Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez’s rekindled partnership has seen the club’s defensive stability reach all new heights.
Gomez, 22 has been utterly outstanding since deputising alongside Van Dijk, 28, in the absence of Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren. The Englishman alongside the UEFA Player of the Year have enjoyed a 100 per cent winning-record since being reinstated as the big Dutchman’s defensive prodigy.
With Gomez in the team, Liverpool have recorded nine clean sheets from their previous 10 league matches whilst the pair have conceded just eight goals in their previous 36 league matches together.
Liverpool need just six league wins from their remaining 13 matches to achieve Premier League immortality. Meanwhile, the European champions will also be hoping to progress to their third consecutive Champions League final come May.
Both players complement each other perfectly with their alternative styles of play. Typically the greatest defensive partnerships – such as; Terry and Carvalho, Vidic and Ferdinand as well as Campbell and Toure – usually possess different traits that strengthen the other’s flaws.
Van Dijk’s calming nature coupled with his outrageous passing ability allows him to control and dictate Liverpool’s defensive shape. Gomez meanwhile, is one of the quickest players in the Premier League meaning his recovery runs give the team that added edge when they are caught on the break.
Tactical tweaks necessary
In what has been a perfect defensive alliance, the only dilemma for Jurgen Klopp, is that with the Reds competing on three separate fronts the German manager will likely have to regularly tweak the defensive set-up.
Matip and Lovren are finally fit again and will both likely play a role in the remainder of Liverpool’s Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League campaign.
Both Van Dijk and Gomez will have to be managed carefully considering the pair have started the previous 10 league matches together before the winter break.
Matip was utterly imperious in the opening period of the season but has only started seven PL matches and hasn’t featured in the league since the knee injury sustained in the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford – the only occasion Liverpool have dropped points this season.
Lovren and Matip’s return provides healthy competition as Liverpool look to achieve an improbable quadruple following their Cub World Cup triumph in December.
The likelihood is that both Gomez and Van Dijk will start in the Reds’ next two matches against Norwich City and Atletico Madrid with Klopp potentially then beginning to think about juggling the central partnership across the league and Europe for the rest of the campaign.
Van Dijk and Gomez won’t be getting cosy with the league all-but wrapped up in February. The latter’s Liverpool tenure has been riddled by injury and he has been absent from the starting XI in Liverpool’s previous two Champions League finals.
While the team may be closing in on top-flight history, a squad as relentless and consistent as Liverpool will be targeting more than just domestic glory this season and each and every player will have a role to play until the end of the season.