By Shaun Wylde – @ShaunWylde
Joseph Dave Gomez was the perfect defensive partner for Virgil van Dijk earlier in the season.
Before his injury he provided class on the ball and was fast and physical enough to recover when caught out of position, which was a rare occasion in itself.
Our defence played a key role in our excellent start in the Premier League and it was vital that we kept so many clean sheets earlier in the season when our forwards were struggling to click. Gomez was an integral part of the spine of that defence, as was van Dijk and Alisson, so his injury against Burnley in December was a huge blow.
He has only recently returned to full training and while a lot of fans are excited by the prospect of him and Virgil picking up where they left off for the rest of the season, I don’t believe that Gomez should be thrown back in, nor do I think that Klopp will take that approach.
After Gomez’s injury, Klopp’s only option at the time was to play Dejan Lovren at centre back as Matip was already injured. Lovren did okay for a while until the Man City game at the Etihad where he was pretty poor – he was arguably at fault for both goals conceded and was then injured shortly after against Wolves.
From here Matip was back in the team and he has been extremely consistent since. I think it would be harsh for Joel to get dropped for Gomez because of what he offers the team.
He can seem a little weak at times and doesn’t win as many headers as he should with his height but he is excellent and incisive on the ball. I would actually say that he is more creative on the ball than Van Dijk is and is better at bringing the ball out of defence.
In addition to this, he has always been a quietly consistent defender for us since Jurgen signed him – for nothing – from Schalke. While Lovren has always felt like a player capable of incredible highs and lows, Matip has been more of a player that would drop consistent seven out of tens, similar to Nathaniel Clyne in this fashion.
Furthermore, he and Virgil have been in the side together for a while now and have built up a solid understanding, and so it could be counter productive to change things now in such an important position of the season. While Gomez is clearly the main option long term, there is little point in throwing him in the team when he’s not match fit at such a crucial time.
The bottom line is that every decision made now has to be made for the good of the team. That is possibly a reason why Klopp has not played Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keita for a while – he isn’t completely certain of their defensive capabilities and is sticking with what he knows at this point of the season.
Any risk could cost the title. If this is true then I would imagine Klopp is undertaking a similar approach with our defensive options and has no intention of throwing Gomez into the deep end unless he was forced to.
Now, Gomez will be a top, top defender for Liverpool. We saw earlier in the campaign exactly what he offers at centre back – in a lot of ways it felt at times like we had two van Dijk’s on the pitch earlier this season and there is no higher praise you can give Gomez than that.
His time will come at Liverpool there is no doubt about that. However, Matip is a solid defender who has played a key role for us in the latter part of the season, we would have been in big trouble without him and he has taken his opportunity by producing consistently-good form.
He has played in some massive games and is match fit, has an understanding built up with Van Dijk and has been in the thick of the action. It would not only be harsh to drop him for Gomez but would be potentially harmful to the team which his unacceptable.
Young Joe is no doubt part of the Reds’ bright future, but there is no guarantee he would be able to hit the level he was at before his injury and we are at a part of the year where we can’t take chances.
Matip should – and likely will – keep his place for the remainder of the season.
Do you think Joe Gomez should return to the regular starting XI? Do you think Joel Matip has done enough to keep his place? Let us know!