On Sunday, after Dejan Lovren was hooked following a calamitous opening, Joe Gomez moved into the middle of the defence. It didn’t turn things around completely for Liverpool, but for a time they at least looked to be in a game that over the opening twenty or so minutes they’d been quite thoroughly out of.
Now, former Liverpool striker John Aldridge wants to see that switch made permanent, with the 20-year-old Gomez and not veterans Dejan Lovren or Raganar Klavan given an extended run alongside Joël Matip, a chance to prove he can help to anchor the defence—or to prove Liverpool need all new centre halves.
“I think Dejan Lovren looks shot to bits after his early substitution,” Aldridge noted today in his latest column for the Liverpool Echo. “He’s struggling and has been for a while. Jurgen Klopp may have to give Joe Gomez a run at centre back. He’s got quality so let’s see what he can do.”
Gomez, though, may not be the answer. Though then, part of the problem is that, increasingly, nobody can quite say with any certainty what the answer would actually be—if whether even having signed Virgil van Dijk over the summer would have solved things in defence for a side that seems so comprehensively bad at it.
Like almost any aspect of football, defending is a team effort, and though Lovren stood out on Sunday as the weak link, there have been plenty of examples over the season—over the past few seasons—highlighting that the problems stretch far beyond the much maligned Croatian centre half.
“We’re not a good defensive team,” Aldridge added. “We don’t operate as a unit and the communication simply isn’t there. There’s no Jamie Carragher or Sam Hyypia, remonstrating with them to get into position. Every goal we conceded at Wembley could have been stopped but there were mistakes by various individuals.”
What comes next, then? Joe Gomez probably is the right answer, at least in the short term and with Trent Alexander-Arnold forced into a larger role at right back than might be ideal at his age. But, given Liverpool’s defensive struggles, the right answer may still not be enough to get the defence on track.