The rise of Joe Gomez alongside veteran Virgil van Dijk is blossoming into a solid centre-back partnership for years to come.
Alisson Becker was brought in to put an end to Liverpool’s infamous defensive lapses, but the main reason the Reds have only conceded one goal in the first four games of the season is thanks to their central defenders.
Gomez and van Dijk are marshalling the backline and keeping the amount of clear-cut opposition chances to a minimum.
Van Dijk’s consistent performances at the back have seen him named the Standard Charter Player of the Month for August.
His aerial dominance, high defensive awareness and leadership are the perfect foundations for Liverpool to rebuild their defensive structure on. One of his best attributes is the way he makes the players around him better as well.
He has adapted to Jürgen Klopp’s style of play with little effort and is worth every penny of his £75m move from Southampton last January.
The Rise of Gomez
Gomez has developed from a young centre-back in Liverpool’s academy to a make-shift right-back under Klopp.
He has waited patiently to move back to his natural position and he has taken his chance with both hands.
The 21-year-old is still young but his performances against Brighton and Leicester were those of a more seasoned defender.
At times last season, Gomez was caught out on the right side of the back-four. He was often caught ball-watching and was unable to keep up some of the Premier League’s quicker wingers.
He did learn from his mistakes and improved game after game. In fact, playing a different position has added more versatility to his game.
Complementary skill sets
Gomez and van Dijk are developing a strong partnership and are learning how to mesh their different styles.
This has helped Gomez avoid a lot of the mistakes he made as a right-back. Gomez and van Dijk alternate moving forward and anchoring the defence with such fluidity you would swear they had been playing together for years.
Brighton seemed to target the youngster and tried to feed long balls over the top to forward Glen Murray, but Gomez was up to the task.
He was relentless and wouldn’t allow the veteran forward to out-manoeuvre him.
It was Gomez’ sliding tackle to deny James Maddison against Leicester that helped the Reds secure the win, an intervention that saw him expertly cover after Maddison had taken van Dijk out of the play.
Nailed on for the long-term?
Liverpool finished last season with Dejan Lovren and van Dijk at the back, but it’ll be the Croat who will have to work his way back into Klopp’s plans.
Gomez is undroppable right now and it will be his name on the team sheet against Tottenham this Saturday with Lovren still sidelines through injury.
And it should be Gomez’ name as the preferred partner to van Dijk for the rest of the season.