Liverpool have been handed a major blow in their reigning title season as Virgil van Dijk could miss the remainder of the term with ACL damage.
The centre-back picked up the injury in the Merseyside derby, following a tackle from Jordan Pickford in the opening minutes. The Reds must now adapt to their backline without the influential Dutchman, but Anfield legend Jamie Carragher has his doubts.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the ex-defender raised his worries over how Liverpool will cope with such a reduced roster (via The Mirror).
“Dejan Lovren went and they didn’t replace him so they only have three centre-backs and one of those, Joel Matip, is always injured,” he said. “There are question marks now about Joe Gomez. So there is no doubt that Liverpool had to go big in the transfer market.”
After their 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa, a draw at Goodison Park and now their top centre-back sidelined, hope will be bleak in the red district of Merseyside. With Joel Matip also reported to have picked up an injury, it’s ultimately down to Gomez to command the backline and step up to the plate.
It’s likely Jurgen Klopp will be forced to play Fabinho alongside the Englishman, with fellow Three Lions international Jordan Henderson filling the empty No.6 slot. The versatile Brazilian recently played in defence alongside van Dijk and put in a solid shift, but it may be a lot to ask of him to keep up appearances for potentially the entire season.
Last campaign, the £75million record signing played every minute of Premier League football for the Reds. His influence showed, keeping 15 clean sheets and contributing to six goals (via Transfermarkt). Indeed, it was more than enough to see Liverpool over the line and lift their first ever Premier League trophy – setting a new record for the fastest time, no less.
Gomez’s stats for the 2019/20 season were mostly inferior to his defensive partner. Not only did van Dijk look a lot more solid in defence, but he was also much more of a threat going forward. According to WhoScored, the Netherlands international averaged more passes (85.8) and more accurate long balls (5.4) than his teammate, with 71 and 3.7 respectively.
Gomez also fell short with 2.1 clearances to van Dijk’s 4.3 and picked up six more bookings in fewer appearances.
Trusting £36m-rated Gomez to command the same kind of authority as van Dijk is a tall ask. Indeed, he was even criticised by his own teammate Alisson after the Reds’ 3-0 defeat against Barcelona in 2019 after failing to block a Lionel Messi free-kick.
There will be enormous pressure on him to not just perform at the highest standard, but to also ensure he himself doesn’t risk an injury or suspension, which will only further endanger Liverpool’s title chances.