Joe Gomez's role in the team even more fundamental following Lovren departure
Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Joe Gomez's role in the team even more fundamental following Lovren departure

Joe Gomez’s role in Liverpool’s Premier League title defence for next season has already become even more fundamental following the departure of Dejan Lovren.

The 23-year-old has demonstrated his best season for the Reds in terms of durability with Gomez starting a career-high 23 PL matches during Liverpool’s procession to a 19th league title.

Incredibly, Liverpool have only lost just two matches in the previous two seasons in which the Englishman has started.

Also, of Liverpool’s 14 clean sheets recorded, Gomez has been present in the starting XI in 13 of them.

Lovren’s summer move to Zenit St Petersburg has left Liverpool with just three central defensive options next season meaning the mainstay figure in the team that Gomez has become must be replicated next season.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – MARCH 07: Callum Wilson of Bournemouth and Joe Gomez of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and AFC Bournemouth at Anfield on March 07, 2020 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robin Jones – AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images)

His next challenge

During Liverpool’s first 15 games of the PL season, Gomez started just once under Jurgen Klopp (Norwich City on the opening day) and he even fell below both Lovren and Joel Matip in the German manager’s defensive pecking order.

While Matip has showcased on numerous occasions that he has the quality to match Virgil van Dijk in terms of performance levels and effortless consistency, the Cameroonian defender’s reliability in terms of fitness has been a big concern.

Matip, 28, has only started eight PL matches this season and has failed to shrug off an ongoing knee injury which makes his regular participation next season all the more complicated.

Gomez himself hasn’t been shy to the odd injury setback since his £3.5 million arrival from Charlton Athletic in 2015 [BBC].

It’s been five years since he signed and yet Gomez has managed to clock up just 109 appearances, which averages 22 games a season.

Lovren meanwhile, despite signing one year earlier was able to register 76 more appearances than Gomez for the Reds meaning the Croatian’s influence on the team will have to be addressed internally.

Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk (L) and Liverpool’s English defender Joe Gomez warm up before the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Burnley at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on July 11, 2020. – Phil Noble (Photo by PHIL NOBLE / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by PHIL NOBLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Van Dijk has set the standard

Also, another key factor is that Gomez is still yet to prove he can replicate the same level of durability as his defensive counterpart Virgil van Dijk.

The UEFA Player of the Year hasn’t missed a single PL fixture over the past two seasons and has showcased the level of unprecedented consistency that has typified Liverpool’s recent success.

If Liverpool are to defend their PL crown next season, this is the standard that Gomez’s has to strive for.

There is no questioning the player’s quality. On numerous occasions, Gomez has demonstrated he is one of the finest defenders in the division. His physical attributes – particularly his devastating speed – are second to none and alongside Van Dijk, he has become a calm and composed figure on the ball as well.

It’s also worth reflecting that Gomez has had to consistently play without any defensive cover since Project Restart due to the injuries of Lovren and Matip post lockdown.

Gomez has had to remain injury-free since October and since he reinstatement into the starting XI back in December, he has missed just one PL match (Watford (A)).

At just 23, Gomez has showcased a maturity beyond his years this season and is firmly amongst the best central defenders in the English top-flight.

He is also one of Liverpool’s most senior players with just Jordan Henderson currently above Gomez as the club’s longest-serving player following the departures of Adam Lallana and Lovren.

Liverpool have set themselves apart from everyone else domestically this season and have redefined the levels of consistency that were once required to win the English league.

It’s virtually impossible to look for area’s of improvement in the club’s 2019/20 season and yet here we are calling for a player to take his game to the next level.

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