Joe Gomez Lacking Minutes At Liverpool

Gomez Liverpool
Photo Credit: AP

Joe Gomez once looked like Virgil van Dijk’s long-term central defensive partner.

Injuries, the arrival of Ibrahima Konate, and Joel Matip’s form have changed that. Gomez, instead, has fallen into a backup role, even popping up in Aston Villa transfer news as a possible summer target.

Gomez made just 11 starts in 2021-22, several of which were as a Trent Alexander-Arnold replacement at right-back rather than in his preferred position at the heart of defence.

With a contract expiring at the end of the 2023-24 campaign, transfer rumours were always inevitable with Gomez’s lack of game time.

He has fallen out of the England reckoning, having been leapfrogged by Fikayo Tomori and Marc Guehi in the pecking order.

Villa were an easy destination to speculate given the Steven Gerrard link, but John Percy of The Telegraph recently reported that there is now an expectation Gomez will extend his deal at Anfield.

Matip was first-choice next to van Dijk earlier in the campaign. Konate took the job down the stretch. Gomez is the fourth option in central defence at the moment, but he is still only 25 years old, and has his best years ahead of him.

He’s over half a decade younger than van Dijk and Matip. Liverpool’s lack of cover at right-back also makes him a useful piece as a Trent Alexander-Arnold replacement if they don’t sign another full-back this summer, too.

Klopp is clearly a fan of Gomez. He was very complimentary of the former Charlton man after he slotted in at right-back in the late-season win over Watford.

Klopp said, “It was a logical solution given the strength they had on the wings with really quick players.

“Joey did well defensively but also offensively as well. He should be really happy about it. It is no surprise we have quality on the bench.

“It’s a position he can play. It’s not his favourite position, his favourite position is centre-half and I get that. He is a really, really outstanding player for us in that position but he can play right back as well.”

Liverpool rate Gomez highly, and it looks like they will try to tie him down long-term. There’s a fair question to be asked about if that’s the right decision for Gomez, however.

He’s got his work cut out to earn minutes in central defence with Van Dijk showing no signs of decline, Matip still delivering and Konate having his best years ahead of him.

Sporadic opportunities at right-back aren’t a route to improvement for Gomez. He has to be playing regular minutes to force his way back into England reckoning ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

Klopp had a pop at Gareth Southgate for leaving Gomez out of the England squad in October.

“Sometimes Gareth reacts if you are not playing for your club you can’t play for the national team. Obviously there is a special thing for Mr Stones…

“He’s in top shape. Joe hasn’t been called up, it would have helped him. He’s an exceptional centre-half.

“We have five exceptional centre-backs. Nat Phillips is not in the squad but [neither is Ibrahima] Konate and Joe as well.”

England have a lot of options in central defence, but no players have really cemented themselves in Southgate’s starting XI. Gomez certainly has the ability to do so, yet he’s unlikely to have the opportunity at Liverpool.

Perhaps he begins to consider a move elsewhere, which would enable him to prove himself to Southgate.

Gomez hasn’t played for the Three Lions since 2020, though former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock believes he deserves to be in the squad despite limited action.

Warnock said, “Joe Gomez for me is arguably still one of England’s best centre-halves.

“Fully fit, I think Gareth Southgate would have him in his squad and he would arguably have him in his team. He is that good. His ability to read the game, to read situations, the pace that he has.

“I think it’s great to see him back on the football pitch. It’s going to take time for him. It’s a slow process for him but the big thing for him this season was to get through the season unscathed.”

Back in September 2021, Southgate spoke on Gomez’s future with England, citing his caution about handing him a recall.

“Joe we kept in contact with throughout his rehab. We would be very cautious about when we put Joe back in.

“The rehab from that injury is a really important one to get right, he needs to be settled in with Liverpool with plenty of minutes on the pitch feeling in a good place with all of that before we start thinking of selecting him with us.

“But he’s a boy we think a lot of and it’s good to see him close and available for selection which is great.”

Southgate’s desire for Gomez to have ‘plenty of minutes’ is a real roadblock to an England return. An injury to Alexander-Arnold is his best chance at becoming a Liverpool starter, but he’s never making the England squad as a right-back.

Should Gomez push for a move, or Liverpool decide to cash in, a lot of clubs will be interested in the high-upside defender. Aston Villa have been rumoured most frequently, but Newcastle, Leicester, West Ham and Spurs have also been reported as potential suitors.

Newcastle clearly have the resources to stump up a hefty fee for Gomez, and could look to build their defence around the England international.

Leicester’s back line is riddled with uncertainty long-term aside from the brilliant Wesley Fofana. Gomez would be a great signing for Spurs in Antonio Conte’s back three and he would be a clear upgrade for West Ham.

Gomez is in a position of power with just two years left on his deal. He can extend at Anfield, collect more trophies and hope to earn more regular starts in central defence.

If that doesn’t appeal, he can either ask to leave or simply hold off on contract negotiations until his role at the club is clearer.

In a few years, this could be reflected on as the pivotal summer of Gomez’s career.