As Premier League debuts go, Joe Gomez’s could not have been more testing: against a team that Liverpool had been humiliated by in their last competitive game and at Stoke, indeed, where the immediate challenge was to stop Jonathan Walters, a striker 13 years his senior and someone who possesses the physique of a cruiserweight boxer.
Gomez, a central defender, was also out of position at left-back and it showed at times in the first half. Yet as the game grew old, Gomez began to prevail in the contest. After Liverpool scratched out a win, Brendan Rodgers approached Walters and thanked him for posing the 18-year-old with an uncompromising examination.
“Jonathan spoke well of him; he knew Joe had been a tough opponent,” Rodgers revealed, as he spoke about his plans for the teenager over the coming months having sanctioned a £3.5million outlay for his recruitment in June.
When Gomez was 15, he rejected chances to sign for bigger clubs than Charlton Athletic but chose to remain because he felt it provided a clearer route to the first team.
“He then had a big decision to make in the summer when, again, a number of high-profile clubs wanted to take him,” Rodgers explained. “He felt his best opportunity to develop and improve as a player was by coming to Liverpool. I’m sure there will be moments along the way where we need to manage him, but for the time being he’s enjoying it while knowing there’s a lot to learn. And that’s the right attitude to have.”
Gomez will play at Anfield for the first time tomorrow when Bournemouth visit Merseyside. Rodgers arranged for a special training session at the stadium on Friday, appreciating that due to redevelopment work on the Main Stand, it will be a new experience for some of his summer signings.
Two words Rodgers used regularly at his press conference at Melwood on Saturday morning were “momentum” and “confidence”. In order to establish both qualities he plans to name roughly the same team for Liverpool’s first four games before the international break at the end of the month.
Such an approach should clarify the roles of fringe players such as Lucas and Mamadou Sakho. Both were absent from the squad at Stoke and although Liverpool are not actively looking to sell them, substantial offers could change their outlook. Yesterday, Liverpool rejected AS Roma’s suggestion of a season-long loan for Sakho.
- More about:
- Liverpool FC