Those of you who have followed some of my blogs know that times I have been a little harsh in my assessment of Joe Gomez’s play in the past.
When he joined us from Charlton in 2015 as a raw 18-year-old, he appeared to have the whole world in front of him. He had all the attributes to make him a wonderful centre back. His speed was always going to be a massive plus, as was his strength. He was good in the air. He was talked of as a future captain, and even an England captain.
We were all excited to watch his development. This wasn’t, however, the clear-cut path that we’d hoped it would be. His understanding of the game, or ‘football intelligence’ as we could call it, was questioned. He (like so many of our centre-backs) seemed to thrive when under the calming influence of Virgil van Dijk, but could go into ‘headless chicken’ mode at times when on his own, so he made mistakes and, once he had, tended to lose confidence in himself.
Then he had the awful knee injury. He snapped his patellar tendon simply jumping for the ball and I did wonder how he’d recover after such a bad injury. This injury is so rare, and yet possibly career defining. When he did eventually recover, he continued to play a bit part role only, occasionally filling in at centre-back (behind Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip) and at right-back, usually as a substitute.
This season his play has really matured. He has looked sharp at right-back which is great news. The discussion around Trent Alexander-Arnold’s best position has taken place and at times Trent has moved in as a midfielder, not simply as a ‘hybrid’ right-back. The problem was that there is no obvious replacement at right-back within the squad, so Gomez has been handed the role. He’s even played at left-back with the recent injury to Kostas Tsimikas (and Andy Robertson of course). I thought he did tremendously well against Saka in the Arsenal game.
We appear to have a Joe Gomez Mk 2. He is showing strength and know-how in defence, making timely interventions and correct decisions. Going forward, he obviously hasn’t the potency of Trent (but who has?) but he’s been a force, getting to the byeline well and putting decent balls into the penalty area.
I think that Gomez is playing the best football of his career. He’s been around a while, but is still only 26. I can see him starting regularly this season and he is a massively important part of our squad.
I’ve just posted a question on Twitter whether we should sell him to Spurs for £60m if the offer were to come in January. If I was in control, and it’s lucky for you I’m not, he’d be going nowhere. I’d also apologise profusely if he could read my criticisms of the past, although I still stand by those judgements!
The ‘like a new signing’ quote has been thrown around with derision around our beloved club in the past, when actual signings have been thin on the ground. We’ve seen some great players come to us recently, but the new improved Joe Gomez shouldn’t be forgotten and could be so important over the next few months.
Happy New Year folks and remember, You’ll Never Walk Alone!
If you like Dr Andy Hershon’s writing, check out his book – 15 Minutes With You: Tips on Medical Consulation and Other Musings