For the past two Premier League seasons Liverpool have boasted the best defensive recording the league. With Alisson in goal, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson at full-back and Virgil van Dijk in the centre of defence, four out of five of the defensive positions for Liverpool have been secure and stable. The final piece of the puzzle comes in the right-centre back position. The likes of Fabinho, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip have all enjoyed minutes in the back four, but the first-choice partner for van Dijk appears to be England international Joe Gomez.
In the following scout report I will present a tactical analysis using data and traditional scouting. I will also look at tactics in order to produce an analysis of Joe Gomez and his role at Liverpool.
I have broken down the data analysis into three sections. The first section is the aerial performance of Premier League central defenders.Data from fbref.com
Here we can see Gomez is performing above the median in both aerial duels p90 and his aerial duels win percentage. He is operating below the level of his Liverpool teammate van Dijk but on the whole is above average in this aspect.
The second section I have broken down the data analysis into is the defensive performance of central defenders on the ground.Data from fbref.com
Gomez again is operating above the median success rate in terms of his tackle win percentage. He however, attempts less tackles p90 than the median volume attempted by other Premier League centre backs. This is perhaps not too surprising given that Liverpool for the most part dominate possession over their opponents and as such their defence is less active when it comes to making tackles. He does however outperform van Dijk in this aspect of the game according to the data.
The third section focuses on the progressive passing rates of Premier League centre backs.Data from fbref.com
From the data we can see that Joe Gomez is the central defender who has the most live touches of the ball p90 in the Premier League. Gomez however is quite active when it comes to playing a progressive pass. His data profile here is ver similar to van Dijk, suggesting that the Liverpool teammates share quite a similar style of play when it comes to their progressive passing.
The final section is how readily Premier League centre backs carry the ball.Data from fbref.com
Gomez attempts more dribbles p90 than the average Premier League centre back and is much more willing to carry the ball than teammate van Dijk.
When making an initial analysis of the data, Gomez is reflected very favourably. He has an above-average tackle success rate and aerial duel win success rate. He is also active with his possession of the ball, playing an above-average number of progressive passes and attempting an above-average number of dribbles p90.
After the initial data analysis, I undertook some more traditional video analysis to form the full scout report of Joe Gomez. The first aspect of his game that I analysed was his use of the ball when he has possession.
The first aspect of Gomez’s game that I will look at is his use of the ball.
Right flank build-up
Trent Alexander-Arnold is one of the best crosses and progressive passers in the league. As such, Joe Gomez’s focuses a lot of his passing into the feet of Alexander-Arnold when he is in advanced positions.
When Gomez drills the ball into Alexander-Arnold as early as he can, he gives Trent the opportunity to get his head up and put an early ball into the box before the opposition defence is able to set themselves in their own box.
If Trent is able to get onto the ball before the opposition defence is ready to set then Liverpool can attempt to exploit 1v1 situations in the middle such as in the image above.
Gomez is a very capable passer of the ball in these situations. He likes to drill the ball into Trent’s feet so that he is able to take one touch and open up the pitch. In the images above we can see that the weighting of Gomez’s pass allows Trent to take a touch and then assess his three dangerous options he has ahead of him.
Vertical progressive passes
Whilst Gomez does favour moving the ball into the likes of Alexander-Arnold or a dropping midfielder in the defensive right-half space (a favoured build-up position of Liverpool’s) he is also capable of progressing the ball vertically himself.
Gomez is very quick to identify space and opportunities to bypass opposition pressure whether that be in his own half or the opposition half.
As he does with his passes to the RB, Gomez often hits his passes firmly thus allowing his teammates to quickly receive the pass and turn immediately to maximise their dangerous positioning.
A huge threat that Liverpool pose to opposition sides is their ability to sustain attacks. Liverpool have a world-renowned pressing game but an often undervalued aspect of their pressing game is their ability to maintain attacks even when the ball is cleared. Joe Gomez is often the player tasked with using the ball as efficiently as possible to sustain Liverpool attacks.
In the above image Atléti have partially cleared a Liverpool set-piece. Virgil van Dijk is still in the middle of the box which could pose a potential counter-attacking opportunity for the home side. Gomez is aware of this and looks the maintain the attack against a somewhat disjointed Atléti. He strides onto the ball and drills a pass into the feet of Roberto Firmino who is in a dangerous position.
Chelsea have cleared a Liverpool corner above and Joe Gomez has swept up the ball, with almost all the Chelsea defenders still trying to move out of their own box, Gomez quickly moves the ball out wide in order to allow his side to exploit a disjointed Chelsea backline. Gomez could have kept the play simple by knocking the ball to his right or back to the goalkeeper but he senses an opportunity for his side and is able to execute it.
In the image above, van Dijk is telling Gomez to play the ball simple, back to the goalkeeper. Gomez however notices an attacking opportunity with Atléti struggling to press successfully. He plays the ball into Henderson’s feet who has the freedom of the midfield to turn and begin to dictate play again.
Again a Liverpool corner has been cleared and Gomez is there to sweep up. Much like the previous examples he tries to sustain the attack and exploit the disconnected Atléti defensive shape.
Switching the play
A switch of play can be an incredibly effective tool in a side’s arsenal. Teams attempt to create overloads on the corners of opposition defences and move the ball into that area as quickly as possible. Liverpool are particularly proficient when it comes to this tactic with Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson being two of the biggest beneficiaries of this in the league. Below are a few examples of Joe Gomez playing pinpoint passes in an attempt to exploit space on the corner of opposition defences.
Gomez is adept at identifying space and often combines this vision with his ability to find his target with long passes.
In the image above Mo Salah has moved into a dangerous position as Divock Origi is holding the attention of the Atléti right-back. Gomez sees this and plays a pinpoint cross to Salah who is unable to covert from 10 yards.
Carrying the ball to bypass pressure
Whilst Gomez is adept at passing the ball he is also able to carry the ball to bypass opposition pressure.
In the images above Gomez invites pressure from the Atléti forwards before carrying the ball past his challenger, opening up the field for a number of passes that were previously unavailable to him.
The above image shows a very similar example of Gomez inviting pressure before beating a man and opening up a number of passing options.
Joe Gomez likes to defend on the front foot which is unsurprising for a Liverpool defender. However, Gomez often finds himself being too aggressive in certain situations and leaving himself and his teammates exposed.
In attempting to win the ball back early Gomez looks the pressurise Morata but isn’t in the best position to do so and instead finds himself in a no-man’s land position.
In the above images Gomez again overcommits and leaves himself in no-man’s land.
In a slightly different example Gomez is late to pressure Morata who is able to easily play a one-two around the central defender and drive towards the goal before slotting it past Adrian.
In a team with next to no glaring issues, the closest Liverpool get to a true and consistent weakness is the space in their RCB/RB channel. Whilst Trent Alexander-Arnold is lauded as one of the best offensive right-backs in the world his defensive work can often leave a lot to be desired. Opposition attackers often move from out to in and attack the space between Gomez and Alexander-Arnold.
The most vulnerable area in Liverpool’s defensive line often appears to be the space behind Joe Gomez.
The above image is the lead-up to Marcos Llorente’s first goal in Champion’s League extra time for Atléti. Adrian initially gives the ball away with a poor pass but it is Gomez decision to rush towards Joao Felix that ultimately opens Liverpool’s defensive line up completely.
Gomez often finds himself flat-footed and squared up which makes it fairly simple for opposition attackers to exploit the space behind him this was particularly evident in the recent games against Atlético Madrid.
Penalty area awareness
In a number of Liverpool’s recent games they conceded goals to players who were unmarked in the centre of their area, on both occasions Gomez could be attributed at being responsible for marking the scorer.
Gomez tries to anticipate the pull-back to the penalty spot not being aware that Wilson was position directly behind in him a great scoring position. By making a movement towards the Bournemouth player on the edge of the box, Gomez unbalances himself making it impossible to recover and intercept Lerma’s cross for Wilson who has a tap-in.
In a similar example below, Gomez this time takes a step towards his own goal and away from Fornals.
In taking a step away from Fornals and to his own goal his gives the Spanish midfielder too much space and is unable to block his strike which finds the back of the net.
Anticipation and covering his partner
When Gomez plants his feet and squares his body up he finds it very difficult to get himself into the correct position to anticipate and snuff out danger. However, when he is early to anticipate danger and get himself into the optimal position he is incredibly capable of covering in behind and stopping dangerous attacks.
In the image above he anticipates the pass in behind his partner and given his body shape he is able to use his physicality to cover the space and beat Felix to the ball.
In a similar example, Gomez sees that Diego Costa is looking to move into the space behind van Dijk. The English defender moves early to prevent Costa from receiving the ball 1v1 against Adrian.
Instead of covering in the LCB channel, Gomez is defending his own RCB channel. He again anticipates the pass in behind and orientates his body so that he is able to prevent any danger in the Liverpool box.
As mentioned earlier in the report, at times Alexander-Arnold’s defensive game can be less than ideal. As such, Joe Gomez is often tasked with covering both the RB and the RCB channels. In his first full-season at Liverpool Gomez was deployed, almost exclusively, at RB. Whilst during his time at Charlton his playing time was mixed between RB and CB. As a result of playing in two positions during his early professional football years he developed a number of transferrable skills for the two positions. This can be very effective when Gomez is tasked with covering for Alexander-Arnold.
With Alexander-Arnold caught ahead of the ball Gomez is forced to cover both the wide RB channel and his own RCB channel. He is able to hold up the Atléti attack and also cover the ball once it is played in behind the Liverpool defensive line.
The two below examples were taken from Liverpool’s recent victory over West Ham. On the two occasions highlighted Alexander-Arnold moves to pressures his opposition man, leaving space behind himself. Gomez is tracking Michail Antonio who is a very persistent runner.
On both occasions Gomez is able to cover across and beat Antonio to the ball, averting the danger.
It is worth remembering that despite the fact Joe Gomez is somewhat a household name in the Premier League having already amassed 100 first-team appearances for Liverpool he is still incredibly young at just 22.
He is already considered a top defender with a very varied skillset. He fits incredibly well into the Liverpool system with his ability to identify space and play pinpoint switches of the play. His understanding of how best to use his teammates to benefit the team is impressive for a player still at a young age, particularly the way he and Alexander-Arnold combine to progress the ball. His natural physique makes him a difficult defender to beat both in the air and one on one.
The major area in which he can improve his game is his lack of awareness when it comes to players exploiting the space between him and his RB but also the space directly behind him. When Gomez finds himself squared up and flat-footed he often struggles to readjust and get himself back into a good defensive position. His proactiveness when it comes to defending on the front-foot can be a real benefit to his team particularly in order to help sustain attacks, but he can often find himself defending too aggressively and being easily spun and leaving his defensive teammates exposed.
One thing worth noting is that at just 22 he has already suffered a number of fairly serious injuries. He has undergone two lots of ankle surgery (transfermarkt) as well as missing 67 games in his early Liverpool career due to achilles tendon problems and a cruciate ligament injury. Whilst these injuries don’t appear to have affected Gomez’s game in all aspect it would be a potential worry going forward, especially given the way he utilises his natural athleticism in his game.