It could turn out to be a big season for Joe Gomez. The Liverpool defender has mostly been deployed as a right back during his time on Merseyside but looks to be finally making the transition to his preferred centre-back position. The young, England international was given the nod by Jürgen Klopp for the opening match against West Ham United and a encouraging partnership with Virgil Van Dijk was clearly in bloom at Anfield.
With Dejan Lovren unavailable and Ragnar Klavan reportedly set to leave Liverpool this month , Klopp appears ready to give Gomez more responsibility in central defense. He will now compete regularly with Joël Matip and Lovren and Nat Phillips for minutes next to Van Dijk.
“Probably within the team it’s going to be that way a lot of the time this year. There’s a lot of strength in depth and everyone knows rotation is possible at any point in time,” Gomez told Liverpoolfc.com.
“You have to treat each game like it’s your last – because there’s always going to be someone working hard and ready to slot back in. It’s healthy and good, it’s part of being at a club like this.”
Gomez hardly put a foot wrong against West Ham and while there’s plenty of valid points to suggest we shouldn’t put too much emphasis on an opening day match against a side that’s still trying to find it’s feet with a new manager and influx of new players, Gomez looked very assured next to Van Dijk. The four goals on the day were fantastic but don’t sit on the clean sheet.
“It’s somewhere I want to develop going forward. It was nice to get a positive result as well. I enjoy it. I know I can continue to learn and develop, and hopefully get more time there going forward,” said Gomez.
The time Gomez spent at full back will have prepared him well for Klopp’s defensive demands. He will have a better understanding of his role and sharper instincts for when to cover for his right back or how to keep from playing him into trouble.
“Playing at full-back gives you insight into what you want your centre-half to do, position-wise,” Gomez added. “I wouldn’t say I totally switched off from it but pre-season did help in terms of bedding back in and getting used to it.
“I know which ball the full-back doesn’t want sometimes! You can give them a square pass and it’s not the best to deal with. It does help.
“And obviously we all communicate with one another and that makes it easier. We have played quite a few games. I know Trent [Alexander-Arnold] well and we all know each other well, what each other’s strengths are. You can use that to your advantage.”
Gomez will be aware that he is playing next to one of the best defenders in the world right now in Virgil Van Dijk. The ex-Charlton Athletic player has been on a steady rise since joining Liverpool in 2015 but this could be his break-out season for the club, establishing himself in the team and developing a solid partnership with everybody’s favorite Dutchman.
“He is very chilled – but assertive,” said Gomez of Van Dijk. “He is obviously a dominant presence, everyone can see that.
“It’s nice to play alongside him and we get along well, on the pitch we communicate. And it helps – it’s one of the key things.
“Hopefully I can continue to learn and progress and he is obviously a good role model, by watching and trying to soak up everything. He is obviously a top, top player.”