Joe Gomez Liverpool England Tactical Analysis
Artwork by @chapulana

Coming from south east London, for myself and many friends, the career of Liverpool defender Joe Gomez has a lot of interest. That interest was nationwide a few times last season and will be again over the next few days as England take on Spain and Switzerland in the UEFA Nations League. This tactical analysis will tell you what to expect to see from Gomez and how he can impress in those games.

A centre-back by trade, Gomez has just recently been able to play there regularly. Despite this, whether it was playing left back under Brendan Rodgers or right back last season, Gomez has also been a very consistent performer. Unfortunately, injuries have held him back on a few occasions but this season we’ve seen what makes him such a consistent performer.

Defending: Positioning & Decision Making

With many considering defending a lost art, Gomez is a who can defend very well as he reads the game extremely well. This was on show throughout Liverpool’s last Premier League game against Leicester City and here’s an example:

Joe Gomez Liverpool England Tactical Analysis
As the last man, Gomez treats this long ball very well. Firstly, he stayed with Iheanacho’s run rather than making a rash decision of playing offside. Secondly, he curved his run tracking back which gave himself some extra time and space to stay in control of the situation.
Joe Gomez Liverpool England Tactical Analysis
Then, just before Iheanacho controls the ball, rather than go the long way around and risk missing the header, Gomez gives him a quick bump to knock him off balance and miss-control the ball.
Joe Gomez Liverpool England Tactical Analysis
Being in control from behind, Gomez can then calmly knock the ball over to Robertson as Iheanacho is still trying to find his feet.

Here we saw that Gomez is a very intelligent defender and can perform when the spotlight is on him. Often when these type of situations occur, defenders can misread the what is happening which could be costly. However, the way in which Gomez handled the situation showed he has a good defensive understanding and can play pro-actively.

Defending: Anticipation & Composure

Coming into the England side, it’s also encouraging to know that Gomez has flourished on the international stage too. In the international break last winter he made his England senior debut against Germany before putting in a man of the match performance against Brazil.

In these games, we saw his decision making as a centre back on show. We also saw his anticipation and composure, which are two attributes that are becoming increasingly important throughout football, showcased:

Joe Gomez Liverpool England Tactical Analysis
Upon receiving the ball, Neymar tries to flick the ball past Gomez with his first touch but the Liverpool defender anticipates this well and cuts out the ball.
Joe Gomez Liverpool England Tactical Analysis
Going infield he then shows great composure and strength to shield and keep control of the ball while under immense pressure.
Joe Gomez Liverpool England Tactical Analysis
Having kept the ball, Gomez then steps into midfield before picking out Marcus Rashford who does well to flick the ball onto Jamie Vardy into the space that’s created in behind.

Like the Leicester example, this shows that Gomez can perform on a big stage but it also shows us a couple of other things.

Firstly, that he is able to play in Southgate’s three-man defence and understand what’s wanted from him e.g. stepping out to pick off passes as a right-sided centre back. However, he also see what he can offer when on the ball as he’s confident enough and good enough to go forward and start what could be impressive attacks.

Defending: Timing

But as we all know, Gomez won’t have it all his own way and won’t be able to control every situation he’s in. Not in the UEFA Nations League and definitely not in the Premier League. In moments controlled by the attacking team, however, Gomez has showed that he can stay focused and come out on top as seen against Crystal Palace:

Joe Gomez Liverpool England Tactical Analysis
One of the most dangerous forwards in the Premier League, Wilfried Zaha is played in behind the Liverpool defence as Crystal Palace counter attack.
Joe Gomez Liverpool England Tactical Analysis
Gomez does well to keep up with Zaha but the best part about this is that he times his tackle to perfection, winning the ball cleanly and sending it out of the danger zone.

A great reader of the game, Gomez hardly ever puts a foot wrong and this has been the case for a while now. There we saw him put one-on-one against a player most would expect to at least get inside the box once that ball was played but didn’t even get a sniff as Gomez matched him physically and beat him mentally.

Looking across these highlights it’s clear that Gomez will continue to excel, however, partnered with Virgil Van Dijk that can only help his cause. At just 21, what is also encouraging is that we’re not talking about ‘raw talent’ but we’re talking about a player who clearly thinks out everything he can when he’s on the pitch which is what separates him from other defenders of his age and which is probably why he was brought to Liverpool three years ago.

However, defending isn’t all he has to offer.

On The Ball: Vision

As mentioned earlier, Gomez is composed on the ball, but he’s also a player with a great eye for a pass. This is something that could help England massively should he step into midfield but has also been a key to Liverpool’s play when breaking the lines this season.

Playing right back last season, however, this saw him get further up the pitch where his vision was also on show:

Joe Gomez Liverpool England Tactical Analysis
With Manchester United playing so compact, Gomez has to choose to play the perfect ball into the highlighted area. It has to freeze both the defence and goalkeeper but also encourage a teammate to attack the ball which he is able to do after spotting Emre Can’s run.
Joe Gomez Liverpool England Tactical Analysis
The ball made it to Emre Can without any trouble but he couldn’t quite steer Gomez’s ball goalbound.

Summary

With defenders now expected to be sound with the ball at their feet nowadays, it’s easy for that to overshadow actual defending in some cases. However, with Joe Gomez, we have a defender who can carry out both sides of the game at a great quality and has been doing so consistently.

That consistent level of performance is what along with his evident knowledge of the game makes his future look so encouraging could see himself and Van Dijk be Liverpool’s number one centre-back partnership for this season but also see him impress Gareth Southgate in this and future international breaks.