Joe Gomez endured a difficult start to the season. After conceding seven in a wretched performance against Aston Villa, it seemed the centre-back may need a break.
Jurgen Klopp did just that in the following fixture against Everton with the Liverpool boss alternating Gomez for Joel Matip at Goodison Park just over a week ago.
But then he was recalled into the team inside just 10 minutes of the Merseyside derby after Virgil van Dijk suffered an ACL tear which could see him out for the rest of the season.
Klopp’s misery following the loss of Van Dijk was compounded by the added setback to Matip who required a muscle scan following the 2-2 draw with Everton.
In the space of 90 minutes, Gomez suddenly became Klopp’s most experienced option at centre-back and the England international had to step up to the mark.
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He did just that, producing three outstanding defensive performances against Ajax, Sheffield United and FC Midtjylland which included two clean sheets along the way.
Gomez has had to remain durable even more so following another defensive loss after Fabinho left the field on Wednesday clutching his leg with a hamstring problem.
With Van Dijk, Matip and Fabinho all out of contention, it looks as if 19-year-old Rhys Williams will partner Gomez against West Ham on Saturday in the heart of the defence.
There has been plenty of talk about who Liverpool can bring in as a defensive replacement in the transfer market and rightly so given the immediate need for added cover.
However, not enough has been made of just how significantly Gomez has stepped up for Liverpool in the absence of a player who has been the bedrock of the club’s recent success.
All you see in the media is the attention placed on who Liverpool can buy who is of a similar quality to Van Dijk and can fill the gargantuan defensive void that has been vacated in his absence.
This is, of course, warranted given Liverpool are four central defensive short to last season when you factor in the loss of Dejan Lovren yet credit needs to be given to those who have taken up the mantle following heavy casualties to the club’s defensive contingent.
Since that embarrassing display against Aston Villa where Gomez was among several shocking performers, the 23-year-old has been nothing shy of outstanding for the Reds.
Credit should be given where it is due, the former Charlton Athletic defender responded well by putting in a collection of big performances as the team’s defensive lynchpin and most senior option.
In matches against Ajax and Sheffield United, Gomez clocked up a collective two tackles, six interceptions and 20 clearences. He also won more aerial duels (five v Ajax and six v Sheffield United) in both matches – more than any other Liverpool player.
His qualities on the ball have been just as impressive as his defensive work off it.
During his latest PL match, he completed 94 per cent of his passes and had 109 touches – which was only bettered by Trent Alexander-Arnold (121). Also, in the 12 long-range passes he attempted against Chris Wilder’s team, he enjoyed a 100 per cent success rate according to Opta powered site WhoScored.
Gomez’s efforts at the back have since seen Liverpool return to winning ways in the Premier League as well as making a perfect start in Europe. In both of the Reds’ opening CL fixtures, Klopp’s defensive quartet were able to register clean sheets to put the club in a commanding position at the top of Group D.
He faces another big test at the weekend against West Ham with teenage defender Williams expected to partner the Englishman at Anfield.
If Gomez is able to inspire Liverpool to another win perhaps the plaudits and media attention will begin to focus on what Klopp already has at his disposal as opposed to what he could bring in.
But more likely there will be silence, with the media agenda switching focus, waiting for when the errors warrant a cause to question Klopp as to why there weren’t any central defensive signings in the summer.
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