This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
James Pearce has branded Liverpool fans’ criticism of Joe Gomez “very unfair”, after the defender struggled against Red Bull Salzburg.
The Reds were given an almighty scare on Wednesday night, as Salzburg showed their incredible goalscoring prowess is not confined to the Austrian Bundesliga.
Virgil van Dijk had a rare off night, but it was Gomez who fans lashed out at on Twitter.
Joe Gomez giving one of the worst centre half displays I've ever seen…and I've watched dejan lovren
— Jim Keeney (@JimKeeney) October 2, 2019
He was terrible today. Stats don’t tell the full story
— LFC96 (@Liverpoolfan195) October 2, 2019
He was terrible and that’s that.
— It’s Me (@SmLanga1) October 2, 2019
Pearce though, who covers Liverpool for The Athletic, has defended the 22 year-old on Twitter.
He said: “Criticism of Joe Gomez last night very unfair. Rusty at times but still a class act. Far too simplistic to say that Joel Matip’s absence was to blame for LFC’s issues v Salzburg.
“Some people forget he’s still only 22,” he continued. “The likes of van Dijk, Maguire and Koulibaly weren’t operating at this level at the same age.”
It’s hard to disagree with Pearce here, especially if you look at the numbers Gomez produced on Wednesday night.
Per WhoScored, the 6 foot 2 England international won three aerial duels and five tackles, while also making two clearances, three interceptions and completing 84% of his passes.
Yes, a lot of the visitors’ attacks came down Liverpool’s right, as Gomez often seemed to venture slightly too far forward, leaving a big gap in between himself and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
His positioning was questionable at best, and he committed three fouls.
However, “rusty” is perhaps the best way to describe his performance, as it is perfectly acceptable for a player to struggle settling in after a long lay-off, and even more so when they are thrown into the cauldron that is Anfield on a European night, facing a side with 40 goals in nine league games.