Leanne Prescott writes that Joe Gomez’s injury on international duty is not only a big blow for Liverpool, it’s a further indictment of football’s fixture pileup…
FOOTBALLERS, like us, are susceptible to strains and breaks.
They suffer from the same mental struggles. They deal with the perpetual weight of expectation. They must also contend with the limelight of national media.
Just this week Mason Greenwood, England’s starboy, has been the subject of derision.
Among all the appreciation and adorn, who is protecting them?
As Covid’s relentless football schedule continues apace, it is a point worth raising.
When Trent Alexander-Arnold pulled up at the Etihad, he became another victim of the fixture list, having played over 12 games in two months. Just four days later, Nathan Ake and Joe Gomez are the latest to be added to the list.
There are now 27 Premier League players sidelined with soft tissue injuries, all of whom are suffering from the considerable mental and physical demands in the most gruelling of seasons. Football, it seems, has decided to cram all games in as though the pandemic didn’t happen.
Aside from scrapping FA Cup replays and two-legged League Cup semi finals, the churn continues.
Yes, injuries are a part of the game, but the nature and consistency of them is becoming a real problem. From a Liverpool perspective, it is now a serious one.
What’s more, the nature with which Gomez’s injury is sustained, during an international break that arguably shouldn’t be being played at all, for a friendly to boot, makes it an even more bitter pill to swallow. It is upsetting, it’s cruel and it is all entirely avoidable.
We are just eight games into the Premier League season and there have now been 13 injuries to this squad. Were you to put them all together, they’d form a considerable title charge.
Every team has to ride the rapids over the course of a season, but it increasingly feels like The Reds have pissed off the football gods.
Throughout injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Fabinho, Gomez has been the one constant, impressively stepping up as the commander within the back four. Playing with three different partners already this season, his return to form has been pivotal to Liverpool’s strong start amidst the selection crisis.
There can be no sugar coating how significant this latest blow is, for club and player.
For Gomez, it is now the fourth significant injury he will have suffered at such an early stage in his career, having already missed 97 games playing for The Reds. He was sidelined for the best part of a year with a cruciate ligament injury when Jürgen Klopp arrived, before admirably fighting back to become a regular in the side.
His 2018 would be plagued by three ankle injuries, with surgery ruling him out of the Champions League final as well as the World Cup, before the 23-year-old again returned, adopting a key role in Liverpool’s transformation to serial winners over the last two seasons.
And here we are again.
Another devastating blow which comes at a time when he had taken up the mantle from Van Dijk; a calm, authoritative figure Klopp needed in troubled times.
The extent of the injury remains unknown, but Gomez is now another victim of this unprecedented schedule. Indeed, while some would argue Klopp left his centre-back options thin on the ground in Van Dijk, Matip and Gomez, few could have foreseen the current predicament.
Liverpool, for all intents and purposes, had responded valiantly to Van Dijk’s season-ending injury, conceding five in the seven games without the Dutchman. Now, they must do it all again.
Matip, whose considerable injury record is enough to make you want to rock back and forth in a corner in itself, is now The Reds’ only fit senior centre back. He must be wrapped in cotton wool for the foreseeable future. So too the young duo of Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams, whose season has now become one of real opportunity.
The hope is that Fabinho will return after the international break and lighten the load, but there is no denying what a monumental blow this is for Klopp, who is now without his two preferred central defenders. Suddenly Alisson’s importance to this side has never been greater.
Somehow, in the midst of the most congested schedule to date, football remains determined to play every game without fail. Doing so denies the problem at hand.
Just last week, Klopp and Guardiola spoke of their outrage regarding the five-sub rule. Both managers have now been dealt further blows, and they won’t be the last either. All teams will suffer, and player welfare will continue to dominate the headlines.
For The Reds, it now becomes about navigating the mire.
Buying a centre back in January is no longer a priority, but a necessity. Between now and then, there are 11 games to play, eight in the league and three in the Champions League. Beat Atalanta later this month and two of those become free hits.
The collective resilience and mental fortitude within the side has seen them recover from every setback they’ve had thrown their way in recent years. There is no denying that the current scenario is even bleaker, with the club’s two first-choice central defenders likely unavailable for a large period of the season.
This side, though, never runs from a fight.
They have already navigated one of their hardest starts to the season and sit just one point off top spot. They will be determined to show what they can do in the face of such adversity, and the manager won’t allow for any less.
The task of retaining the title is now harder than ever. There is no denying it.
But if anyone can do it, it’s these Reds.
For instant reaction to all the Liverpool news and events that matter to you, subscribe to The Anfield Wrap…
🎥 In The Shadow Of Melwood: TAW Documentary | #TAWVideo— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) November 11, 2020
“You’d climb up the lamppost and onto the wall and then at dinnertime, they’d let you in. To see your idols running around the field…”
📱 Download The TAW app to watch 👉 https://t.co/v3xcfwjq7C pic.twitter.com/F4BB1OeFcE
The biggest thing with the current situation is just how quiet on the matter the PFA and FIFPro are. These organisations represent and have the players interests at heart and seem to be happy to allow its members to be put through the sausage machine without a flicker of a response. I do wonder what the point is of the players paying membership for a group that is failing to look out for them?
How many more Owen Hargreaves, Lesley Kings, Dean Ashtons and Marco van Bastens do we need to have before something is done?
I would very much like to know what exactly happened to Joe Gomez. Its a hell of an injury to sustain “with no one near him” (according to Southgate)
Is the amount of games really unprecedented? I’m sure some commentator said, during the city game, that liverpool had played the same amount of games this year as last, at this point.
Injuries can devastate a players career but some of the players who get injured often (ie oxlade Chamberlain, Lovren, Matip) dont seem to play many games, so is it really down to the amount of games played?
Why are the managers constantly bemoaning the amount of games played to the media but never openly questioning their style of play or training demands? I love what has happened to Liverpool since klopp arrived. However, the high intensity play and no doubt the amount of high intensity training required to achieve the levels of fitness needed play games with such intensity must take its toll. It seems that the number one prerequisite of a footballer these days is to be an athlete. Whilst ability is obviously still fundamental, the winning side is often that which can press the hardest, run the most and carry this on longer than their opponents.
Game numbers can’t be reduced unless league sizes change. Perhaps Klopp and Pep are priming the fans for a European super league with the promise of less games and healthier players.
Or have footballers always got injured and this is a classic case of thinking things are terrible right now?
For me, the issue is not about the amount of games being unprecedented, or whether it is the same as last year. The issue is the break they have had, or not had, as the case may be. Many of us have played football, and even at an amateur level, you carry knocks out of season – and with a decent break, you have time to recover. This season, the lads had 2 weeks and wham, back in to preseason, which is shorter than normal, and back to playing again. 34 days between Newcastle 0n 26/7 and the Comm Shield on 29/8. There have also been more international games as well, and unless I am mistaken, England would have played 7 games before our next league game. That’s one less games than in the EPL @ 8.
Cal – there is a decent explanation on a YouTube video by 3CB Performance
Lee, don’t forget they had 3 months or so as break before footie restarted in July.
In effect these lads have now played just over 20 games since July – that’s actually not that dramatic is it?
With Gomez – it feels like this was something that was going to happen at some point, whether he played every 3 days or once a week.