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The good, the bad and Gomez’s future – Last word on Liverpool 2-0 Watford

Liverpool kept up their title bid and saw another fringe figure step up as they beat Watford 2-0 on Saturday, with Joe Gomez giving food for thought at right-back.

The Reds returned from a long international break to welcome relegation candidates Watford to Anfield, and though it was far from a classic, they sealed a 10th consecutive league win.

Diogo Jota netted the opening goal, heading home from stand-in right-back Gomez’s delivery, before VAR stepped in to allow Fabinho to score from the spot late on.

Victory saw Liverpool briefly overtake Man City at the top of the Premier League, before returning to second place later in the day.

It kept the title hopes alive ahead of the Reds’ trip to the Etihad on Sunday, and left plenty to talk about, particularly when it comes to the situation surrounding Gomez.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Jack Lusby (@LusbyJack) is joined by regular contributor Keifer MacDonald (@KeiferMacd) to pick apart this latest win and discuss Gomez’s future.

 

The good…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 2, 2022: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Watford FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

KEIFER: I think first and foremost it’s important to remember that games after the international break are never the spectacle we would expect at other points during the season – even more so given the stake of the international games that were played over the last two weeks.

It was an afternoon to forget for the Reds in front of goal – aside from Jota and Fabinho’s strikes – as they could and probably should have challenged Ben Foster more than they did.

But the flip side is that Liverpool’s defence marshalled them through a tricky afternoon’s work once again.

That is now 13 clean sheets from 20 games in 2022 so far, highlighting just how adaptable this Liverpool side is to win it in different ways.

Joe Gomez, too. But we’ll get on to that later…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 2, 2022: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Watford FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JACK: I agree with Keifer that it wasn’t the manner of the win but the fact the game was won that was all that mattered.

With the likes of Jota, Fabinho, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane all going through the physical wringer during the international break, it was only important that the three points were secured.

As has often been the case this season, the defence was vital to this, and none more so than Alisson as he pulled off another crucial save just before the opener.

And how about that header from Diogo? His ninth headed goal for Liverpool and his 20th goal of the season!

 

The bad…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 2, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Watford FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

KEIFER: I think if you look at the game in its wider context, it’s hard to find anything to be too negative about.

At this stage of the season, when games are coming thicker and faster, the mentality is just to get over the line and then analyse the games as a collective at some point in the future.

But if I had to be critical, I was disappointed with Curtis Jones on what was another huge platform for him to stake his claim ahead of the remaining two months of the season.

I think he’d be the first to tell you that it has been a season to forget for him personally, for a number of reasons; injuries, squad depth and finding consistency to name a few.

And on Saturday there were a few misplaced passes, poor turnovers in possession and some additionally poor choices in the final third, which all culminated in him being withdrawn 15 minutes into the second half.

With Harvey Elliott being forced to drop down to the under-23s in order to gain minutes, Jones could soon find himself slipping down the pecking order if he continues to squander chances to impress his boss.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 2, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah applauds the supporters as he is substituted during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Watford FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JACK: We really can’t take too many negatives from this game. It was exactly what we needed.

But I would echo the concern over the wasteful approach in the final third: both Jota and Jones were particularly guilty of it, and it could have been costly on another day.

Meanwhile, it’s clear Salah is not in his best moment and that the burden of representing Egypt in back-to-back failures has taken its toll in 2022.

Could there even be an argument for benching him at the Etihad next weekend?

 

And can Klopp give Gomez the minutes to keep him happy?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 2, 2022: Liverpool's Joe Gomez during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Watford FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

KEIFER: Obviously, another huge positive was Gomez’s impressive all-round display at his lesser-preferred role at right-back.

It’s the second game in a row that he has looked more at home when performing that role and these two auditions will provide Klopp with plenty of food for thought over the next weeks as the Reds look to complete an unprecedented quadruple.

For Gomez, on the whole, it’s been a frustrating first season back from his long-term injury and one he’ll be looking to put firmly behind him as he prepares for next season.

But given the Alexander-Arnold-sized dilemma that the Liverpool manager has, as he looks to balance rotation with quality, Gomez has proven that between now and the end of May he is more than capable of standing in for his compatriot when required.

It is an option that will only boost the Reds’ chances of creating further history.

JACK: It is rare that we’re disappointed by Gomez’s contribution, and it was even better to see him lay on the assist as he stood in at right-back.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 2, 2022: Liverpool's Joe Gomez during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Watford FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

But whether he is willing to stay on in this backup role is questionable.

It is almost impossible to shift Alexander-Arnold as the starting right-back, while Van Dijk is going nowhere and Konate is next in line behind the brilliant Matip.

With his contract up in 2024, there could be a decision to make over Gomez this summer – particularly if there are designs on Sepp van den Berg moving into the first-team setup.

I’d still back Gomez to stay and perhaps even reclaim a starting role at centre-back; it has been such a fluid hierarchy over the years, and it wasn’t long ago that he was Virgil’s first-choice partner.

A buildup of minutes between now and the end of May, combined with the expected departures of Neco Williams, Nat Phillips and James Milner in the summer, could be enough to convince him there’s a long-term future at Anfield.

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