Liverpool’s Midfield Prospect: Bobby Clark’s Potential Impact Against Norwich
Although at this stage, it looks like there will be some key players returning for Liverpool at the weekend. Most notably, Andy Robertson and Dominik Szoboszlai. It is moot whether Jurgen Klopp will thrust them straight into the starting XI.
Managing Key Matches: Liverpool’s Upcoming Fixtures
Liverpool have games coming up against Chelsea and Arsenal in the following week – and a home tie against Norwich is not a game to take risks in.
The Reds have also just gotten through a gruelling few days travelling away to Bournemouth and Fulham. And playing in two games where Klopp didn’t rotate his midfield much. Alexis Mac Allister and Harvey Elliott – who started both games deserve a well-earned rest in particular.
That leaves just Curtis Jones and Ryan Gravenberch out of Klopp’s current available first-team midfield options. Both of them may start the game – but it’s far more likely that Klopp will look to give a young player their moment to shine. And based on the last few games, it would be fair to assume that this young player could be Bobby Clark.
Opportunity for Emerging Talent
Clark has now featured as a late substitute in three out of Liverpool’s last four games. He came on against Arsenal in the FA Cup for about 15 minutes. Played seven minutes against Bournemouth in the Premier League. And then got about six minutes against Fulham midweek.
Still only 18 years old, he is not a stranger to the first-team environment. He’s been regularly training with Klopp’s side when fit this season, and heavily featured in pre-season games in the summer – even finding the back of the net against Leicester City.
Now with the opposition being Norwich, and the game being at Anfield – it wouldn’t be a surprise for Klopp to make that call and bring him into the starting line-up.
Bobby Clark: Gaining Experience and Exposure
During his first season in Liverpool’s academy, Clark was mostly used on the left wing. He made 18 goal contributions that season, but it was clear that he was someone better suited to a midfield role in the Liverpool system.
When he was promoted to the U21s last season – he straightaway transitioned into a midfielder. His first season was a bit of a learning curve for him in that role, but towards the end, he started to grow and understand what’s required of a midfielder in Klopp’s system.
By the time last summer came around, Clark fitted in seamlessly even at the first team level. Meanwhile, at U21 level this season he has flourished with seven-goal contributions in seven games so far.
Showcasing Creativity and Technical Skills
His creativity in particular has been really impressive. When Clark’s on the ball, he is always looking to play it forward and send penetrative passes. In the U21 Premier League, Clark averages the most key passes per 90 (2.09) as per Wyscout. He’s also made the third most through passes (12).
At U21 level, Clark’s vision and ability to weight his passes and thread balls through defences is second to none. But he’s shown it in flashes at senior level as well. For a quick demonstration of his quality just take a look at his utterly sumptuous assist to Darwin Nunez in a friendly game against AC Milan last season.
Darwin Nunez’ goal for Liverpool vs AC Milan. pic.twitter.com/XIvO1W9htB
— FT90Extra (@FT90Extra) December 16, 2022
The only area where his game still needs improvement is probably when it comes to his decision-making. Sometimes, Clark does dwell on the ball, or take players on in situations where he is better off passing. To illustrate, in Premier League 2 he averages 4.94 dribbles per 90 but succeeds in just 31%. For Liverpool’s first team in pre-season friendlies and competitive games (405 minutes total) Clark’s success rate is even lower at 18.8% from an average of 3.56 per 90. This is an area that Jurgen Klopp and his coaching staff will look to chisel out from his game.
Grit and Physicality: Bobby Clark’s Defensive Qualities
What everybody sees on the surface with Bobby Clark is the class technical ability. The elegant touches, and the flair that he offers. But there is a lot more to him than just being a fancy technically gifted midfielder. He’s also got grit, and he is physically quite strong for someone his age.
One thing you can say about him is that he is not afraid to get stuck in. During a recent U21 game against Crystal Palace, Clark competed in an impressive 17 defensive duels and won 14. In the U21 Everton derby, he competed in 10 and won seven, while also making 13 recoveries – nine of which were in the opposition’s half.
Against Bournemouth when he came on for a few minutes at first team level, Clark still managed to participate in four defensive duels and won two of them.
Meanwhile, against Fulham, he made three recoveries, and four interceptions again in the matter of just a few minutes.
Over the last 12-18 months, as he has transitioned to a midfield role – this side of his game has improved a lot. And it has made him much more suited to the heavy demands of the gegenpress.
Bobby Clark: Ready for a Pivotal Match Against Norwich
Norwich at the weekend could be the perfect next step in his metamorphosis as a player. It’s an opportunity he is 100% ready for, and Jurgen Klopp should have no qualms throwing him into the thick of it.
Clark is one of the best talents at U21 level right now. And games like this FA Cup tie provide the perfect opportunity for someone like him to step in and make his mark.