Under the skies of Anfield, Liverpool and Manchester City met in a highly anticipated matchup. Both managers Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola deployed strong lineups as expected, with the exception of a couple tactical changes, which is always necessary to keep the opponent guessing. For Klopp, this change was shifting Joe Gomez to the right back spot and slotting Dejan Lovren in at center back.
There are a couple of logical reasons for this change. Klopp wanted to firm up the back line as the usual right back Trent Alexander-Arnold tends to play very high up the pitch. While the 20-year-old excels at that, Klopp decided he wanted to make sure the defense had the numbers to withstand a strong attack, thus playing Gomez who tends to stay further back. Gomez is also more capable of tackling the ball away from wingers such as Sterling than Alexander-Arnold.
Gomez Defending Attacks
One defensive skill Gomez is excellent at is reading would-be attacks. There are numerous examples in the match which display how keeping the numerical advantage at the back was key to defending Manchester City’s many attacks.
This effective method in which Gomez halted a number of attacks is called a cover-shadow. It is a vital defensive act in the Gegenpressing system, as it takes away any outlets the pressed opponent would have.
Gomez’s defensive positioning also gave his teammates an outlet at the back when Manchester City’s attackers would press. The strength of Gomez eventually forced Manchester City to look elsewhere for an advantage, as Gomez continued to stay back during most of Liverpool’s possession.
Gomez Attacking Defenses
This is not to say Gomez never attacked, however. There were multiple instances throughout the match when Gomez would push forward, usually with the ball, in attempts to either play a through ball or to whip in a cross. One such cross nearly created a goal as it met Daniel Sturridge’s head, only to sail wide. In these cases, one of either Jordan Henderson or Lovren would fall back or shift over respectively, covering the space Gomez would normally occupy (this type of partnership was also used on the left side of the pitch, with James Milner often covering for Andrew Robertson).
There was proof even in just a couple of these moments that Manchester City were definitely capable of taking advantage of the space behind the defenders.
On the tail end of an extremely difficult part of Liverpool’s schedule, it is not far-fetched to say Klopp can be satisfied with this result. Coaching a major football club isn’t just about managing tactics – it’s about managing energy too. Shifting Gomez outside to cover for Alexander-Arnold after Trent looked exhausted post-Napoli was a smart decision, and it paid dividends through smart, conservative defending. Gomez will also certainly be satisfied with his performance, as it proves how valuable a defender he can be.