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Joe Gomez's three-year evolution at Liverpool

(THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUDNAY OUT) Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool with Joe Gomez during the Group C match of the UEFA Champions League between Crvena Zvezda and Liverpool at Rajko...

The young England international defender has made himself a first-team regular in Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool team this season.

Joe Gomez of Liverpool in action during the Group C match of the UEFA Champions League between Red Star Belgrade and Liverpool at Rajko Mitic Stadium on November 06, 2018 in Belgrade,...

When former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers signed Joe Gomez from Charlton Athletic in 2015, the defender had just turned 18. There was a lot of hype surrounding the transfer of such a young player who had only started 16 Championship games the season before for The Addicks.

Pundits and scouts alike felt that Gomez's talent and level-headed approach signalled the possibility of a very high ceiling with regards to the youngsters potential.

Gomez immediately featured in Rodgers' first-team plans, often as a makeshift full-back. But a cruciate ligament injury in October 2015, at the time Jurgen Klopp was taking over from Rodgers at Anfield, would keep Gomez out of action for the following eight months. He was only back training a month before an Achilles tendon problem put him out again, this time for four months.

 

Gomez's only first-team action in 2016/17 was two outings in the FA Cup as he continued his quest to reach the level his early promise and potential had shown was possible.

Credit must go to Gomez as he overcame such a difficult challenge at a very early stage in his career, proving to Klopp that he had no intention of going anywhere, even if the Liverpool boss hadn't considered him for first-team action for quite some time at that stage.

Gomez shoe-horned his way back into the side and made 21 starts last season, mainly as a right-back in the absence of Nathaniel Clyne and before Trent Alexander-Arnold had really announced himself on the scene.

Considered to be a ball-playing centre-half, Gomez has since replaced Dejan Lovren as the first-choice central-defensive partner for Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool.

Lovren was carrying an injury when he returned from Croatia's exploits at the World Cup in Russia and Joel Matip was also unfit at the start of the season. Klopp had to play Gomez in the centre and the young star hasn't looked back since.

Back in September, Gomez had high praise thrown upon him by BBC pundit Garth Crooks who said Gomez was "the nearest thing I have seen to Bobby Moore for years.”

(THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Joe Gomez of Liverpool competes with Richmond Boakye of FK Crvena Zvezda during the Group C match of the UEFA Champions League between Liverpool and FK...

The defender's physical attributes have clearly improved. Gomez added significant muscle to his boyish physique as he left his teen years behind him and spent a lot of time on his weights-training while recuperating from his long-term injuries.

This is reflected in his defensive statistics. In Gomez's first season of 2015/16 (just five games), he won 42% of his duels and had a pass completion rate of 77%, while making an average of 2.4 tackles per game.

When he returned to action last season, Gomez won 66% of his duels with opponents. That's a 24% increase on how he fared in the Premier League as an 18-year-old. He still averaged 2.4 tackles per 90 but his pass completion rate was up to 82%.

Gomez is now playing most of his games as a centre-half beside Van Dijk so he is up against bigger, stronger centre-forwards on most occasions. This might explain his drop to 58% when it comes to duels won but again, his pass completion rate has gone up, this time to 86%.

The Reds have only conceded five league goals in their opening 11 games. Gomez started nine of those fixtures. With seven months of the season remaining, it looks like Gomez is going to be a very busy man. He wouldn't have it any other way.

Joe Gomez with Virgil van-Dijk of Liverpool during a training session at Melwood Training Ground on October 5, 2018 in Liverpool, England.

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