​On the surface of things, the career progression of Liverpool's Joe Gomez appears to be going rather swimmingly. 

The 22-year-old defender has already clocked up 72 appearances for the first team, won seven senior England caps as well as picking up a shiny Champions League winner's medal last season. 

Not too shabby at all, you'd be forgiven for thinking. 

Joe Gomez

However, dig a little deeper and Gomez's pathway to a bright and heralded future appears to be less straightforward than it seems. Injuries have never been kind to him and struck last season when he was enjoying some very good form.

A subsequent loss of that form which culminated in a decidedly dodgy display in the Champions League earlier this month against ​Red Bull Salzburg led to some nasty ire coming his way from the pitchfork wielding hoards on social media. Hyperbole aside, Gomez was not his usual calm and assured self that night at Anfield and has since quite drastically fallen down the Liverpool and England national team pecking order.

This roadblock in the youngster's progression is arguably the biggest challenge he's faced since he arrived at the club back in 2015. Whether he can recover from this turbulence will be an interesting footnote in Liverpool's season and could go someway into shaping the youngster's onward career. 

Joe Gomez,Masaya Okugawa

There is no denying Gomez's defensive abilities. The 22-year-old has a 75% tackle success rate in the Premier League and has not contributed a single error leading to a goal since making his debut away at Stoke City back in the 2015/16 season.

What makes his stats and overall solidity more impressive is that he has not always played in his preferred position as a central defender. Under Brendan Rodgers and then Jurgen Klopp, the former Charlton Athletic man had to cut his teeth out at full back.

It was obvious though, even during those apprentice years at left and right back, that Liverpool had been very shrewd in bagging the youngster for just £3.5m.

An acute reader of the game for one so young and a disciple in the high art of defending, Gomez was a breath of fresh air to a beleaguered fan base that continuously observed a myriad of hapless, sloppy and dimwitted defenders.

From Glen Johnson to Martin Škrtel and every conman in-between (shudder), Liverpool seemed to have finally bagged a defender who was naturally, calm, composed and able to concentrate for 90 minutes on a football pitch. Hallelujah!


Those aforementioned injuries though have left their mark on the 22-year-old's career. He has already sat out of an eye-watering 97 matches during his four full campaigns at Anfield. 

A combination of cruel knee and ankle problems have held back Gomez's progress to the extent that it is hard to gauge whether his current standing in the Liverpool team is a fair reflection on his overall abilities as a player. 

A fractured ankle away at Burnley last season curtailed Gomez's progress just as he was in the middle of a fine run form for club and country. Playing alongside the imperious Virgil van Dijk, the young defender was growing into his role as a first choice centre back, ahead of more experienced pair Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip.

While he returned in time to contribute to Liverpool's glorious run and ultimate victory in the Champions League last season, it was clear that Matip had at long last found some solid footing in the Reds team and was for the first time firmly established ahead of Gomez.

Now facing an indefinite spell on the bench and appearing to fall behind Micheal Keane and Tyrone Mings in the England national team, it remains to be seen whether Gomez has lost a step or whether he can recover and find his impressive best form.

With Matip's excellent recent form earning him a new contract and Dejan Lovren still in the picture after a decent shift against ​Leicester City, it is clear that Gomez must now make do with his role as squad player. 

That poor showing at home to Red Bull Salzburg in the Champions League will be a concern for Liverpool fans but it is not a fatal indictment of the 22-year-old's prospects. He is a versatile and valued member of a very gifted side and has a manager who clearly believes in him. 

Klopp has always spoken fondly Gomez. Last season, the German left nothing to interpretation as he sung his player's praises, quipping: "He has a big future here at Liverpool, no doubt about that. Joe is a very important part of the squad and it’s so nice to see. I remember when I came in and everybody told me about him. 

"Now, seeing him full of confidence, and being really fit, I know what they were talking about when they told me how good he was and, much more importantly, how good he is.” 

Joel Matip,Harry Kane

The manager has his back and there will be games during ​Liverpool's congested season in which they'll need to utilise their entire squad. Gomez undoubtedly faces a huge challenge to reclaim his place in the starting XI at Anfield this season. 

He has already shown tremendous courage and mental strength to recover from three very serious injuries already in his career, and he must now draw on that and remain focused when the opportunity comes his way.

If he does so successfully, it could well prove to be the making of him.