By Connor Varnish – @cvarn4
With news of Joe Gomez set to miss up to six weeks with a fracture to his lower left leg, Liverpool are now forced to look within in order to suitably replace the solidity displayed by the 21-year-old Englishman this season.
In recent times an injury to one of our starting center backs would spell disaster to our back line, but I believe this squad is finally built to cope with such detriments.
Joe Gomez found himself in the form of his life up until this injury – he finally showed glimpses of why Liverpool brought him in from Charlton Athletic for £3.5m just three years prior.
The England international established himself alongside Virgil van Dijk exceptionally well to begin this season’s campaign, and looked increasingly likely to cement his name in the centre back position after his brilliant displays both domestically and with the English national team.
Suprisingly enough for many Liverpool fans, Gomez’ emergence this season quieted all the rumblings that suggested we needed to splurge on another top quality signing to partner van Dijk at the back. It finally looked as though the Reds found their man to compliment the Dutch captain, but as we all know things in football can change overnight.
Of course we all hope Joe Gomez can fully recover and return to the form he’s displayed nearly all season, but should he need time to regain his fitness, the Reds are well equipped to thrive in his absence.
Through unfortunate circumstances, the self-proclaimed “best defender in the world” has found himself an excellent opportunity to prove to the Liverpool faithful that he’s still a valuable asset to the first team.
Dejan Lovren has been one of the toughest and most unusual players I’ve ever had to judge in a Liverpool shirt. When we signed him from Southampton, many people, including myself, assumed he would be the answer to our defensive woes, and would sort out our horrendous defensive record – he essentially made us worse at first.
Apart from in the odd moment here and there, the Croatian’s first few seasons at Liverpool were a disaster, and I truly thought we’d seen the last of him after he blasted a crucial penalty over the bar in a must-win Europa League tie against Besiktas.
To Lovren’s credit, he’s shown a remarkable amount of resilience – his time at Liverpool looked as though it was running out, but he’s stayed put and fought for his place – and while he’s certainly capable of a mental lapse here and there, personally I feel there is no doubt in his physical capabilities under the right circumstances.
Last season showcased just how well the Croatian can perform – partnering van Dijk did wonders for his confidence in my opinion (though van Dijk just tends to make everyone look better, doesn’t he?)
Lovren, for the most part, looked calm and composed in possession, and looked much more self-assured in his defensive duties than we’ve seen previously. There’s no doubt Virgil contributed massively to the optics when watching Liverpool’s defence last season, but one must give some credit to good ol’ Degsy.
The man contributed in leading his country to the World Cup final over the past summer as well as a Champions League final last year with the Reds.
The Croatian has built up somewhat of a swagger over the past six months or so coming off such a spectacular club and country campaign. He truly believes he’s one of the best defenders in the world – and although that may not be true, you’ve certainly got to love that attitude, especially when he’s on your team.
This is probably the last real opportunity Lovren has to reclaim his regular spot next to Virgil, so I’m fully expecting him to be well prepared to take his chance.
Gomez’ absence will likely see him miss the pivotal Champions League match against Napoli, as well as some key fixtures in the Premier League including Manchester United, Arsenal, and Manchester City. Lovren simply cannot afford to make costly mistakes in this stretch of games that could see Liverpool’s European aspirations as well as title hopes evaporate.
Dejan Lovren must know his Liverpool career rests on these next few weeks, and the Reds have no choice but to call on the services of the Croatian to step up and do a job – will he be ready to answer the call?