By Dave Davis – @DaveD0106
“I just think we’re just taking it each game at a time. It’s still pre-season and we’ll just have to see how things progress as time goes on. Either way, I’ve just got to enjoy the minutes I get and keep trying to progress”.
Go back a few days and Joe Gomez was clearly uncertain as to his role in manager Jurgen Klopp’s plans for Liverpool’s upcoming Premier League campaign.
On the back of the post-match press conference following the 4-1 victory over Manchester United, many Reds believed that it would be either Nathaniel Clyne or Trent Alexander-Arnold filling that starting berth.
But the decision might well still be evolving in the managers eyes – Gomez might still be within a shout of a major role in the German’s immediate plans. Klopp said:
“I’m happy with our players to be honest. I don’t see the need [to sign a defender]. Joe Gomez brings a lot of things that we don’t find on the transfer market to be honest.”
Never a suggestion from the boss that Gomez won’t play right-back, more a nod to the versatility that the former-Charlton Athletic youngster possesses.
For all the talk around his errors against Arsenal, West Ham and his end-of-season struggles, the 21-year old earned full international honours on the back of his performances for the club.
When Matip, Lovren and Klavan are fit to partner VVD, Gomez won’t simply be put in storage – a high number of Reds expect Trent Alexander-Arnold to pick-up where he left off at the end of last season’s European run.
Understandably, the 19-year old local lad who is arguably the best crosser in the squad has a claim too.
Alexander-Arnold’s inclusion in England’s World Cup squad was well deserved and it’s hard to think of a better pass than he delivered to Mohamed Salah against Bournemouth for his cushioned header last term.
On the other side, performances in which he looked defensively suspect against United at Old Trafford and Palace were part of a learning curve that the West Derby native is still on.
After practically a year out and the recent birth of a child, Nathanial Clyne will be itching as much as anyone to get back to first team action.
At 27 and with years of Premier League experience, there’s a strong argument by many that the former Southampton full-back is the best natural defender of all Klopp’s options in that position.
With Alexander-Arnold still away after his international exploits and Gomez alternating positions, a number of Reds believe Clyne will get the nod against West Ham and good performances in the opening weeks could make him tough to dislodge.
Critics rightly argue that it’s going forward where the issues lie – Clyne’s delivery is often lacking at best and it wouldn’t be a contest when directly compared to Trent.
Therein lies the key issue which many seem to have ignored. One of those players may well step forward and performances dictate that all others are cover.
That aside, though, Klopp may well have a different idea for a home game where an opposition needs to be broken-down as opposed to an away tie against a major rival.
Rafa Camacho’s performance the other night will only serve to fuel the debate even further, although it’s hard to see the Portuguese youngster overtaking any of the players mentioned above without a major or surprise outgoing.
Klopp will have no issue at all with a ‘horses for courses’ approach in another season where Liverpool may be required to play 50 games or more – squad depth is key to any successful side.
One of Gomez, Alexander-Arnold and Clyne may well step forward and become the mainstay in the right-back position. Young defenders are inclined to make mistakes though and attacking prowess is understandably viewed as a key part of the modern full-backs role.
Don’t be surprised if they all play a part in the campaign to come.