Dominic Solanke was given his first Premier League start in Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Stoke City in midweek, replacing Roberto Firmino upfront as Jurgen Klopp shook his side up to contend with an increasingly gruelling fixture list and it proved to be a chance well taken from the former-Chelsea man.
Deployed through the middle, Solanke showed huge flexibility at the Bet365 stadium, with an interchanging of positions between him, Mane and Chamberlain adding an extra unpredictability to the forward line. That saw him take up promising positions centrally and out wide, turning provider for the opening goal of the game.
Latching on to a cross from Joe Gomez, the striker produced a clever flick to put Mane through on goal with the outside of his right foot. That wasn’t the only piece of ingenuity he showed on the night either, with a lovely back-heel finding Firmino in the build-up to his best chance of the game. Unfortunately, the 20-year-old’s effort failed to really test Lee Grant from 18 yards out, but there was plenty of promise in the build up to suggest Solanke can offer something different to Klopp’s side.
“He’s still very young but I’ve seen him improve during his first few months at the club. It was great for him to get an opportunity and I am happy for him. I tried to help Dom as much as I could. I know he’s going to get better and better.” – Sadio Mane
The primary aspect of football that Liverpool and Klopp rely on is a tireless work-rate, with the German’s gegenpressing style of play requiring a heavy work load from his players. That’s exactly why Roberto Firmino is ahead of Daniel Sturridge in the pecking order; the Brazilian’s defensive contribution provides an extra body in the middle of the park, thereby helping to shut the opposition down.
Solanke showed such efforts with his off-the-ball play against Stoke, delivering 70 high-intensity sprints in 67 minutes – equal to Firmino’s statistics for the entire ninety minutes. He delivered the kind of performance his manager would’ve been proud of, tracking back well in the defensive third of the pitch to help sniff out the danger before showing creativity and guile in attack.
The 20-year-old provides an out-and-out focal point suited to Jurgen Klopp’s system, giving the German something a little bit different to his other attacking options. That was very much the case in pre-season where he produced two powerful headers, wriggling free of his markers before nodding into the net.
Of course, it’s only his first Premier League appearance but a solid display at the Bet365 coupled with a string of impressive performances in pre-season confirm Dominic Solanke is more than capable of giving Klopp another option upfront. In the midst of a rigorous Christmas fixture schedule, the young striker could well find himself called upon should Klopp rolls the dice and rest assured, he’ll have plenty to give an already exhilarating Liverpool forward line.