When you see Virgil van Dijk play, it’s clear to see why so many of the plaudits go his way. He is, in every sense, a defensive behemoth, and he is currently the yardstick for all centre-backs.
Peerless at what he does, he has been credited with enhancing Dejan Lovren’s consistency and he is partially responsible for Joël Matip carrying his game up another level. Individuals now only expect his defensive partners to enhance but in regards to Joe Gomez, it is somewhat different.
The prior Charlton Athletic kid does not only piggyback the performances of the Liverpool No.4, but he also competes with the Netherlands captain. That is not to mention Lovren and Matip do not do the exact same but when both of these partner Van Dijk it’s clear who the alpha is.
After two matches without a clean sheet, the Premier League leaders listed another shut-out from the midweek win over West Ham United.
Before that, Liverpool had not kept a clean sheet in 11 games.
Since that time, only two teams have scored against the European champions in the 11 matches the 22-year-old has emerged in. Wolverhampton Wanderers did so from the Premier League lately and Monterrey struck at the semi-final of the Club World Cup.
Liverpool have been nearly impenetrable recently.
This was the case last year when Gomez and Van Dijk began the season facing Alisson. The England international made ten starts at centre-back prior to an injury derailed his promising effort. In those matches, Klopp’s side conceded just four goals. However, in the 18 matches, Gomez has begun alongside the 2nd most expensive defender in the world, the Reds are breached on just the five occasions.
Now, the sample size is not the biggest but it’s over 1,600 minutes worth of information. There is enough there to begin reading into.
It was not long ago reports surfaced asserting Gomez was miserable at Liverpool. There was even talk of attention from Arsenal. Earlier in the campaign, he had to settle for a spot on the bench. But he has been instrumental in the Reds winning the Club World Cup and extending their lead at the peak of the Premier League to 19 points. It would be tough to imagine Michael Edwards agreeing to part ways with the versatile defender under any conditions.
The fact his dominant performance against West Ham went under the radar is an indication of exactly how great Gomez was since returning to the group. On the night, he won 100 percent of his aerial duels. He was also the most involved player for Liverpool after Jordan Henderson, finishing over 100 passes. And despite his aggressive style, the opposition just managed to dribble past him once.
And it is not only in the defensive third, but he is also having an effect. Gomez’s use of this ball is an integral part of Liverpool’s attacking arsenal. Since returning to centre-back, the 22-year-old is trying, normally, 91 passes per 90 and locating a team-mate with 89 percent.
But he is not just playing easy five-yard passes. He is frequently breaking the defensive lines of the resistance and receiving the Reds into dangerous places.
Gomez is fast maturing into a distinctive centre-back and in this current pace, it’s merely a matter of time until he is rivalling van Dijk for the accolade of the Premier League’s greatest defender.