Joe Gomez‘s season-ending injury is a bitter blow for the youngster, but it also exposes Liverpool’s increasingly frail defensive line.
It was confirmed on Wednesday that Gomez suffered a suspected cruciate ligament injury for England’s Under-21s a day earlier.
The 18-year-old is set to miss up to nine months of action, which makes his chances of appearing again in 2015/16 highly unlikely.
It is huge a blow for Gomez, who had made such an impressive start to life at Anfield following his £3.5 million move from Charlton Athletic in the summer.
The highly rated defender will no doubt have been excited at the prospect of working with new Reds manager Jurgen Klopp—but for now that will have to wait.
What Gomez’s injury does highlight is Klopp’s need to strengthen his defence in January, with a dearth of quality at the back now hugely evident.
Lack of Options
Liverpool weren’t exactly brimming with talent in defence prior to this Gomez setback, and things now look even more of an issue.
Should Alberto Moreno now also get injured, it will mean having to call upon Jose Enrique at left-back—a frightening thought for many.
The Spaniard has somehow managed to remain at Anfield despite a complete lack of playing time, and he is nowhere near good enough to fill in should he be needed.
Right-back is an equally alarming situation, with Nathaniel Clyne the only available player in that position.
Jon Flanagan remains on the sidelines, and won’t be back to his best for a while, and Gomez’s absence now heaps even more pressure on Clyne to stay fit.
It is not unlikely that James Milner would be required to play there if Clyne suffers a setback.
Centre-back—Gomez’s natural position—is not as much of a problem, but to say Liverpool look strong there would certainly be a stretch.
Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel look set to be Klopp’s first-choice pairing, with Dejan Lovren and Kolo Toure acting as backup. It doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence.
Given Sakho’s past problems with injury, Skrtel’s inconsistency, Lovren’s general ineptitude and Toure’s age, Gomez not being around will potentially hurt.
It also raises question marks over Brendan Rodgers’ decision to send Tiago Ilori on loan to Aston Villa this season.
Gomez’s injury will hopefully make owner Fenway Sports Group realise the need for new faces in January, and Klopp’s arrival as manager surely heightens the chances of bringing in guaranteed quality.
Midfield and attack is probably covered for now—top-class additions will definitely be needed in those areas next summer—so reinforcement at the back is paramount.
It is mainly at full-back where Liverpool are crying out for depth, and Klopp must have an idea of players he could bring in there.
Germany World Cup winner Benedikt Howedes, a centre-back by trade who can play at left-back, has already hinted at a move to Liverpool. He would be ideal.
Klopp will find it far harder to pry players away in January in comparison to the summer months, but his reputation as one of the world’s top coaches can only work in his favour.
Moreno and Clyne are very solid first-choice options at left and right-back respectively, but such are the demands of the modern game, playing them week in, week out is just not feasible.
This applies even more under Klopp’s relentless style of play, and an overuse of players would see them exhausted come the business end of the season.
Klopp’s arrival as manager has lifted the spirits of everyone associated with the club, and suddenly finishing in the top four feels far from impossible.
There are some supporters who believe the Reds could even mount a surprise title challenge which, given the lack of genuinely formidable teams in the Premier League at the moment, may not be completely ludicrous.
For either of these things to happen, however, Liverpool’s squad has to be bolstered in the New Year.
Gomez’s injury has once again highlighted how few defensive options Klopp is going to find himself with, and significant injuries to the likes of Moreno, Sakho and Clyne could prove to be disastrous.
A subsequent layoff for Danny Ings, who is set to miss the rest of the season with a similar injury, only adds to the issue.
This is a wonderful opportunity for the Reds to close the gap on the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.
It would be a crying shame if they missed their chance because of a failure to strengthen.