Case for the Defense: Joe Gomez to centre back?
Amid the muted fanfare over England’s 0-0 draw with Brazil on Tuesday night, two Liverpool players have emerged from the game with their stock raised significantly. New signing Dominic Solanke came off the bench to get his first cap for his country -- and nearly grabbed the winner in the dying minutes -- but it is Joe Gomez who is grabbing the headlines today.
After an impressive debut against Germany last week, Gomez played against Brazil as part of a back three along with Harry Maguire and John Stones -- a pairing who have been bought for big money by Leicester and Manchester City alike -- and put in a display that has had the collective football press purring. An undisputed Man of the Match award for Gomez will have Reds fans smiling this morning. The question now is, what does it mean for Liverpool?
A Shift To Centre-Back?
It’s fair to say that despite a decent league standing just outside the top four at this stage of the season, things could be a lot worse for the Reds. However, the Anfield back four has drawn as many brickbats as the forwards have won bouquets. As Mo Salah bangs them in at one end, Dejan Lovren lets them past at the other. While the attack draws comparison with Barcelona, the defence looks more like Bognor Regis. What we’re saying is, it’s not been great defence-wise.
Relatively speaking, Gomez is one of the few defenders who has acquitted himself well. The fly in the ointment is that he’s done it playing at right-back, which begs the question: is he better in the centre? Also, if he can keep Neymar quiet for a night, could he not be relied on to smother Manolo Gabbiadini when Southampton visit this weekend?
Clyne Injury Muddies The Water
It’s fair to say that at the start of the summer, Joe was expected to be the deputy right-back to the now-injured Nathaniel Clyne at club level. To suddenly find himself in the centre of defence for his country is a rapid elevation and a shift of position at the same time, yet he performed excellently.
The issue it raises is that a similar move for Liverpool would leave things a bit threadbare at right-back. Boylesports, a recommended bookmaker on Gamblingkingz, have Liverpool at 5/4 to qualify for the Champions' League currently. With odds so finely-balanced, is it a risk too far to move Gomez to the centre, and pick the relatively untried Trent Alexander-Arnold at right back, until Clyne returns in February?
A Change of Formation?
Eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed that Gomez’s spectacular showing for England came as part of a back three. As a preference, though, Jurgen Klopp has been lining his men up in a 4-3-3. While a 3-4-3 could work, it may well affect the attacking balance of a trio which has profited from the support of three central midfielders. A change of formation seems like a bit of a gamble for no guaranteed benefit so another question arises: can Gomez play as one of two centre-backs? If so, who makes way?
Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan showed up well enough against West Ham a fortnight ago, but, you know, West Ham. Matip certainly seems like the sturdier of the two, so could we see him partnering Gomez against Southampton? Given the season so far, it’s worth considering.