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Talking Tactics

Perfect time for Gomez to hit top form

Adrian Clarke 25 Dec 2019
Gomez, Van Dijk, Liverpool

Adrian Clarke says solid defensive partnership with Virgil van Dijk will be crucial if Liverpool are to stop in-form Leicester striker Jamie Vardy

Adrian Clarke is looking at key tactical talking points ahead of Matchweek 19. 

Defender Joe Gomez has rediscovered his best form with impeccable timing for Liverpool.

Gomez had slipped behind Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren in Jurgen Klopp’s centre-back pecking order.

But the duo's absence in recent matches has given the 22-year-old an opportunity, and he has grabbed it with both hands.

Gomez was outstanding as the Reds won the FIFA Club World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Flamengo.

He was also pivotal in a trio of clean sheets picked up earlier this month against AFC Bournemouth, RB Salzburg and Watford

Commanding and athletic, Gomez will be a key figure in Liverpool's defence as they look to preserve their unbeaten Premier League run at second-placed Leicester City on Boxing Day.

Vardy threat

The in-form Jamie Vardy has scored seven goals in his last seven top-flight starts against the Reds, so the visitors will be mindful of the threat posed by the division's leading scorer.

Vardy showed pace, power and precision against Manchester City last time out when he raced on to a through ball and produced a clinical finish to register his 17th goal of the campaign.

If the leaders needed any reminder of where Vardy's strengths lie, that goal provided it.

Vardy is hugely effective making incisive, often blind-side runs between the right-back and right-sided central defenders, so plenty of positional responsibility will rest upon Gomez’s shoulders.

Quickest Liverpool and Leicester players 2019/20
Player Club Top speed (kmh)
Van Dijk LIV 34.72
Vardy LEI 34.64
Robertson LIV 34.45
Matip LIV 33.27
Gomez LIV 33.15
Alexander-Arnold LIV 32.92
Lovren LIV 31.46

The top speeds registered this season suggest that Vardy should continue to attack down Leicester's left side, rather than trying the channel between Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson.

Quite simply, both Van Dijk and Robertson are just as quick as he is.

It is up to Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold to ensure they do not leave too much space behind them that the Foxes can exploit by clipping balls in for Vardy to chase.

Tactically Liverpool will want to compress space by adopting a narrow central midfield block against Leicester. 

This means a relatively high line will be held, so Gomez must read the game well to anticipate when through-balls will be played.

Patience pays off 

It was widely expected that Gomez would establish himself as Van Dijk’s first-choice partner this season, but it is only now that he is beginning to make the position his own.

The England international was unconvincing at home against Norwich City in the season's opening fixture and followed that up with some indifferent displays in the cup competitions.

Injuries to Lovren and Matip, who both impressed earlier in 2019/20, have now allowed Gomez to stake his claim again. And the signs suggest that he does not intend to easily relinquish his status.

 Van Dijk's defensive partners 2019/20
Player Starts Goals conc. Clean sheets Ave. goals conc.
Gomez 3 1 2 0.3
Lovren 8 8 1 1
Matip 7 5 2 0.7

Performing with calmness and authority in challenging contests this month, the ex-Charlton Athletic defender is forging a solid pairing with Dutchman Van Dijk to his left.

Gomez is the more aggressive of the two and complements the Dutchman well.

The statistics also support their flourishing partnership and Liverpool have had their best defensive record with this duo at the heart of their back four.

To keep an excellent Leicester side, and Vardy in particular, quiet in front of their own fans, the pairing of Gomez and Van Dijk must show high levels of resilience and concentration. 

Current form suggests they are ready for the examination.

Also in this series 

Part 2: Man City must tame league's best winger Traore

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