This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
6th August, 2019.
Bournemouth have just announced the signing of Liverpool’s Harry Wilson on a season-long loan deal, and there seem to be few complaints about the transfer.
The Reds’ young prospect gets to try his hand at Premier League football, having starred in the Championship for Derby last term with 16 goals to his name, and also gets to play under Eddie Howe, a man who has instilled an admirable footballing ethos at the Vitality Stadium.
As of now, the Wales international seems to be enjoying his time on the south coast.
The 22-year-old has already scored three goals in seven Premier League starts for the Cherries, including an outstanding freekick against Manchester City and a long-range screamer against Aston Villa.
While he is doing well, and his parent club back on Merseyside are also having an impressive season, it may have been a mistake from the European champions to let their academy graduate go.
Purely by watching the recent 1-1 draw against Manchester United, it’s clear there is an imbalance in attack when Mohamed Salah isn’t playing.
The Egyptian’s absence paved the way for Divock Origi to come into the side. The Belgian is a cult hero who came up trumps on numerous occasions last season, and has the talent to cause problems.
However, he operates best on the left and that is where Klopp put him at Old Trafford. That in turn means Sadio Mane has to go out onto the right, a position that neglects his skill set and potent style of incisive dribbling.
A timid performance ensued against the Red Devils. Klopp’s side had just four shots on target, and looked likely to be heading for a 1-0 loss but for Adam Lallana’s 85th minute equaliser.
In Origi’s case, he was substituted in the 59th minute after an ineffective display, one that contained no shots on target, no key passes and no successful dribbles.
This is not to suggest that, if Wilson had started instead, the Welshman would’ve starred and Liverpool would’ve run riot.
But in terms of the balance of the attack, Liverpool could have done with a left-footed player to come in and replace Salah in like-for-like fashion instead of compromising their style of play to incorporate Origi on the left.
Xherdan Shaqiri is also an option, one blessed with creativity, power and a blockbuster moment in the locker. Unlike Wilson, though, there is a suggestion that he is more naturally suited to a central attacking midfield role rather than a wide berth.
Anyway, why did Klopp see fit to loan Wilson out?
The Athletic report that the attacker is at Bournemouth to see how he handles regular Premier League action.
“Harry Wilson flourished in the Championship at both Hull and Derby and is now on a season-long loan at Bournemouth to see how he handles regular Premier League action. Significantly, the south coast club have no option to buy as Klopp still believes the Wales international can have a future at Anfield.”
Chelsea have demonstrated that a successful campaign in the Championship can be conducive to success at the elite level, with Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham firmly ingrained at the heart of Frank Lampard’s revolution.
Perhaps Klopp should have afforded a similar level of trust to Wilson and a major injury to Salah later in the season could expose the enormity of what was a relatively innocuous looking transfer decision.
Tomori made 47 appearances last season in defence, and has walked straight into Lampard’s XI at Stamford Bridge, not looking an inch out of place.
Abraham, who spent the season with Aston Villa – the side who broke Tomori’s, Mount’s and Derby hearts at Wembley back in May – racked up 26 league goals and the 22-year-old currently leads the way alongside Sergio Aguero at the top of the Premier League scoring ranks with eight goals this season.
The youngsters can have a huge say in Premier League proceedings – they just need to be trusted.
And this may not even be the first time that a loan agreement with Bournemouth comes back to bite the Reds.
Indeed, the decision to allow Nathaniel Clyne to join the Cherries in January earlier this year was ill-advised and poorly timed, one that ultimately left Klopp bereft of any natural options at right-back during a critical stage of the season.
Just days after the former Borussia Dortmund boss allowed the right-back to leave Anfield, Trent Alexander-Arnold picked up a knock and, with Joe Gomez already out, Milner and Henderson had to share the responsibility of playing at right-back.
The title-chase took a turn in the absence of a natural candidate as West Ham, Leicester City and Manchester United all held Liverpool to draws.
At the time the decision to let Clyne leave seemed harmless, but the situation that unfolded soon after undermined that feeling and now there is already a twinge of Deja vu emerging with regard to Wilson.
Nothing has been decided at this stage in the season, but the United game exposed Liverpool’s toothless pragmatism in Salah’s absence and, without a dynamic left-footed option to fill the void, they may live to regret their decision to send their natural replacement to the south coast.