By Dave Davis – @DaveD0106
Amidst a summer and longer of planning, Michael Edwards and Jurgen Klopp were certain on their course of action.
Alisson was a must as the top class keeper so evidently required, Fabinho was identified immediately after Kiev as providing steel and protection in midfield whilst the possibilities for Naby Keita seemed limitless.
Klopp and Edwards were aware of potential options in the centre-half area with James Tarkowski and Jamal Lascelles identified as serious options. One player already at Melwood kept causing Klopp to question the need.
Journalists were direct and to the point, but the German appeared bemused by the questions:
“Do you think we have to? This summer? No, I am happy with our players, to be honest, so I don’t see the need.
When you see Joe Gomez playing in that role tonight as a central defender, he combines a lot of things you don’t find in the transfer market, to be honest.” – Jurgen Klopp
Gomez’s impressive performances and continued rise in the last six months have more than proved his manager correct, yet it’s a more consistent part of his make-up which makes it likely that Liverpool will be active this summer.
“We thought three weeks ago he would be closer and then we had to make another diagnosis in which we saw that it didn’t work out so far as we wanted, that’s why he is still not in training or running on the pitch.” – Jurgen Klopp
As part of a back five that kept eight clean sheets in his thirteen Premier League appearances to date, the former Charlton man boasts a horrendous injury-record which will form part of the transfer committees thinking. Edwards, Klopp, Gordon et al will be aware that a fractured leg from a challenge by Burnley’s Ben Mee is a small part of a bigger issue.
Ankle injuries and surgery alike, Achilles tendon problems and cruciate ligament ruptures have dominated the CV of a 21-year-old that Garth Crooks has compared to Sir Bobby Moore. A contract extension has been a positive news story of this season, but the recent setback has bought previous doubts back into play.
How can Liverpool continue to plan around defenders that spend prolonged periods on the sidelines? Gomez is by no means alone in that respect but centre-halves by their nature are usually reliable week-in, week-out. Young ones especially need regular game time to aid their experience.
As one of the self-proclaimed ‘best defenders in the world’, Dejan Lovren has missed ninety-two days worth of football in the last three seasons. Similarly, since his completion of a free transfer from Schalke, Joel Matip’s absence of one-hundred and sixty-six days means the former Cameroon international has found himself left out of squads on a regular basis this season.
Both won’t be prepared to act as third or fourth choice when they’d be considered automatic starters elsewhere. Klopp will know that he needs someone with a greater resilience as an option. The situation will reach a head this summer.
Gomez’s flexibility may work against him as it shapes Klopp and Edwards thinking.
“I hope Gomez plays centre-half. I love him at centre-half, he’s fantastic. I’d be concerned if I was Gomez to say I’m not a Jack of all trades. He’s a future star at centre-half.” – Steve McMahon
Despite the protestations of the former Anfield favourite, an ability to cover Trent Alexander-Arnold has forced Nathaniel Clyne to play hardball in forcing an exit. With a permanent move seeming likely, an inexperienced Camacho or veteran Milner the viable options, the six-times capped international will appear there on occasions.
The availability of others against Leicester will soon be clarified, but the manager has been unswerving in one area. Liverpool will not go into the market for January reinforcements. Injuries, attitude and departures indicate that it’ll be a different picture come this summer.
Gomez stopped a move happening this summer, as a player whose ability Liverpool staff had total faith in proved himself THE option alongside Virgil van Dijk. The durability of the same player will likely see Klopp and Edwards adopt the opposite course of action when this campaign finishes.