Joe Gomez change sends Liverpool clear message over Mohamed Salah departure

The increasingly-transmitted song on the Kop claims there’s no one like Joe Gomez. Fortunately for Jurgen Klopp, though, the defender is not the only unexpected reason Liverpool continue to perform beyond expectations this season.

Less than a year ago, it appeared Gomez was heading towards the point of no return. A hugely inconsistent campaign underlined by his outstanding display against Manchester City being followed less than a fortnight later by a disastrous outing in home defeat to Leeds United reached a nadir when a personal nightmare in the Champions League thumping to Real Madrid at Anfield was truncated by a hamstring problem.

The centre-back featured just twice more following his return from injury, with Liverpool having switched formation and started on the road to recovery towards a new team. Gomez, it appeared, was in danger of being left behind.

However, for good reason did Gomez pen a new deal the previous summer, after which he explained his willingness to fight for his place in the belief there was still a role for him to play at Liverpool. Giving up on the Reds after overcoming several major injury setbacks wasn’t a decision to be taken lightly.

And this season he has been revitalised. With 25 outings in 29 outings – more than half of which have been as a starter – Gomez is only six short of his tally for the whole of the previous term, his versatility seeing him start at both centre-back and right-back before assuming the role of emergency left-back in the wake of injuries to both Andy Robertson and Kostas Tsimikas.

His subsequent impressive performances have been acknowledged by the Liverpool support with Jurgen Klopp himself making a point after recent games of praising the contribution of Gomez, for whom England recognition could be on the horizon with Euro 2024 taking place at the end of the season.

The Reds’ longest-serving current player – and, it’s worth noting, still only 26 – has epitomised how players predominantly presumed as the supporting cast are stepping out on to centre stage, bolstering both the fortunes of the team and their own Anfield careers.

Tsimikas was one before his injury, taking time to reacclimatise after such a long period waiting in the wings but delivering a string of fine outings before his season was abruptly brought to a halt by Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka.

Wataru Endo is similar, a surprise signing from Stuttgart in the summer whose early struggles were a necessary evil for what was to follow, the Japan international adapting in timely fashion to deputise for the injured Alexis Mac Allister and start the last eight games. He will be missed during his spell at the Asia Cup in Qatar.

There are more. Harvey Elliott will hope to ultimately become something more, but the youngster has been both an impressive Premier League impact player and cup specialist, often providing an injection of tempo at key times and starting to contribute big moments.

Another 20-year-old, centre-back Jarell Quansah, has been the breakthrough star from the Academy with composed showings during his 14 outings belying his previous lack of top-level experience. And Joel Matip’s excellent form before his season-ending injury had seen him edge ahead of Ibrahima Konate as first-choice defensive partner to Virgil van Dijk.

And while Mohamed Salah is the first choice on the right flank, none of the other four senior options can truly be considered first-choice this campaign, even if Luis Diaz has been the more regular down the left flank.

With Salah now away with Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations, another place is potentially up for grabs for the short-term between Diaz, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota and Cody Gakpo, with Elliott another real option.

Replacing Salah will provide the ultimate test of Liverpool’s ongoing ability this season of having sufficient stand-ins to keep Klopp’s new-look team in contention. Gomez, though, is proving what can be achieved.



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