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exclusive Gomez’s injury has plunged the Reds into turmoil just as it looked as if Jurgen Klopp had found a way to win without Van Dijk


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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp

PA

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp

Just when Jurgen Klopp dared to believe that he could navigate his way to success without Virgil van Dijk, he suddenly finds himself staring at mission impossible.

The injury to Joe Gomez while playing with England has plunged Liverpool into turmoil. While it looked like they were finding a way to win without Van Dijk, the defensive issues have now reached breaking point.

When we then heard that Mo Salah had tested positive for Covid-19 while away on international duty with Egypt, it felt like the world was caving in on Klopp and his team.

The reports suggest Salah is asymptomatic and, hopefully, he can recover quickly and get back into training. Which, as we saw, was the case with Sadio Mane and Thiago Alcantara when they got the virus last month.

Yet, it looks like he will have to stay put in Egypt until he gets a couple of negative tests - that might mean he is out for next Sunday's game against Leicester, which would be a big blow.

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Joe Gomez’s injury is a huge blow for the champions

Joe Gomez’s injury is a huge blow for the champions

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Joe Gomez’s injury is a huge blow for the champions

Unfortunately, Gomez's situation cannot be solved quickly - and, when you throw in the reality that Joel Matip also has fitness worries, there is only one solution left.

While Fabinho can slot in at centre-back and do a good job, Jordan Henderson could play in there at a push, and young lads like Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams are showing real potential, Liverpool need to make their move to bring in a central defender now.

That player needs to be ready to come to the club when the transfer window opens on January 1st, he needs to have a good fitness record - and also have top level experience.

Signing that player in the upcoming transfer window when every club in Europe now knows Liverpool are desperate will not be easy, and it will also be expensive.

Yet, this is a moment when Klopp needs to be backed, as not even the greatest manager in world football can dig himself out of this hole.

Liverpool have eight Premier League games to play in what is left of 2020, starting with league leaders Leicester next weekend, which will not be an easy game with Jamie Vardy always a threat for them.

Games against Wolves, Tottenham and Crystal Palace will also be big tests, and the opposition will be smelling blood when they come up against Liverpool now.

Everyone always wants to beat the champions, but this is clearly a Liverpool side that have had their feet taken from underneath them, and they just have to find a way to get through it.

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Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams have bags of potential

Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams have bags of potential

Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams have bags of potential

Their attacking line remains potent - and so long as they can get Salah back quickly, and have Mane and Diogo Jota fit and firing for most of this season, they will have a chance to outscore the opposition and keep their title defence on track.

Yet, no team wins the Premier League without some stability at the back, and with Van Dijk and Gomez now out for a long time, the club needs to spend to solve this problem.

You could argue that Liverpool only have themselves to blame for being in this position, but I can see why they didn't sign a centre-back after Dejan Lovren left last summer.

I'm sure there was a discussion between Klopp and the club's transfer team over signing a defender, but they looked at Van Dijk, Gomez, Matip and Fabinho as a back-up and thought they could do the job.

Young Phillips and Williams have shown that they have good quality as well, so getting players who were better might not have been easy last summer.

Yet, take Van Dijk and Gomez out of the equation and the whole picture looks very different - and, in the case of young Joe, this problem is not new.

I'm a big fan of Gomez and can see why Klopp and the club have so much faith in him, but his injury record is not good, and now he has another big issue to recover from.

He did his cruciate ligament at the start of his career, and there is always a feeling that he is likely to miss chunks of the season with injuries.

On this occasion, I don't blame England and international football for this injury, because it sounds like he went down off the ball and with no one near him.

People have been questioning why we are playing internationals at the moment, and with players getting Covid-19 every time they go away with their national teams, it does seem to be a bit crazy to play friendly matches such as the one we saw with England and Ireland at Wembley on Thursday night.

Yet, it sounds like Gomez's injury would have happened whether he was training with Liverpool or England this week, and this is a story we are going to see time and again in the months ahead.

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Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota embrace

Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota embrace

Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota embrace

Let's face it, there was barely any pre-season for players to get ready for this campaign - and, from personal experience in my playing days, that is a recipe for disaster.

It is asking way too much of players. There is only so much their bodies can take.

They are trying to cram three games a week in as they look to make up for the late start to the season. It means players are being pushed to the limit and beyond.

I reckon that the team that ends up winning the Premier League title may well be the one that avoids injuries, or finds a way to deal with them best.

I look at Manchester City without Sergio Aguero, and they are nowhere near as strong. Liverpool without Van Dijk have the same problem. They are not the same either.

It means that teams like Tottenham and Chelsea are live title contenders because they have big squads, with cover in most positions. That is almost more important than the quality of your first 11 this season.

However, what Liverpool have in their favour is a good points total from the opening weeks of the season, and the knowledge that they can, hopefully, find some solutions to the defensive problems in the January transfer window.

Nothing is normal in 2020, and we all just have to adapt to what is happening and try and find a way through it.

That is the case in everyday life, and the same rules apply in football, with Klopp likely to be challenged like never before between now and the end of this chaotic season.

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