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Joe Gomez Helping To Improve Liverpool's Defending This Season

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Teenage signing Joe Gomez has already helped improve Liverpool's defending this season, writes Adam Bate…

“I must admit I didn’t know too much about him before he came to the club,” ex-Liverpool left-back John Arne Riise told Sky Sports this week. “But I’m very, very impressed by Joe Gomez. Seriously impressed.” It’s a recurring theme when it comes to the 18-year-old.

He was new to Mark Lawrenson too, as the former Liverpool man admitted within a Czech Republic press box at this summer’s European Under-21 Championship. Now Lawrenson is a confirmed admirer and Gomez finds himself in Gareth Southgate’s England squad.

Ostensibly, it’s been a swift turnaround. But some are not so shocked. Certainly, not Charlton academy director Steve Avory. “I think Joe saw there was a pathway here,” Avory told Sky Sports, speaking at the training ground where Gomez’s photo still adorns the wall.

“He’d seen the evidence with players before him like Jonjo Shelvey and Carl Jenkinson. There are players like that who’d played in the first team before moving on. They’d played for us as young as 17 and that happened to him as well.”

He’ll have come as no surprise to Liverpool assistant Sean O’Driscoll either. He worked with Gomez for England’s Under-19s. For Brendan Rodgers, the epiphany came after seeing him against Brisbane Roar in July. There would be no loan exit. “He’s staying. I’ve seen enough.”

The shrugs that greeted Gomez’s arrival have been replaced with excitement. First impressions count and the summer signing from Charlton could hardly have done more. He has made more interceptions than any Liverpool player. No team-mate has made more tackles.

He’s not only impressed individually, but he’s also helped to galvanise this Liverpool defence. Despite the jibes about returning to the scene of their 6-1 defeat at Stoke, the Reds have gone on to keep three clean sheets in their opening three games of the season.

“What I like is the narrowness of the back four”, said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher on Monday Night Football. “Gomez is not getting detached and leaving Dejan Lovren isolated. We’ve seen that when Lovren does get isolated he is exposed.”

Indeed, Lovren made more errors leading to shots that any other defender last season. Next on the list was Martin Sktrel, highlighting the team’s defensive struggles. Now Liverpool are one of only three teams in the Premier League yet to make a mistake leading to a shot.

Like Cesar Azpilicueta at Chelsea, the right-footed Gomez is proving a natural foil for his centre-back. “Maybe it helps him having Gomez there who doesn’t go forward so much because he’s on his right foot and maybe tucks in next to his centre-back,” added Carragher.

“We’ve seen last season that when he gets exposed on that left side it causes all sorts of problems for him. But when he gets help there and you see performances like that, we might have a bit of a player on our hands. I think this was his best performance.”

Gomez might have been a relative mystery man when he made his Liverpool switch in the summer. But the teenager is already showing his worth and helping to rehabilitate the most expensive defender in the club’s history in the process. Starts simply don’t come much better.