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Arne Slot could be 'saved' at Liverpool by player who caught out Jurgen Klopp

Arne Slot will officially take over as Liverpool head coach on June 1
-Credit: (Image: Geert van Erven/Soccrates/Getty Images)


He didn't play the most amount of games, failed to score a goal, struggled to nail down a regular position, ended the campaign largely as a substitute and didn't even get off the bench for Jurgen Klopp's emotional Liverpool farewell.

But anyone wanting to know how important Joe Gomez was for the Reds this season need only consider these words from the departed Anfield manager.

“He saved our backside already this year 15, 20 times – playing left-back, I didn’t see a lot of players playing right-back in a specific way and now playing six," said Klopp. “It’s absolutely outstanding."

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Those comments were made after Gomez had featured as a makeshift defensive midfielder in the 3-0 FA Cup fifth-round win over Southampton, a role he'd replicate a few days later in the Premier League triumph at Nottingham Forest. At the start of the week, Gomez had come off the bench less than half-an-hour in to play right-back in the League Cup final triumph against Chelsea.

Such has been the season for the player, who turned 27 last week. A tally of 51 appearances was Gomez's most in a single campaign with the Reds and only in 2019/20 did he start more games. Never before, though, has he been required in so many positions, transforming himself into the squad's most versatile player and arguably ahead of Kostas Tsimikas as deputy left-back to Andy Robertson.

Remarkably he started just two games at what was traditionally his preferred position of centre-back. The last 12 months, though, has been an awakening of sorts for the player.

"I’ve obviously said before I’m a centre-half but I think this season has taught me I just want to enjoy playing football, I don’t necessarily need to box myself in," Gomez told The Anfield Wrap earlier this month. "That’s something that was big on my agenda: just being available and making sure I can play my part if needed and called upon. Not being part of things in the past, it hurts, and that’s all we want to do as players. No-one wants to get injured and no-one wants to not play their part."

Klopp agrees. “He had some injuries, stuff happened, and he was in and out of the team, always important to us, but I think this season is the most consistent he played, especially because of the different positions," he said before leaving as Liverpool manager.

“I think the least games he played on centre-half (in a season) probably because we always needed him somewhere else, and he did exceptionally well. I think it developed his game, massively.

“If you would have asked me before the season about inverted right or left-back, what do you think about generally the number six, I don’t know if I would have said, ‘Yeah, of course, Joey can do that!’"

Gomez's form prompted an England recall in March after approaching four years absent, and having been selected in the 33-man provisional squad for next month's European Championships, it would be a surprise if he fails to make the final 26-strong party.

The defender is of course the only first-team player to have been at the club throughout the Klopp era having been bought by Brendan Rodgers a few months before the arrival of the German.

With Joel Matip having departed on a free transfer - and, if speculation is to be believed, eager to remain in the Premier League with Bournemouth showing an interest - Liverpool are expected to recruit a new centre-back, even allowing for the emergence of Academy graduate Jarell Quansah this season.

New head coach Arne Slot, though, will know that in Gomez he is inheriting not only a man for all seasons and most positions, but a player in the best period of his career. And Gomez might well be someone who continues saving backsides throughout the Liverpool squad.