There’s little doubt Joe Gomez was one of the standouts of pre-season for Liverpool. Coming in with relatively low expectations, the young defender impressed against the weaker opposition during the pre-season tour to the point the club decided they were comfortable heading into the new season with him filling the role of primary backup at both fullback positions.
Then, following the final two pre-season friendlies, came suggestions Brendan Rodgers was leaning towards starting the 18-year-old ahead of Alberto Moreno in the opener against Stoke. It’s a big step, going from facing a Malaysia XI with no expectations to Stoke City at the Britannia while a more experienced left back sits, but Gomez has looked nothing if not confident and says he’s ready if called upon.
"It was nice to get selected against Helsinki but there’s still a long way to go," said Gomez. "I just have to keep working hard to get in the team. [But] that’s my aim, to try and play at Stoke. If I do start then I’m confident in my ability and I’ll do my best to help the team. I always like to try and stay as relaxed as possible. I do obviously feel pressure, but that mainly comes from myself and wanting to do well."
Gomez arrived rather under the radar this summer, a £3.5M signing from Charlton Athletic. Liverpool beat out Arsenal and Tottenham for his signing, but despite some bullish talk from Rodgers about his versatile new defensive signing, most assumed Gomez was a name for the future. Especially given the manner in which young defenders have struggled to earn themselves a role at Liverpool in recent years.
From his first action in pre-season, though, Gomez always seemed far more mature and assured than his age might have suggest, and despite projecting as a centre half, he clearly has the speed and stamina to fill in at the fullback positions. That assuredness and versatility meant quick confirmation he would be staying on at Anfield this season as a first team contributor rather than heading out on loan.
"I’ve settled in really quickly, and a lot of that is down to the manager, the staff, and all my teammates making me feel so welcome," added Gomez. "They have made me feel comfortable and I’m enjoying my football here. I’m happy to play wherever the manager needs me. Ideally, centre back is my main position, but I’m happy to play right or left if the manager believes I can help the team there."