Editor’s Column: Joe Gomez – one of Liverpool’s most important players this season

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We’re probably all guilty of taking Joe Gomez for granted.

Liverpool’s longest serving player, Gomez was not someone fans or pundits put in any potential starting XIs back in the summer…

Instead, he was touted for an exit and supporters would bicker about which new centre-back they’d never really seen play would be an appropriate replacement. Gomez was regarded as injury prone and a liability at the back, due to mistakes over the past two seasons which saw him drop down the pecking order – behind Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip at centre-back.

In 2023/24 though, he’s well and truly turned it around and is a crucial part of Liverpool 2.0.

What kind of money would it take to replace Gomez; a defender who can play all right-back, left-back and centre-back to an exceptionally high standard?

There isn’t a player on the market who can switch between the fullback positions and their favoured centre-back spot with so little fuss.

This season, Gomez has been pretty much flawless. He’s started at right-back seven times, left-back seven times, centre-back twice, but also come off the bench in all three of those positions a further 12 occasions. He’s unbelievably versatile and the perfect player for Jurgen Klopp in a year in which he’s having to rotate and rest to navigate four competitions and injuries across the board.

Following the 1-1 draw with Fulham last night, which confirmed Liverpool’s progression into the EFL Cup Final, the manager was quick to praise Gomez, who was again, outstanding.

‘Without Joe nothing would’ve happened in the last pretty much 13, 14 weeks since Robbo is out,’ Klopp told the Metro.

‘I don’t exactly [know] how many games [he] played now this year, but I would say 20-something already. Not only games, [he] played exceptional today again.

‘He’s a real defender and he comes inside. He’s doing that really well. He tried a couple of times obviously to finish the discussion about not scoring. I would say for my taste from a bit too far but it’s still alright.

‘He is a life-saver, to be honest, that he was here, that he could play, and people forget how important Joey was in the best years we had.

‘I don’t know how many games he played in the year when we became champions and how many games he played when we won the Champions League. A lot and rightly so because he’s a top-class player.’

Trent Alexander-Arnold has been insanely good this season, but when he’s not been available and Gomez has taken his place at right-back, we haven’t really missed him.

And Gomez isn’t playing a traditional right-back role. He’s coming inside and performing the inverted position, happy to link up with midfielders and pass through the lines.

But with Andy Robertson and Kostas Tsimikas both out, he’s had to switch sides and do the same thing on the left, coming in off his weaker foot to solidify the midfield. Interestingly, in the absence of Trent, Dom Szoboszlai and Mo Salah, Conor Bradley has played as a traditional right-back, hugging the touchline and overlapping, while Gomez has done the inverted job from left-back.

Remember, his favourite position is centre-back, and I’ve no doubt he’d be exceptional there if given a chance – but Virgil van Dijk and Konate have a terrific partnership, with Jarell Quansah backing them up – so using Gomez in this clever fullback role works right now.

He’s been so good in fact, that while Trent will obviously return to the side at right-back, the left-back role is Gomez’s in our first-choice starting XI, despite the imminent return of Robbo and Tsimikas. Some will disagree, but how can you take it off him? We’re winning every game and he’s been a massive part of that.

At some point, there could be well a case for Trent to move into a deep-lying midfield position alongside Alexis Mac Allister permanently, enabling Gomez to be our starting right-back with the exciting Bradley as his backup.

Either way, Gomez will be in our side if he maintains these levels. It’s crazy what fitness and confidence can do for a player. Obviously, we now have to hope he keeps both, as his momentum and rhythm is exceptional.

Since his big injury in 2020, Gomez has actually only missed five games through injury. It took a long, long time to overcome his issues, but he’s got there – and Liverpool are the beneficiaries.

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