From Dan Morgan (The Anfield Wrap)
Joe Gomez: How The Longest-Serving Red Reinvented Himself
DANIEL Sturridge is, in so many ways, eternal.
Eternal cool, eternal class and eternal youth. Sturridge is somehow still only 34 years old. That means he was 29 when he scored against Paris Saint-Germain in 2018, 26 when he netted in the 2016 Europa League final and 24 when he chipped Ben Foster against West Bromwich Albion at Anfield in 2013.
You can look upon this fact with sadness. He should have had more to give only for an ailing body, riddled with niggling issues which would rob him of a valued yard.
But then, his effervescence is desperately needed in the Sky Sports studio. He represents everything the mainstream, go-to punditry isn’t. A young, black man unconsumed by his perceived image, giving insightful and considered analysis.
Sturridge is the classic example of the football hoodwink. We demand so much and bestow so much on people young enough to be our children, in some cases. There, buried in our psyche is the notion that these footballers are always older than us, somehow.
Joe Gomez, with whom Sturridge shared a warm embrace with at Craven Cottage in the Carabao Cup semi-final last week, is another example of this. At 26, Gomez is now Liverpool’s longest serving player. He is two years off a testimonial.
Joseph Dave Gomez. A man some will label a happy wanderer. Others will lampoon as lost talent and unfulfilled potential. To most of us, a winner and Liverpool FC centrepiece to Jürgen Klopp’s years.
It’s incredible to think of Gomez’s journey and what that has represented to himself and the club. He was a shrewd signing. Someone Brendan Rodgers had no problems with at all, it seemed.
Gomez spoke on the club’s official podcast recently about having experienced all of Merseyside. He’s lived everywhere, from South Liverpool to coastal suburbs and back to town. He’s become a dad here, despite the fact he couldn’t cook for himself when he first arrived.
We expect them to be older, but also more robotic. We don’t care about adaptation and the fact they’ve never heard of council tax. We need them to start left-back away to Arsenal.
Gomez has once again reinvented himself for Liverpool, at Liverpool. He is outperforming the likes of Kieran Trippier and Ben White in lots of full-back areas this season. Against Chelsea he was again consummate, but firstly competent.
His numbers look stronger in the more defensive attributes, ranking in the 92nd percentile for tackles, 86th for interceptions and 84th for aerial wins. He’s also in the 84th percentile for pass completion.
Both Klopp and Pep Lijnders have gone out of their way to emphasise Liverpool wouldn’t be on such a strong battlefront heading into the run-in without Gomez’s presence in the team.
The team are conceding over three shots less from the league period between August to November (about the time Gomez started featuring regularly) and November to the present day. Their expected goals against (xGA) is also down to 0.85 from 1.21.
This isn’t Gomez alone, of course. But there’s reinvention afoot. He has looked composed and comfortable. His character arc is now adopting more cult-hero status on account of his impending Liverpool goal, something even Adidas have jumped on.
All the while he remains part of Liverpool’s makeup, a reminder that time can sometimes play tricks on us. Both he and Sturridge offer us a glimpse of our own existential contradictions. Both he and Sturridge are, in their own way and right, eternal.
Gomez is unapologetically himself. He is happy to slow the clock down for all of us. To offer wisdom from a position of continued youth, despite our perceptions.
For ourselves, for the greater good, Gomez is a winner at Liverpool and will continue to be so forevermore.