How Joe Gomez Became Liverpool’s Tactical Linchpin

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The Evolution of Joe Gomez: From Uncertainty To Utility

In the 2022/23 season, many (including myself) assumed that Joe Gomez would be one of the candidates to be moved on in the summer following the close of the football year. That largely disastrous campaign had highlighted the regression of multiple senior players, which would lead to a much-demanded summer regeneration.

The below assets of Liverpool v1.0 were moved on to pastures new, with many allowed to run down their contracts and leave the club for free.

Departed Players and Their Destinations

Jordan Henderson
Club departed for – Al-Ettifaq FC
Fee received – €14m
Age upon departure – 33-years-old

James Milner
Club departed for – Brighton
Fee received – Free (end of contract)
Age upon departure – 37-years-old

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Club departed for – Beşiktaş
Fee received – Free (end of contract)
Age upon departure – 29-years-old

Naby Keïta
Club departed for – Werder Bremen
Fee received – Free (end of contract)
Age upon departure – 28-years-old

Roberto Firmino
Club departed for – Al-Ahli
Fee received – Free (end of contract)
Age upon departure – 31-years-old

Club departed for – Al-Ittihad
Fee received – €47m
Age upon departure – 29-years-old

The Need For Utility Players

With so many ex-Liverpool players leaving at the close of the previous campaign, even the fine summer of recruitment could not mask a sense of the group being left short in some areas. The recurring and inevitable injuries to Thiago Alcântara, Stefan Bajčetić and Joël Matip, meant that several positions were deemed undermanned within the regenerated squad. In the years prior, Anfield’s former vice captain, James Milner, had undertaken an impressive squad role that saw him tagged as the utility backup to many positions.

hough the former Leeds man was able to operate and play in several systems, it was often a case of limiting his minutes on the pitch as well as the standard he could attain in each playing position. Ultimately, the use of a limited veteran in ways not ideally suited to an aging athlete, meant the negative effect probably outweighed the positives, essentially when representing an historic club with aims for silverware.

Photo: IMAGO

Joe Gomez’s Ascendancy

I believe a combination of experience and ability, means that Joe Gomez has not only replaced the versatility that his former vice skipper offered, but has also enhanced the quality and variation (in the squad) with his stellar form this season. I would struggle to argue with anyone that said he was predominately a right back, left, or central defender, given his value in each position.

The plain fact is that the former Charlton man is playing superbly in all three roles, with his supreme physicality and intelligence allowing for coverage to be taken on with the utmost of confidence. Only last week did we see Jürgen Klopp task the 26-year-old as the holding destroyer, where he held his own in back-to-back outings. Without the ability to use Joe to cover so many differing ways, the reds German manager would have surely seen more points dropped and cup competitions exited, as the system would not have been operable without his England international to move around the Anfield board.

Recognising Gomez’s Contribution

Many of the fanbase will quite rightly point to the world class influence of Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker, Darwin Núñez, Mohamed Salah, and Alexis Mac Allister, whereas the contributions of Trent Alexander Arnold, Ibrahima Konaté, Diogo Jota, Dominik Szoboszlai, Wataru Endō, and Luis Díaz, have frequently been spectacular. What must not go unnoticed, is the tremendous endeavours of Joe Gomez in multiple roles across two lines of the usual Liverpool formation.

Last season I would have struggled to name you one good performance by the 6ft 2inch man, whereas this year, I honestly do not recall a single below average outing. The plaudits will inevitably fall to the more spectacular assets within the reds group. I hope special recognition is eventually awarded to the Liverpool number 2, who is enjoying the finest campaign of his career. It is only a few months since talk of a move away was more than plausible, yet now the utility man is revelling within a bespoke place in this squad, one that could end the 2023/24 campaign with an incredible quadruple of trophies.

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