Why Joe Gomez can maximise his chance as Liverpool’s first choice centre-half
With three of Liverpool’s five senior central defenders laid off with injury, opportunity has finally extended its hand to Joe Gomez. After his apprentice years at full back, he now has the chance to establish himself as a regular starter along side Virgil Van Dijk. At least until the current crisis eases.
It feels like Gomez is a lot older than twenty-one, and it’s a sign of his obvious rising stock with Klopp that he is trusted to play such an important role, so young. The hope now will be that he can shake off the worrying injuries and really make a contribution to our ambitions this season. He has already put a marker down after an impressive game against West Ham.
Liverpool will no doubt face sterner challenges than West Ham this season, but one of the most pleasing aspects of their 4-0 win was the impressive and unflustered display of our number 12.
Gomez was excellent along side Van Dijk. Winning a couple of really good headers in the second half and dropping in to plug any potential gaps left by his overlapping colleague on the right, it was a good afternoon’s work. What was perhaps the most impressive aspect of Gomez’s game though is his reading of the play.
For someone so young, he gets this vital aspect of his position right so much more than he is ever given credit for. It bodes well for his future prospects in the role that he plays it with such maturity and composure.
Playing at full back, he has seldom looked anything but a really solid defender. His time out at right and left back has no doubt given him plenty of valuable experience, lets not forget that Jamie Carragher had spend a few seasons there before he was eventually promoted to centre-half alongside the great Sammi Hyppia.
Gomez lacks the composure on the ball that likes of Van Dijk and Matip are blessed with but it doesn’t currently look like too much of a hindrance. His defensive style actually complements a more flamboyant, ball carrying defender like Van Dijk, as he seems quite happy to sit and hold while his partner roams forward looking for a pass out.
With Lovren, Matip and Klavan all due to return, hopefully in the not too distant future, there is no doubt a lot of pressure on Gomez to make the most of his chance.
He cuts a very composed figure on the pitch though and rarely looks panicked. His taming of the basics and concentration, plus the impressive physical impression he cuts are arguably all much better than aforementioned trio on the treatment table.
At this level though, the margin for error is pretty much none existent. Gomez will need to dig deep to keep his place. Palace away will be a completely different challenge as we all crane our necks in anticipation of Roy’s aerial bombardment.
Gomez had a few dodgy moments last season. A wobbly performance in the crazy 3-3 draw at The Emirates comes to mind. Plus his rotten luck with injury is a concern, given the time he has missed already in his development. 444 days since 2015 to be precise.
He will hope this is firmly behind though as we face our first real horrible challenge of the season. Any mistakes could well swing the momentum away from Gomez, let’s hope he’s up to the challenge. He certainly looks like he is!