Haven’t you heard? When Joe Gomez plays, Liverpool don’t concede. The 22-year-old has rediscovered top form recently to re-win a place in the team.
After impressing so much from the start of last season, the English defender’s place alongside Virgil van Dijk looked assured, in his favoured role of centre-back.
Injury struck, though, and just as he had seized his chance, Joel Matip then went and did the same, enjoying a superb run throughout 2019 to be the first-choice for Jurgen Klopp, including into this term.
Now fortunes have reversed once more, with Matip missing out and Gomez reinstated before Christmas—and he has been utterly imperious, helping the Reds to even more impressive new levels.
In fact, Gomez’s name on the team-sheet has coincided with a great run of form in terms of the defence, which has racked up the clean sheets with regularity of late – just as they did when he was in the side last term with Van Dijk.
F365 writer Daniel Storey noted on Twitter that Gomez has been on what is fast-approaching a two-year run of barely conceding any goals in the Premier League—though the game tally also is a reminder that he hasn’t always been available.
Stretching back to April 2018, Liverpool have conceded six goals in Joe Gomez's last 22 Premier League starts.
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) January 22, 2020
Even so, it’s an outrageous statistic in its own right—but digging deeper, more evidence can be found of Gomez’s influence on the defence.
Liverpool have kept seven clean sheets in a row in the league, with Gomez playing every minute of all of those fixtures. Add in games against Salzburg, Monterrey, Flamengo and Everton across various cups, and it’s 10 clean sheets in 11 with just one goal conceded—and our No. 12 is the only defender to play in every one of those games.
An article in the Times by James Gheerbrant sheds further light on the impact made by Gomez.
Gheerbrant attributes a significant drop in shots faced (10.4 to 7.1) by Liverpool, shots on target faced (2.9 to 2.0) and expected goals value (1.01 to 0.70) of those chances to Gomez returning to the team, compared to the 14 games he didn’t feature in earlier this year.
And it’s not just defensively, but in possession, where Gomez makes his mark.
He plays more passes than any defender, is second only to Man City‘s Rodri in the entire league for average number per game and, since he returned in December, the Reds have played over 100 passes per game more in their own half—without any noticeable drop-off in passes further up the field.
The confidence Gomez has right now no doubt contributes enormously to his immense playing form, but that confidence has been earned over years of training and improvement.
There’s absolutely no reason to suspect a drop-off is in store, with him or any other Liverpool player, and he has once again established himself as a genuinely elite performer in this trophy-winning team.
A long-term partnership with Van Dijk at the back is again in his control; fitness and form, as ever, dictate how long that lasts. He’s in control of one of those aspects, and is showing himself to be easily among the league’s very finest centre-back.