Liverpool defender Joe Gomez is benefiting from hours spent improving his heading at Charlton

30 Aug

Joe Gomez was always destined to be a centre-back, according to Jason Euell, the 21-year-old’s youth coach.

Since arriving at Liverpool from Charlton – where Euell coached him – in 2015, Gomez has moved from full-back, where he played 35 of his 44 games prior to this season,  into the centre of Jurgen Klopp’s team where he now partners Virgil van Dijk.

Gomez has played all three of Liverpool’s opening Premier League games

He has also forced his way into the England set-up and would have been a part of Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad if injury hadn’t brought his season to a premature halt.

And Euell, who is still at Charlton, explained Gomez’s natural athleticism and technique allowed him to play as a full-back, but to make it in the centre, he and his other coaches had to improve the player’s heading.

“We’re very strong on creating pathways for our young players at Charlton, so with Joe it was only really a matter of time until he stepped up, but that was one of those things that probably would have stunted his progression,” Euell told Sky Sports.

“Paul Hart, our academy director at the time, used to drill it into him. ‘If you’re going to play at centre-half, you’re going to have to head the ball, and you’re going to have to be better at heading it.’ He knew how good Joe was on the ground with his feet, but he kept emphasising that if he wanted to step up to the first-team, he was going to have to head it better.

“When you’re coming up through the academy system, you’re not playing against 6ft 4ins centre-forwards where the ball gets knocked up long,” says Euell. “Yes, you are going to have some aerial challenges, but not nearly as frequently as in men’s football.”

Gomez was encouraged to always use his head when the opportunity presented itself rather than his natural inclination to bring the ball down and play it on the floor.

“Even when he had time and space, he was told to go and head it, just to get into the habit,” adding it was an aspect of his game that, if worked on, would take him to the next level.

Having recovered from injury, Gomez now appears to be his manager’s first choice centre-back

It looks like it’s working and in their three games so far, Liverpool are yet to concede. They beat West Ham 4-0, Crystal Palace 2-0 and Brighton 1-0, after which Klopp praised Gomez.

“Obviously Brighton thought ‘let’s pick Joe Gomez for the long ball challenge with Glenn Murray’ and Joe did really well,” he said. “I don’t think he made one foul. He won maybe 70-80 per cent of those duels.”