Premier League • England

Aston Villa overhaul begins with Joe Gomez as Steven Gerrard readies test of Jurgen Klopp faith

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp embracing centre-half Joe Gomez

Aston Villa are firming up their interest in Liverpool defender Joe Gomez, though a report has revealed one trait that might stiffen Jurgen Klopp’s resolve.

Gomez, 24, has fallen down to fourth choice in Liverpool’s pecking order at centre-half this season. Virgil van Dijk is the undisputed No 1, but it has been Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate who have mixed and matched as his partner.

In fact, Gomez has featured more times at right-back than in central areas this season. Once Neco Williams was loaned out to Fulham in January, Gomez became Trent Alexander-Arnold’s chief back-up.

His fall down the order sparked speculation in January over a move away. Aston Villa and Newcastle were the two clubs most frequently linked.

Newly-promoted Fulham are now believed to be in the frame, though the Mirror report he may soon have a concrete offer from Villa.

The newspaper report Villa boss Gerrard has ‘targeted’ Joe Gomez as the man to spearhead his defensive overhaul.

Villa have kept eight clean sheets in the league since Gerrard took charge. However, the Mirror are adamant Gerrard has deemed a revamping of his backline necessary.

The Reds legend is eyeing a push towards European qualification next season and sees Gomez as the man to form the bedrock of his defence along the way. Also on his agenda is a new holding midfielder.

Klopp faith unwavering

Whether Liverpool will sanction a sale isn’t hinted at in the piece. However, quotes are relayed from Klopp who has repeatedly thrown his backing behind Gomez despite his lack of minutes.

“Everyone loves Joey and with his injury, covid at the wrong time, he didn’t get rhythm,” Klopp previously said of Gomez.

“It’s not the position he loves the most [at right-back]. But he is an example and we have lots of others.”

The fact he can cover at right-back may play a part in what the Anfield decision-makers do.

The Liverpool Echo recently claimed Gomez may in fact be offered a new contract to ward off the vultures. Key to that notion is Gomez’s versatility.

Liverpool may yet sign a new right-back in the form of Aberdeen’s Calvin Ramsay. A decision will also have to be made on Neco Williams whose loan spell at Fulham is due to expire.

Their fates may yet have a say on Gomez’s and whether Gerrard can raid the club where he is a legend.

Should Liverpool cut ties with Joe Gomez?

At 24, Liverpool may be able to recoup a sizeable fee if Gomez were to be sold. The bigger question, however, is should they?

Matip has featured in 19 of the last 20 league matches and has remained remarkably injury-free this year. Key to that is no doubt the fact Konate has been the go-to man in the cup competitions, thus lessening Matip’s workload.

However, few would be surprised to see the oft-injured Matip endure another spell or two on the treatment table next season. In that scenario, and given Liverpool will be competing on at least four fronts, Gomez would be required in central areas.

It’s unquestionable he does not provide the attacking output Alexander-Arnold does when deputising on the right. Both Ramsay and Williams are more attack-minded and thus better like-for-like replacements than Gomez.

However, he is far more defensively sound than all three. His height also often comes in handy when defending set pieces.

As such, he would unquestionably be a fantastic signing for Steven Gerrard at Villa. Yet in our view, he is simply too valuable for Jurgen Klopp’s squad to let go.