It is safe to say that the Liverpool of the last campaign was not the side Klopp envisages when he plans for training sessions and games – particularly during pre-season.
Following injuries to Van Dijk, Gomez and then Joel Matip, the Reds were hamstrung in terms of their approach, with their stand-in centre-backs – namely Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams – more limited in their game.
The academy pair filled in to a strong standard, helping Liverpool to a third-placed finish, but chopping and changing at the back saw Klopp sacrifice his ideals to an extent.
Though they line up at the heart of the defence, the loss of Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip had a big impact on the Reds’ buildup when it comes to their attack, which has already been shown on their return to pre-season.
Gomez looks to have improved his long-range passing during his time on the sidelines, with Klopp describing it as a “nice little asset.”
“Having the centre-halves back, playing football, you can see Joey with new long balls from left to right to left, a nice little asset,” he told the club’s official website.
“It’s good, we can switch the game quicker maybe.”
While Phillips and Williams can execute long-range passes at times, they are not able to do so with the consistency of Liverpool‘s established senior centre-backs.
If Liverpool are able to “switch the game quicker,” as Klopp details, they can spot gaps in the opposition’s defence by springing accurate balls out to the likes of Mane, Salah, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
It is an asset that Ibrahima Konate possesses, too, with the Frenchman also blessed with the recovery pace that allows him, Gomez, Van Dijk and Matip to operate more comfortably in the high line Klopp desires.
So having the centre-backs fit again will certainly aid Liverpool in a defensive sense – but it should also give them a boost in terms of their attack ahead of 2021/22.