Sunday’s unlikely 1-0 win at the Britannia Stadium was making a good case for being included in a ‘Worst Premier League Games Of All Time’ list, until Philippe Coutinho popped up with that sublime late winner.
The most refreshing thing about an otherwise forgettable performance was how Liverpool’s defence coped away at one of the Premier League‘s most formidable grounds.
Dejan Lovren deservedly received lots of praise for his dominant display in the centre of defence, but there was also great reason for positivity with the full-backs.
Suddenly, Liverpool have a pair of defensively sound options on the flanks of the back four.
Solid at Stoke
Both rightfully started on Sunday however, following strong pre-season showings, and they were rock solid against Mark Hughes’ side.
Clyne was particularly impressive, and the way in which he kept the dangerous Ibrahim Afellay quiet perfectly illustrated how good the England international is defensively.
He has pace in abundance, but his general positional sense and discipline really are top-class. The 24-year-old won 100 percent of his attempted tackles and aerial duels, which epitomises his dominance.
Clyne couldn’t be much different from his predecessor Glen Johnson.
Gomez, meanwhile, had the job of containing Jon Walters; a player incredibly limited in terms of natural talent, but someone who has always irritatingly caused Liverpool problems.
Considering it was the 18-year-old’s Premier League debut, the way in which he coped with the experienced Walters was admirable.
His performance may not have been perfect – there was the odd error both on and off the ball – but he still looked a safer option than Alberto Moreno.
The Spaniard has his work cut out in getting back into the side on Sunday’s evidence, with Gomez’s inexperience the only thing working against him right now.
A Long Time Coming
Of course, Clyne and Gomez’s form could disintegrate, but it really does feel as though Liverpool have sorted an area of the pitch where they have struggled for many years.
The last genuinely strong full-back pairing the Reds had at their disposal was Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Aurelio, who were terrific under Rafa Benitez in the late 2000s.
Since then, we have had to put up with a plethora of defensively shoddy full-backs, who have helped make the Reds look like a disaster waiting to happen at the back.
Philipp Degen, Jose Enrique and Paul Konchesky are just a few who stand out, while Johnson, despite being a level up from that trio, was never good enough barring a decent start to life at Anfield.
Moreno is still a work in progress who might grow to be a fantastic left-back, but he was culpable for a few important goals last season, not least his brain-dead error against Manchester City 12 months ago.
The Need for Backup
One thing that should definitely worry Liverpool fans is the lack of depth at full-back—should Clyne or Gomez get injured, what is there?
Moreno is obviously an adequate replacement on the left, but with Jon Flanagan injured, Javi Manquillo’s loan being terminated and Andre Wisdom joining Norwich City on loan this summer, there is no recognised replacement on the right.
Hopefully Brendan Rodgers hasn’t got an eye on playing Emre Can there if Clyne gets injured, but he currently looks like the most likely backup.
With a few weeks of the summer transfer window still remaining, it may well be an area that Rodgers looks at making late additions to.
Had Coutinho not curled home that beauty on Sunday, the chances are that there would be a swell of negativity surrounding the Stoke game. As it is however, winning tends to keep the masses happy.
Of the few positives to take from the game, the displays of Clyne and Gomez should certainly be looked at as one of the biggest.
The two Englishman may not be the most expansive full-backs in the history of the game – Gomez is a centre-back by trade – but their defensive nous looks to have solved some of Liverpool’s recent woes at the back.
Statistics courtesy of Squawka.
More from Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Stoke City:
- ANALYSIS: Can introduction changes the game
- INTERVIEW: Brendan Rodgers: Happy with the win, but work to do
- MATCH REPORT: Late Coutinho stunner earns Reds priceless win
- RATINGS: Stoke City 0-1 Liverpool: Player Ratings
- REACTION: Media and Liverpool fans react to Coutinho magic and late win over Stoke