Joe Gomez is currently in a fine run of form at the heart of Liverpool’s defence.
The 22-year-old has now helped the Reds to keep six consecutive clean sheets in the league.
While always a steady performer when he fills in at right back, he has excelled once more in his favoured centre back position.
And since his form has been on the up-and-up, Liverpool have looked even more assured at the back.
Scott Groom investigates whether the recent upturn in clean sheets is anything to do with Gomez’s recent run.
Centre back is preferred positionEmbed from Getty Images
If there has ever been criticism of Gomez during his Liverpool career, it’s usually when he plays at right back.
There’s no question that the England international is an able deputy for Alexander-Arnold, because he is.
However, it’s apparent that that is not his strongest position and is when he looks at his most vulnerable.
It’s never an Alberto Moreno wing-back sized worry when Klopp plays him there, but you do feel he could be exploited.
The most common complaint is him getting caught slightly out of position and balls over his head often see him playing catch-up.
He’s more than apt at going forward and of course is a wonderful defender, but he never looks truly comfortable out wide.
However, in his self-professed favourite position of centre back, Gomez shines and plays his best football.Embed from Getty Images
He looks commanding in the air, is positionally sounder, reads the game exceptionally well and looks more comfortable.
Gomez doesn’t second-guess his decisions as everything is second nature to him in the middle.
His pace for recovery is also a huge asset, and alongside van Dijk, they could be two of the quickest centre backs around.
So combining all of these attributes, and you’ve got a centre half who is made to play in Klopp’s system.
This is not to say that both Matip and Lovren have done bad jobs in the middle, but it seems that Gomez just keeps improving.Embed from Getty Images
He looks like a more natural fit in the system, and has a special relationship with Virgil that only gets stronger each time they start together.
Matip in particular is a wonderfully adept choice for cover, and Lovren looks set to move on at the end of the season.
So all roads point to Gomez as VVD’s long-term partner, and their record together is staggering.
Rekindling the van Dijk partnership
Liverpool’s defensive record last season was something to behold, conceding only 22 league goals and keeping 21 clean sheets.
While this is most certainly down to the influence of a number of players – Alisson, van Dijk, Fabinho, Matip and more – Gomez helped set the foundations.Embed from Getty Images
Up until his injury, Gomez formed a formidable partnership with van Dijk, keeping eight clean sheets in the opening 15 games.
For the remaining 23 games, Liverpool kept 12 clean sheets as centre backs were altered and shifted in Gomez’s absence.
They also conceded more goals, 13, while Gomez was side lined compared to when he was in the team, nine.
Harsh stats to use, but it shows that the Reds kept more clean sheets with van Dijk and Gomez playing centrally together.
This should take nothing away from Liverpool’s other centre backs, who as already stated did a sterling job as always.Embed from Getty Images
But the numbers don’t lie, and neither does the aesthetic of Liverpool’s play when Gomez is on the pitch.
He and Virgil are of the same mould: they’re like Rolls-Royces. Smooth, elegant, effortless and classy.
Liverpool’s second best centre back?
And it’s perhaps this that means he stands out above the rest as van Dijk’s number one partner.
Matip and Lovren have undoubtedly improved under Klopp, but so has Gomez and he ceiling for potential is much higher.
This is due to his age and ability, and he seems very keen to continue his progression under Klopp’s reign.Embed from Getty Images
It makes sense to play him in the middle as often as possible if Liverpool want to continue their current path towards silverware.
While Matip doesn’t and shouldn’t make any Reds feel uncomfortable when he’s selected, he’s just not at Gomez’s level.
Taking everything into account, it could well be that Gomez is one of the key contributing factors to Liverpool’s recent run of clean sheets.
Gomez has started the last five league games at centre back – and Liverpool have kept five clean sheets.Embed from Getty Images
Considering Liverpool have kept seven clean sheets all season, there has to be a large degree of credit pointed in his direction.
We shouldn’t discount the fact that Alisson picked up an injury in the opening fixture, and van Dijk has played alongside three partners this season.
But things certainly seem more secure with Gomez at centre
back, and this current run points towards that.
The England international is certainly one of Klopp’s catalysts for clean sheets.