By Harry Ewbank
Ahead of an important summer on the international stage, Joe Gomez is certainly living up to his credentials at club level. The 22-year-old started the season mainly out of favour at both international and club level but has excelled in the last month to become almost irreplaceable.
In fact, since the start of the 2018/19 season, the fight to partner the ever-present Virgil van Dijk has become somewhat of a dog fight for Liverpool’s three back up options — Joël Matip, Dejan Lovren and Gomez himself.
After years of fragilities in the backline under Klopp and beyond, the options at the managers disposal have stepped up to the plate and made the spot their own whenever called upon.
After such a fruitful start to the last campaign there was never any was never any question that Gomez and van Dijk wouldn’t become a world-class defensive partnership. However, a strong tackle from Ben Mee on Gomez at Burnley in December 2018 resulted in a leg fracture for the youngster.
In turn, this left Gomez side-lined for four months — only returning to some semblance of fitness at the end of the season.
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By the time of his return there was a new favourite in town — Matip.
At the start of last season he may have been considered as fourth choice centre-back by many, but his courageous defending and marauding runs out of defence made him a staple on the starting team sheet.
Nevertheless, injury to Matip this September meant the baton was passed on yet again for an alternative to claim their chance in this near perfect Liverpool line-up.
The duty fell to Lovren, but he left the field against Bournemouth in early December with a hamstring injury having not helped Klopp’s side to a clean sheet in 10 weeks.
A rare break in the pattern as Lovren didn’t always impress, so it was Gomez who returned to prove the final piece of what has been an unbreakable Red bond in recent weeks.
Ten clean sheets in 11 Premier League games have since followed, which is surely no coincidence.
And, as Matip returned to training recently, few would argue for his right to regain his spot right now — like with any position in the team right now, he will have to bide his time and then face the pressure of making the most of his chance whenever it comes.
International glory will also be on the agenda for Gomez this summer at the European Championships, and with England not playing until March he will need to maintain such form to regain his place ahead of the likes of Harry Maguire and John Stones, even if he should be a shoo-in ahead of those players.
Nonetheless, on more familiar turf the baton to partner the adored Van Dijk has been passed on once again. Gomez will just be hoping he can keep a tight grip on it for the foreseeable future.