Joe Gomez didn’t benefit from the recreation time he might have hoped for Liverpool in 2021/22, but it surely was removed from a marketing campaign of doom and gloom for a participant nonetheless but to peak.
When Gomez stepped in direction of the touchline in Innsbruck on July 29, alongside his long-term defensive companion Virgil van Dijk, it was a really vital second.
Two of the most important casualties of Liverpool’s horrendous run of accidents throughout their title defence, Gomez and Van Dijk made their long-awaited returns in a 4-3 pleasant loss to Hertha Berlin.
The youthful of the pair had missed eight months with a freak knee damage suffered in coaching with the England nationwide staff – the most recent in a collection of long-term setbacks.
It was a landmark for Gomez and Van Dijk, who went on to make two extra appearances every for Liverpool in pre-season.
However whereas Van Dijk quickly picked up the place he left off because the Reds’ centre-back basic, issues have been a lot slower for Gomez all through the marketing campaign simply gone – resulting in a spell of uncertainty.
Joe Gomez, 2020/21
Began: 11 (All competitions)
On instead: 10
Unused sub: 28
General Season Score: 7.12
An undesirable position
“That is most likely probably the most difficult one, for positive,” Gomez reflected on his 261-day layoff with a ruptured patellar tendon, in an interview in August.
He added: “It’s been mentally actually difficult within the sense that having to rebuild my physique this many instances.
“I believe some gamers typically when it occurs we see it as a undertaking, an opportunity to return again higher, stronger and I had that many setbacks and warnings I used to be already so grateful to be match and to be enjoying, I didn’t actually need the reminder on the time.”
It’s arduous to not really feel sympathy for Gomez, one of the crucial humble characters within the Liverpool squad, with 4 main accidents to take care of in his seven seasons at Anfield to this point.
In that respect, that he was in a position to return and play a component in a relentless marketing campaign needs to be thought of a victory in its personal proper.
However whereas he regarded ahead to a “contemporary begin,” there isn’t a doubt Gomez could have been disenchanted with the dearth of minutes afforded to him upon his return.
He made 21 appearances in all competitions – remarkably, the fourth-most in his seven phrases with the membership – however was restricted to solely 11 begins.
Nineteen gamers clocked extra minutes than Gomez (1,022), together with January signing Luis Diaz, with Van Dijk (4,530) one in every of three to play over 4 instances the quantity of his fellow centre-back.
It was to be a bit-part position for Liverpool’s No. 12, then, however to his credit score, each time known as upon he largely delivered.
Gomez was stable if unspectacular in his first two begins of the season in opposition to AC Milan and Norwich – sporting the captain’s armband within the League Cup win over the Canaries – earlier than letting his requirements slip in opposition to Preston and Leicester.
In these two outings, he was culpable of sleepwalking at instances and, because of this, gifted probabilities that ought to have been simply averted.
Certainly one of seven modifications to Klopp’s lineup, he took up duties as right-back and shone: sturdy, filled with vitality, scientific in possession and exhibiting the drive wanted when filling in for the world’s finest in that place.
His crossing had improved, as had his judgement on the ball, whereas time spent honing his long-range passing over the summer time clearly paid off.
That appeared to persuade the supervisor of his talents out broad, with 5 of his six begins between that 3-1 victory and the top of the season coming at right-back.
He was the standout performer on a surprisingly robust night time at Nottingham Forest, even going near breaking his seven-season duck in entrance of purpose, and adopted that up with one other sturdy exhibiting in opposition to Watford 13 days later.
A extra practical night time in opposition to Benfica was up subsequent, earlier than a sensational show within the 1-0 victory over Newcastle that stored Liverpool’s title hopes alive on the finish of April.
After that recreation, Gomez acknowledged the worth of his supporting position, making certain Liverpool “stay at it” regardless of quite a few modifications to the beginning lineup forward of the Champions League semi-final decider at Villarreal.
It could not have been the position Gomez hoped for upon his return from damage, however it’s essential to notice that not each participant recovers as shortly as Van Dijk did.
In a manner, one of many largest positives of the marketing campaign was the optimism he confirmed after a doubtlessly damaging damage on his ultimate begin of the season at Southampton.
Gomez averted a severe situation that night time at St Mary’s, but it surely may have been far worse.
And shrugging off these freak collisions is an enormous hurdle for any participant on the comeback path, not to mention one treading it for the fourth time.
The season simply gone needs to be thought of a frontier for Gomez, then, relatively than a marker of his long-term standing underneath Klopp.
A two-fold problem
All indicators are that, regardless of his lack of minutes all through the marketing campaign, Gomez is not going to solely be staying at Liverpool past the summer time, but additionally extending his contract.
That may solely be thought of a optimistic for the Reds, with the 25-year-old nonetheless top-of-the-line defenders within the Premier League no matter accidents.
But when he does pledge his future to Anfield as anticipated, he’ll achieve this on the understanding that there’s a massive problem forward.
Not solely are Van Dijk, Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate firmly cemented as top-level choices forward of him within the centre-back pecking order, however Klopp has additionally moved to usher in Calvin Ramsay as a like-for-like backup to Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back.
That might recommend that Gomez’s end-of-season area of interest as an enhancing right-back might have been erased, although he’s undoubtedly a participant who thrives in adversity.
Leapfrogging the likes of Matip, Konate and Ramsay will not be out of the query by any means, however Gomez might want to take his new-found instruments and that hardened psychological power into battle with him subsequent season.
Finest second: A Man of the Match efficiency at right-back in opposition to Newcastle
Worst second: The shortage of begins
Function subsequent season: Realistically, fourth alternative – however a battle with Matip and Konate awaits