The ink has dried: Liverpool have indeed become the champions of England, putting an end to a 30-year-long league title drought. Unlike the last campaign, Jurgen Klopp’s side haven’t managed to enthral their fans with breathless attacking football.
The German’s team have been a lot more measured this time around and used their unmatched determination and discipline to grind out results.
They have conceded, of course — even more than last season — but there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Every Liverpool fan across the world would happily sing about the exploits of Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk, talk about the adventurous full-backs, and even advertise Roberto Firmino has the best 9.5 in the world.
However, rarely do they talk about one of the most — if not the most — underrated players in the squad, Van Dijk’s silent partner, Joe Gomez.
The 23-year-old isn’t as dominant as his “big brother” Virgil van Dijk, he doesn’t have the physical superiority that sets his defensive partner apart.
Yet, he has emerged as one of the brightest points of Jurgen Klopp’s title-winning team, once again proving that it’s never just about the physical presence or flamboyance.
It’s always about footballing intelligence and the ability to take on a challenge, head-on.
Joe Gomez didn’t have the best of starts to the season.
He was outsmarted in the opening day of the season itself, in a 4-1 win over Norwich City.
In hindsight, that shouldn’t have had any impact on Gomez’s season.
However, Jurgen Klopp was far from impressed with the young central defender and immediately put in Joel Matip for the trip to Southampton.
Liverpool continued to rack up the wins, and Klopp didn’t want to include an inexperienced centre-back into the mix.
Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren, and even Fabinho rose up the pecking order, pushing Gomez deep into a pit of despair.
The young defender earned his second starting XI spot on matchday 16, against Bournemouth. He was forced to play as a right-back in the match but put in a thoroughly impressive shift in the comfortable 3-0 win away from home.
From the next game itself, Joe Gomez returned to the heart of the defence, paired up with Van Dijk as Liverpool pushed for the title in the second half of the campaign.
Between matchday 16 and 23, Liverpool didn’t concede a single goal — they had conceded nine in their previous eight outings. Joe Gomez didn’t get the chance to start for 15 matchdays, but the England international didn’t stop growing.
He was only waiting patiently for the opportunity and pounced immediately when it presented itself.
Before his return on matchday 16, Liverpool were having a hard time keeping things tight at the back.
Yes, they did grind out results, but their high defensive line was being exploited time and again by pacy attackers.
Joe Gomez injected a sense of tranquillity into the squad, made his compatriots even better.
He missed the trip to Watford on matchday 28, which coincided with Liverpool’s first defeat of the season.
A spirited Watford put three goals past the Liverpool defence, which probably wouldn’t have happened with Joe Gomez marshalling the backline.
On matchday 32, Liverpool endured their biggest defeat of the season at the hand of outgoing champions Manchester City — their first defeat with Gomez starting at centre-back.
Former Charlton Athletic man, Joe Gomez has had to work tirelessly to get where he is today.
From being a helpless youngster recovering from multiple career-threatening injuries to become a Premier League, Champions League, and FIFA Club World Cup winner — Gomez has been the definition of resilience and hard work.
The 2019-20 campaign has established him as one of the finest in the business and helped us see his unmatched qualities.
The sky is the limit for this 23-year-old lionheart, and it’s about time he gets the recognition he thoroughly deserves.
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