Can Gomez Achieve His Potential?
Most Liverpool supporters will have witnessed one particular action in the second half of Liverpool’s latest encounter (against Newcastle), as Joe Gomez struggled to keep pace with the advancing Sandro Tonali. The Italian midfielder is a tremendous ball playing technician, not dissimilar to that of former the Wolves man, Rúben Neves, or even Youri Tielemans. All three are controlling assets who are superb at recycling possession and maintaining possession of the ball. What none of those players have ever been labelled as, is as dynamic ball carriers who are able to find a burst of speed. After full time on Sunday evening, this moment of the match was mentioned on Anfield Index’s Post Match Raw, due to the surprise in viewing our 26-year-old England international struggle to produce his once fabled electric pace. Despite the many notable and exciting moments within this enthralling encounter, unfortunately that moment of clarity is something that stuck with me more than most.
The above caption is a brutal yet fair representation of what occurred at St James Park. I wholeheartedly agree with the rapid part of the post, yet I must gently disagree with the idea that our former Charlton man is washed up. I am fully aware that I can be prone to seeing certain Liverpool related issues through rose tinted glasses, as well as remaining a loyal fan of our under-fire central defender. In a pre-patella injury world (which saw Joe miss 39 games), the 6ft 2inch defender was playing to an elite level as the undisputed backline partner of Virgil van Dijk. After an ACL injury was suffered by Virgil just prior to that of Gomez’s collapse, our number 12 was during taking on a leadership role in a team which was shorn of its commanding Dutch giant. Just look at the data below to see the impact this pair was able to have at Liverpool, before both succumbed to spells on the sidelines.
There was always the consensus that given the magnitude of the ailment, that it would take the better part of two years to fully recover from such an horrific injury. For a player who was so reliant on superior speed and acceleration, I imagine the road back has been a treacherous one. The caption below shows just how difficult it was for the former first team regular to return, especially as nothing more than a backup option. Both Joël Matip and later Ibrahima Konaté had pushed ahead of the 11-cap England international, which was yet another obstacle in the path to redemption. The mental health struggles in any walk of life are a real and serious problem, regardless of the stature or trappings that come with being a Premier League footballer. This is a young man that has seen the pinnacle of his profession broken down by one of football’s most devastating injuries, therefore I stubbornly choose to look at the positive steps that can be taken as he continues his journey back.
Joe Gomez on mentally struggling with the effects of injuries:
"Once I got back into football, I had other battles with worrying about my body and things that I couldn't control aside from doing the work I needed to do." #LFC
— James_Wathland (@JamesWathland) August 22, 2023
Every single sportsperson will one day see his or her physicality reduce, either due to the longevity of their career or in the case of Joe Gomez, due to a major injury. Adaptation is needed to maintain the levels desired, which takes both time and effort to perfect. It was also remarked in our post-match diagnosis how well he had performed, especially in making a brilliant block against the oncoming Harvey Barnes. In-game intelligence and a natural defensive mindset can be incorporated into what we need, even if the lightning pace is no longer apparent. We are already seeing our masterful skipper become a slightly altered central defender and I believe the last remaining remnant of the previous regime can evolve also. I have seen inconsistency stem from trying to be what probably does not exist anymore. With that said, I stand by my thoughts and wishes to see Joe Gomez emerge once more as a very good and reliable centre back for both club and country.
I will end with a few words on the Joe Gomez’s performance from the weekend, when he was ushered on to control a back four (within a ten man side), against a very good footballing team.
Think a special mention is needed for Joe Gomez btw. Thought he was very good in a really difficult situation for us. Hopefully he can recapture his pre injury form
— The Liverpool Groove 🎙 (@LFCGroove) August 27, 2023