Prior to the 2023-24 football season, I was one of the many who wrote off long-serving defender Joe Gomez as surplus to requirements. His numerous shaky performances, particularly in the prior season, made him look like a player low on confidence. Saying he was at the tail-end of his Liverpool career wasn’t out of line. But man has Gomez been on one hell of a redemption arc as we reach the midway point of the campaign.
It wouldn’t have been controversial to have cashed in on Gomez last January or this past summer. Fast forward to now and there is no doubt that Gomez is one of the leading contributors to “Liverpool 2.0.” He has certainly proved the doubters, including myself, horribly wrong. But what constituted a change in fortunes for our longest-serving player?
A Jack Of All Trades
The biggest feather in Gomez’s cap, even before his struggles, was his versatility. He has shown a knack for being able to play anywhere on the defensive line. His exceptional recovery pace and strength allowed him to play centrally or in either fullback spot. He routinely featured as a center half in Liverpool’s league title win in 2019-20. His role as a mainstay throughout our most successful era in the Premier League (modern) era is unquestioned.
But when things fell off for Gomez, folks turned on him quickly. That is why it is so refreshing to see him gaining redemption in 2023. He came into the campaign expected to be a fill-in at both center and full back. However, injuries to Andy Robertson, Kostas Tsimikas, and earlier on to Trent Alexander-Arnold pushed Gomez into a nearly every week role as a right or left back. As of now, he’s our left-back for January and has been exceptional in the majority of his appearances.
One of the biggest holes in Gomez’s “game” was always his unreliability. Any time he’d gain any momentum, he’d get injured. That’s largely been forgotten this year while his peers have all fallen around him.
There’s no question that availability is an increasingly overlooked, but valuable, trait to have as a footballer. Liverpool fans have always said that Gomez could make the leap from good to great if he were to overcome his injury woes. This season looks like a positive step in that direction. You can’t get redemption if you aren’t on the team sheet and Joe has featured on nearly all of them as either a starter or as a substitute.
Back To Form
On the subject of Gomez’s form, I would argue that only Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold have provided more consistency than the 26-year-old this season. Simply put, he’s playing like a player who has their confidence back. Funnily enough, that seems to coincide with the fact that he’s consistently starting games across all competitions.
The days of Gomez being the next big thing for England looks to have passed. However, if he continues to impress for the team currently sitting at the apex of the Premier League, there will be selection headaches for both Jurgen Klopp and England manager Gareth Southgate.
What’s His Best Position?
This may be a tough question to answer if you go by his performances this year. Gomez can be a victim of his versatility. While the former Charlton Athletic man has looked at home wherever he’s played, the question still remains. If Gomez were to make a push for a permanent starting XI berth, where would that be?
A popular (or unpopular if you’re a member of American Scouser’s Morning Coffee crew) option is establishing Gomez as the right-back while moving Trent into the midfield as either the 6 or the 8. What your position on a TAA move to midfield would mean is an extensive conversation in and of itself. But, there is certainly no question that Gomez is good enough to be a first-choice right back.
This redemption campaign, if nothing else, has shown that he could fill that role for nearly every team in the Premiership. Alexander-Arnold’s presence is the only reason he hasn’t done so at Liverpool to date. He lacks Trent’s dynamism in attack but is remarkably better on the defensive side of the ball to balance out what he lacks going forward.
Let’s not count out center back though. That still presents itself as an option given his run of form. The stiff competition for the right-sided spot next to Virgil limits opportunities though. We may be past the point of part-time work though with Gomez as he’s shown that starts produce results, especially a long run of them.
These are all tough conversations. Nevertheless, they are welcome ones. It’s been great to see Joe Gomez bounce back and force himself into Jurgen Klopp’s plans once again. What a difference a year makes. Full redemption.