Dominic Solanke: A versatile squad player from the off?

Dominic Solanke: A versatile squad player from the off?

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Mohamed Salah has already signed, and Virgil van Dijk and Naby Keita continue to dominate Liverpool-related transfer news, so Dominic Solanke’s arrival on Merseyside has almost gone under the radar.

The 19-year-old has now officially joined from Chelsea, after a superb summer that saw him win the U20 World Cup with England and be named the tournament’s best player.

A player full of potential who was never going to be given a chance at Stamford Bridge, Solanke could be a very exciting piece of business by Liverpool in the years that follow.

Perhaps part of the reason for the relatively low-key reaction to the teenager becoming a Red is because of doubts over whether he will even be a regular first-team member next season.

Given his tender age, it would be understandable to see Jurgen Klopp throw him into the U23s for chunks of the season, allowing him plenty of football and a chance to settle at a new club.

Solanke comes across as a very confident young player with a real belief in his own ability, though, and he recently spoke about the versatility to his game.

“My favourite position would probably be the striker, No. 9,” he told LFCTV.

“But I can play behind the striker in the No. 10 position or out wide, so I’m quite versatile.”

For the many of us cannot lay claim to being an expert on Solanke, this will come as a welcome surprise.

The Englishman cuts the figure of a central striker and little else, but like Man United’s Marcus Rashford – sorry to use one of United’s players as an example, but he is a good comparison to make – he has much more to his play than perhaps meets the eye.

Klopp loves versatility – most of his attacking Liverpool signings so far, such as Sadio Mane, Gini Wijnaldum and Salah, can all thrive in several positions – and that will have been a key reason for him signing Solanke in the first place.

An ability to interchange and be comfortable switching positions during the course of a game is vital in Klopp’s system, which is exactly why someone like Christian Benteke was never going to succeed under him.

What Solanke’s adaptability does is give the Reds even more attacking options, and although it may be contrary to the opinion of some, it would be nice to see Solanke involved regularly as a matchday squad member.

He possesses power and speed that not too many others do, and when opposition legs are tiring, he could become a potent weapon off the substitutes’ bench.

Should Solanke hit the ground running and impress during pre-season, someone whose place in the squad is in danger of becoming under threat is Divock Origi – a divisive character who now has to go up a gear.

The Belgian enjoyed a highly impressive run of form at the back-end of 2015/16 before Ramiro Funes Mori’s shocking challenge ended his season, but he constantly flatters to deceive.

Last season, he was hugely disappointing on the whole, and even when he scored five times in consecutive matches before Christmas, his all-round impact was lacking.

Origi is 22 now, and we must see a noticeable improvement in his awareness of teammates, first touch, work-rate and general decision-making.

The problem Origi has is that Solanke may end up looking more effective than him in a wide position, which could work against the Belgium international when it comes to gaining minutes on the pitch.

Granted, he has occupied a left-sided role at times and done adequately, but he will forever look like a centre forward playing in an unfamiliar role.

Origi also lacks the technical ability and creativity that allows Solanke to impress behind a striker, which also won’t help his cause moving forward.

Klopp’s preference for giving youth a chance to shine is well-documented, and it will be fascinating to see how he uses Solanke in 2017/18.

Roberto Firmino is the undisputed first-choice leader of the line, but away from the Brazilian, Liverpool’s strikers have question marks surrounding them.

Origi’s shortcomings have been touched upon, but Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings’ respective injury woes are arguably of more concern.

If the duo stays fit for the entirety of the campaign, assuming both remain at Anfield this summer, Solanke’s chances may be limited, but that is a big if.

It is hard to rely on Sturridge and Ings being available week in, week out, and if injury problems persist, it will force them out of the exit door eventually. Klopp is taking a risk not signing a high-profile striker to add quality and depth – we will see if it pays off.

With four competitions to tackle next season, and injuries sure to play a part throughout, there is every chance Solanke will get opportunities to prove his worth.

Whether he is in and out of the first-team squad remains to be seen, but his versatility is something that can give him an edge over certain teammates.

It is clear that he is still raw, so we should not be expecting too much of him from minute one, but recent evidence suggests Liverpool have signed a real gem.

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