Following Nathaniel Clyne‘s omission from Liverpool’s Champions League squad, Joe Gomez has become a crucial member of Liverpool’s first-team squad.
Six weeks ago, Gomez was being linked with a loan move to Brighton or Newcastle this summer, but after impressing Jurgen Klopp in pre-season, playing at right-back and centre-back, he finds himself as a crucial part of the manager’s squad.
Following the failed pursuit of Virgil van Dijk, and now Clyne seemingly being ruled out for another three months, injury to Gomez would leave Liverpool with only 18-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back, and only Ragnar Klavan as backup to Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren at centre-back.
Surprise key man
The shock news of Clyne not being included in Liverpool’s Champions League group stage squad means Gomez will vie for a starting berth at right-back with fellow youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold.
It isn’t necessarily the Englishman’s strongest position, but an excellent performance there in the 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal last time out again showcased his versatility.
He kept Alexis Sanchez quiet and also provided an assist for Roberto Firmino, following an inch-perfect cross with his weaker left foot.
If right-back looks Klopp’s most likely use of Gomez in the coming months, he will also likely need him to fill in at centre-back.
The more you think about it, the more that Liverpool not signing a centre-back this summer becomes increasingly unfathomable.
To only have Van Dijk as an option could well be seen as negligent, and it has left the Reds in a precarious position at the heart of the defence.
Matip and Lovren are the undisputed first-choice centre-back pairing, but Ragnar Klavan and Gomez are the only back-ups.
When you consider the poor injury records of Matip and Lovren – they picked up 13 different injuries between them last season – you suddenly realise Gomez could have to fill in more than first thought.
With four different competitions to tackle in 2017/18, that becomes even more likely, with many individuals sure to be rested in the League Cup and FA Cup.
Big test of Gomez’s credentials
There is every chance Gomez didn’t expect to be playing such a prominent role this season, but assuming he avoids another injury, he could end the campaign with over 40 appearances to his name.
Gomez, who suffered an ACL injury just days after Klopp was appointed as manager is still only 19 and will inevitably have the odd poor game this season.
His versatility is going to come in handy in a defence short of options, and we will learn a lot about his quality moving forward.
Liverpool need him to go from strength to strength, flourishing at right-back and centre-back, and proving to be someone to rely on.
A Gomez injury would leave Liverpool extremely short of options this autumn.