The injury to Virgil van Dijk asks the biggest questions in the career of Joe Gomez. The pressure is firmly on the England international.
The injury to Virgil van Dijk means a lot more pressure on Joe Gomez. Liverpool announced on Sunday that the Dutchman will undergo surgery on his knee, with ‘no specific timescale’ for a return.
Gomez is now one of only two fit centre-halves, along with Joel Matip. But the England international, in particular, will face the biggest questions.
Gomez has had Van Dijk alongside him for pretty much his entire run as a first-team centre-half. In fact, Gomez and Matip almost never play alongside one another.
Van Dijk has been near ever-present, after all, not missing a Premier League game since January 2018 – the month he joined the club. He’s only missed a couple of Champions League games in that time, too. In short, both Gomez and Matip have reliably had the world’s best defender next to them over the last few years.
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And so this is a huge test of Gomez. He hasn’t played particularly well of late, after all, and now needs to up his game without that reliable presence next to him.
On top of that, Matip is only just coming back from injury. His start against Everton was his first since going off with an injury in the previous derby – the first game back after the restart.
The Cameroonian missed over 20 games through injury in total last season. Thus Gomez will have to try and play himself back into form alongside Matip, who probably won’t stay fit for the entire season.
And if he does miss games, Gomez will almost certainly be alongside Fabinho, who isn’t a natural centre-half.
The 23-year-old has never faced a test like this.
This could be the making of Gomez, though. He’ll now have to step up under pressure and try to hold this defence together. If he pulls it off, it could help develop him into an outstanding defender.
He’s already got the natural talent, of course. Gomez is quick, strong, intelligent and experienced. But he’s never had the opportunity to lead a defence.
Now if his chance. If Gomez takes it, Liverpool could come out the other side of all this with a more assured, confident player. It’s not the way the Reds wanted this development to come about but, hopefully, Gomez can take this chance to become a better player.