Pitchside

The uncapped England star Liverpool should splash out £15m for

Pitchside

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"He's naturally quick. He's naturally powerful. If he keeps working hard, there's nothing that could stop him playing for his country one day."

Who's Southampton skipper Adam Lallana describing here, then?

Well, if recent transfer murmurings have anything about them, it's only teammate and mooted moving buddy, in a reported £40m double switch to Liverpool, Nathaniel Clyne.

Of the pairing, it's the fleet-footed midfield man you'd suspect accounts for the lion's share of that fee. Yet, even so, given the grapevine also has Southampton's valuation of Lallana down as £25m, you'd be forgiven a certain degree of alarm toward where that leaves Clyne's price listing.

Change from £40m, quite clearly, stands at £15m, and for someone who seems quite inconspicuous as a player that feels eyebrow-raising pricey.

At the moment, though, it's hard to stand out at St Mary's. In Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw, the Saints boast two members of the PFA Team of the Year, while the ever classy Dejan Lovren and the tremendously industrious Morgan Schneiderlin amount to quite a crowded spotlight. Elsewhere, the irresistible rags-to-riches Rickie Lambert narrative likewise hogs media attention on occasion.

However, inconspicuous has quietly worked for Liverpool this season as far as their defence goes. The subplot of Jon Flanagan's progression as a first-team starter provided a neat contrast to the fluid and flash attacking play through the Liverpudlian's meat-and-potatoes approach to tackling.

Although overly highlighting instances of no-nonsense ball-winning on Flanagan's part does the Liverpool youth product a disservice - his technical ability has, also, demonstrably reached an impressive level - there is an argument that what Brendan Rodgers could do with over on the right is exactly this kind of simple sturdiness.

As much as individual defensive errors hampered Liverpool's season, Rodgers' brand of open football exerts an enormous amount of pressure on his defence and can leave them vulnerable to rapid transitional phases in play. Yes, the sight of Martin Skrtel or Kolo Toure shanking less-than-deadly crosses past Simon Mignolet allows for conclusions that point the finger firmly at poor skills in physical c0ordination. However, both occurred when play was stretched, and both came when oppositional wingers had been allowed to break away down the right flank on the counter.

Certainly, there where blushes elsewhere over the course of the season but it's more than credible to suggest that if Liverpool are going to commit themselves so far forward, a bit more discipline and, more specifically, fresher legs than Glen Johnson's are required.

Johnson treats himself to considerably more shots from range than both Flanagan and Clyne.

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While the ex-Portsmouth right-back comes equipped with skills in both movement and hold-up play, which sometimes allow the Reds to sustain pressure during attacking manoeuvres, he also possesses an infuriating tendency to utterly dismantle them. Johnson has the ability to, once in a while, unleash swerving efforts upon bewildered goalies but his penchant for taking potshots from range betrays a lack of patience during the build-up, something considerably apparent when his figures are compared with the two other defenders here concerned. This, in some cases, could be forgiven but Johnson failed to score a single goal during the recently concluded season.

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Clyne has been far more effective in his creative output than both Johnson and Flanagan.

Yet, no one wants to see the sublime creativity displayed by Rodgers' team stifled through fielding overly cautious defenders either side his back line. Flanagan may have impressed through his composure and stability but, all told, created little going forward throughout the campaign.

Southampton's Clyne, however, struck a nice enough balance between sturdiness and invention.

The dedicated and unassuming Crystal Palace youth product created just as many chances as Johnson and a good number more than Flanagan, all while having played fewer minutes. Most notable, though, is the effectiveness of Clyne as a creative force. Of those 28 chances the Saints full-back produced, four were turned in and only two defenders in the Premier League, Manchester City duo Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov, actually provided a higher number of assists over the season.

As for risk aversion, Clyne also committed fewer fouls and, getting away from the statistical side of things, in terms of individual qualities possesses a degree of pace and energy that make consistently tracking back over the 90 minutes, while contributing incisive movement going forward, more likely than with Liverpool's current option.

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Of the trio, Clyne is arugably the most efficient tackler and also give away the fewest number of fouls per 90 mins.

In terms of reclaiming possession, the Saints defender performed 43 successful challenges from 69 attempted, where Flanagan has won the ball with 59 attempted tackles from 129 attempts. Similarly, Clyne also beats Johnson when it comes to efficiency in defending.

Why these figures matter has to do with the sometimes unhelpful eagerness in committing to a tackle, which defenders can often be found guilty of when either tired later on during matches or taken by bouts of enthusiasm. Essentially, if a defender fails in a challenge he in certain cases takes himself out of the game and his team's defence falls under more pressure, with fewer bodies to repel attacks.

Clyne has also stepped up his skills in interplay and passing since last term and through doing so has become more efficient in circulating possession; where the pass completion rate for 2012/13 stood at 79%, this term's came in at a marginally improved 81%.

At the relatively young age of 23, he ultimately represents an investment, if not a gamble at £15m. From the seller's point of view, though, there's nothing like the prospect of seeing your finely balanced and stable defence picked off on either side to stiffen your resolve and, with Luke Shaw incredibly likely to depart this summer for a whopping fee, Southampton have little reason to offload Clyne. This, of course, could also explain the inflated price tag attached to the rumour.

Cost will probably move Rodgers to look elsewhere but, expensive as it may seem, perhaps the move shouldn't be so swiftly dismissed. Lallana might top the bill in terms of Liverpool's transfer activity this summer, yet considering where the main problem areas lie in their squad, maybe Nathaniel Clyne actually represents the more practical addition in this rumoured double swoop.

And what's more, if the Reds are half the young and trendy side they're supposed to be, and given how in vogue the position currently appears, perhaps the appropriate thing for Rodgers to do would be to go out and overpay for a full-back, anyway?

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