only three matches in the league, which skews his averages.
Gomez has played in nine matches and totalled 721 minutes, which underlines how highly-rated he is within the Liverpool camp. His performances have led to an England call-up and he will believe that he can make the World Cup squad if he continues to perform for the Reds. The 20-year-old is averaging 2.1 tackles won and 1.48 interceptions per ninety minutes. These show his aggressive style at the back and how he can be an asset for the team in terms of winning possession back. Alexander-Arnold averages 1.67 tackles won and 2 interceptions per ninety minutes, which puts him at a similar level to his main competition. However, he has played only 270 minutes and it isn’t yet known if he can consistently produce these numbers.
In the attacking half of the pitch, Alexander-Arnold looks to be the better option for the Reds, as he averages 3 chances created and 0.67 shots per ninety minutes. These numbers may be skewed, but they remain impressive for a full-back, especially one with a lack of experience. Gomez trails in these stats, with 1.11 chances created and 0.12 shots per ninety minutes. However, the recently-capped England international has contributed an assist, unlike his team-mate. Furthermore, he is more reliable in possession with a pass completion of 83%, in comparison to Alexander-Arnold’s 72%.
Klopp may miss having the experienced option of Clyne to call upon, as he has been an ever-present since the German took over as manager. That said, Liverpool have two exciting talents in their squad and they will be keen to see how they do in the absence of the first-choice right-back. At the time of writing, Gomez is a more well-rounded player and is the reliable option to start the majority of matches, but Alexander-Arnold has a star quality and looks a huge threat every time he does step out on the pitch. If they manage their development correctly, it could be that Clyne struggles to retain his place when he does return.