Given the array of talent in Liverpool’s squad, several players were forced to sit on the sidelines more than they wished last season.
Among those on the periphery for much of the campaign was Joe Gomez.
A frustrating year
Despite being a regular in the Reds’ Premier League title-winning term of 2019-20, the centre-back found himself in a starkly contrasting position in the year just gone.
A season-ending knee injury he suffered in November 2020 while on England duty was partly to blame. A period of getting back up to speed was necessary.
After that, however, Gomez still found himself down Jurgen Klopp’s defensive pecking order.
Gomez was fourth-choice centre-half for much of the year. Virgil van Dijk was the mainstay in the rearguard, while Joel Matip and £36 million signing Ibou Konate - who started the Champions League final loss to Real Madrid in Paris - were the Dutchman’s preferred partners.
In total, the England international managed just 20 appearances in 2021-22 - and made only four Premier League starts.
As a result, speculation has mounted around Gomez’s future.
Kop icon Steven Gerrard, of course, is at the Villa helm and it’d be no surprise if he is an admirer of Gomez and wants to bolster his defensive options this summer.
‘Play a lot of games’
However, Klopp has seemingly made his thoughts clear when it comes to Gomez’s future.
After an impressive performance when filling in at right-back in a 2-0 defeat of Watford in April, setting up Diogo Jota’s opening goal, he was lauded by the Liverpool boss.
More importantly, Klopp promised that Gomez will play ‘a lot of games’ for the Reds down the line.
“Even when we rotate and the boys don't start they’re never disappointed, and Joey was obviously not disappointed today,” said Klopp in his post-match press conference.
“It was clear Joe could, unfortunately, train with us for a full week because he was not on international duty.
“We already knew it was tight for Trent [Alexander-Arnold] and at the beginning of the week we didn't even know there might be a chance.
“He could have set up a second goal. Defensively we don't have to talk, offensively [he had] some good moments and some not-so-good moments because then you see the position he gets against a deep-sitting opponent it’s not too easy to find the right position.
“He’s an outstanding ball player and he will play a lot of games in his career, he will play here a lot of games, definitely.
“This season was tricky for him, but who knows how things can change. He is ready. To use the opportunity when he gets it.”
With Liverpool returning for pre-season on Monday, Klopp is likely to give all of his squad a clean slate.
More importantly, perhaps, is that Gomez is set report back before Konate - who played twice for France in the Nations League earlier this month.
Indeed, it gives the ex-Charlton defender an opportunity to catch his manager’s eye and potentially steal a march on Konate.
More crucially when it comes to Gomez being linked with Villa is that Liverpool are hoping to tie him down to a new contract.
He remains a valuable member of the squad. And with the Reds aiming to challenge on all four fronts for successive seasons, strength in depth will be paramount.