The centre-back situation
Last season, Liverpool had no centre-backs. Now, the Reds allegedly have too many.
According to a report, albeit not the most reliable ones, Joe Gomez isn’t happy with his situation at Anfield. The 24-year-old is yet to start in the Premier League this term and the majority of his minutes have arrived in weakened teams in Carabao Cup matches.
It wasn’t that long ago he was the first choice right-sided centre-back beside Virgil Van Dijk. Injuries and lack of football have meant he’s missed out on the latest England squad and with the World Cup a little over 12 months away, the report goes on to claim that this is the crux of it all. The former Charlton youngster wants to be in Gareth Southgate’s thinking and knows that he needs to be playing regularly to get in ahead of the likes of Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady.
Right now, though, it appears as though he is fourth choice in the pecking order for Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp seems to be making the most of having Joel Matip available so is playing him at every given opportunity. You can’t really knock the German manager for that, either. The ball-carrying centre-back is one of the best in the Premier League and the Reds missed what he brings to the team last term. Why waste his availability?
Van Dijk is a guaranteed starter. Many were worried about whether or not he’d hit the ground running after a long-term injury but he’s barely missed a beat since being named in the starting XI for the first game of the season against Norwich City.
Ibrahima Konate, perhaps surprisingly, got the nod against Manchester United recently. It was only his second start in the Premier League and his first away from Anfield. Going off his performance, you wouldn’t have known that. He was commanding, physical and confident on the ball. He even went on Matip-esque runs into midfield. The Frenchman wasn’t shy about getting stuck in against Cristiano Ronaldo or Bruno Fernandes and he looked fairly at ease when defending in wide areas. He also showcased his explosive pace in a foot race with Diogo Dalot.
As a result, people now believe he’s ahead of Gomez in the pecking order and this sort of fuels the idea that the 24-year-old might agitate for a move away.
I don’t necessarily think that is the case.
Klopp picked a defensive unit that he thought was the best fit for the match. United had a lot of pace and Ronaldo is an aerial threat. Matip might be great in the air but he’s not the quickest. Gomez is no slouch but he struggles in the air. Konate was the only one to tick both of those boxes, so he got the nod alongside Van Dijk.
We might have a game soon that sees Gomez start with the Dutch colossus because his strengths are required. The point of squad building is to assemble a team that can cope with, well, anything. It is the whole horses for courses idea.
Not everything is a competition. It is similar to what happens in midfield sometimes when people read too much into a player being bench after an impressive performance. It might just be that Klopp and his coaching staff feel another player is better suited. Nothing more, nothing less.
I also think that the club are being careful with Gomez after such a horrific injury. Why rush him back and load up his minutes when there are plenty of options? There is no point risking his long-term future with short-term thinking.