CHESTER, WALES - Monday, March 2, 2015: Chelsea's Dominic Solanke in action against Liverpool during the Under 21 FA Premier League match at Deva Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DOMINIC Solanke became Liverpool’s first signing of the summer this week, but who is he?

The highly-rated 19-year-old turned down a new contract at Stamford Bridge before agreeing to make the move to Merseyside on July 1.

Reaction to the acquisition has been mixed but, while Solanke isn’t the the marquee signing a lot of Reds would have been hoping to see leaning on various fixtures around Melwood, there is little argument that the striker has huge potential — and the deal does nothing to stop Liverpool from going all out for a big money player.

Solanke made a splash for Chelsea at youth team and reserve level showing a lethal eye for goal, 65 in 83 appearances across five seasons from the under-18s to 23s, however his only regular first team minutes came during a loan spell at Chelsea’s feeder club Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands — where he scored seven goals in 26 games.

We spoke to Vitesse Arnhem supporter Dennis van Kesteren and Juni (@ChelseaYouth), follower of Chelsea’s youth teams, to gather some insight into what The Reds can expect from their new man.

Vitesse: Dennis van Kesteren

What can you tell us about Solanke as a player?

He’s a rangy player. He plays like a real forward, waiting high up the pitch to get this chance to score. He’s dangerous at corners, and he’s useful if you have to defend a corner because of his height — he’s 6ft 1in.

How did he perform during his time at Vitesse?

At Vitesse he was just 17 years old and arrived as a big talent who scored a lot of goals, but his performances were poor. He scored seven goals in 26 matches, compared to the season before when he scored 41 times at youth level, which had everyone believing that Vitesse had got a fantastic player.

The first half of the season was OK, but after the manager Peter Bosz left Vitesse played the worst second part of the season ever. So it was hard for Solanke to play and get chances, particularly once he had picked up an injury.

One of his best performances for the club came in the away game against FC Groningen as Vitesse won 0-3, with Solanke scoring two good goals.

What are his best attributes?

He’s big and good at keeping hold of the ball. He also has a real poacher’s instinct in front of goal.

What areas of his game could he improve?

His speed and he must be stronger so he can improve his hold-up play and allow his team mates to come forward. Given that he is also big and tall, he could be more dangerous with headers.

Would he suit the Premier League?

I hope he will be motivated by Jürgen Klopp, his level at Vitesse was poor. He reportedly wanted big money at Chelsea, I hope he’s worth the money he gets at Liverpool, but to be honest I don’t think he will arrive at the level everybody’s thinking — let’s hope I’m wrong!

Chelsea: Juni (@ChelseaYouth)

What can you tell us about Solanke as a player?

He’s primarily a very well-rounded forward who’s able to play pretty much anywhere across the front line. He started out as a winger in his earlier academy days and eventually adopted more of a centre-forward’s build, but his footballing education allows him to switch between both as well as dropping deeper to play as a second striker/number 10, which is where he’s been playing for England at the Under-20 World Cup. He’s got the technical ability and composure on the ball to do that and link the midfield to the attack.

How has he performed for Chelsea’s youth teams over the years?

Most of the time he’s been unstoppable. He’s scored 65 goals in 83 appearances in under-18, under-19 and under-21/23 football, and did so at every level while playing above his age group. He scored as an under-15 for the under-18s, he scored 20 in 25 and won the FA Youth Cup as an under-16, and followed that up with a 41-goal season in which he scored in every round of the UEFA Youth League and the FA Youth Cup, going better than a goal per game over the season. He was off on loan at Vitesse in his under-18 season while Tammy Abraham — and this is no knock against him as he’s also a tremendous talent — was still in academy football.

Even when he played half a dozen times this season just to keep some form of match fitness he was a class apart. If Liverpool intend to use him even a little bit of the time at under-23 level in 2017-18 he’ll be far, far too good for that standard of football. He already was two years ago.

What are his best attributes?

His goalscoring record makes it clear that he’s very good in front of goal; not clinical, but he’ll put himself in the right positions to be in with a chance. He does his best work right in front of goal in the area, where he’s physically capable of holding his own, and equally comfortable finishing off either foot. People don’t generally talk about his two-footedness but he’s very adept going either way, which makes him much harder to defend against.

What areas of his game could he improve?

His time at Vitesse was as steep a learning curve as he’s had in his career because he was thrust into a much higher level of football than before and, although he dealt with it generally quite well, there were spells where he wasn’t really helping the team as much as he could have. He needs to learn how to be a constant threat to opponents and to be an effective presence for his team in and out of possession, be that with the intelligence of his pressing or with when and how he drops into midfield/wide areas to adopt defensive positions. Those aren’t intended as major criticisms but simply things that all young players need to learn; he’s not yet 20 and hasn’t really been exposed to an elite first-team environment yet. Given his track record, he should continue to develop in those areas just fine.

He’ll also occasionally been criticised for appearing to be lazy in the same way that people have described someone like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, but it’s often misdirected. He’s got a laconic running style that doesn’t look like he’s moving at full speed (juxtaposed against someone like Abraham, who bounds around like a little kid), but he’s not lazy. It’s just something to be careful with when watching him, he’s not going to look like he’s sprinting after everything all day long, but he’s doing his job.

Would he suit the Premier League?

In time, absolutely. He’s got the physical and technical skillset to be an asset to a top Premier League side, and it’s very disappointing that it won’t be at Chelsea. When you look at it this way, Loic Remy, Alex Pato, Radamel Falcao, and an ageing Didier Drogba have come and gone since he made his first-team debut, and for what? It’s hard to blame him for looking elsewhere when the pathways haven’t materialised at Stamford Bridge, and even if they’re not immediately there at Liverpool, he’s giving himself a shot at the top immediately rather than settling for a step back to take two forwards. Time will tell if he’s made the right decision, but he’s got enough about him to make a major impact over the next year or two.

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Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo

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