Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Joe Gomez: A Dracula Neutralizer

Imagine each of Liverpool's early away fixtures this season as a dracula – lowercase d intended. A dracula, after all, is much more terrifying than just Dracula, because capital-D Dracula indicates there is just one Dracula, but "a dracula" is just one of multiple draculas out there looking to get you. If there's only one Dracula, well, where is it? "Oh, he's over on this other continent, not by you." OK then. If there's just one Dracula, then it's easy to just not go by him. Stay over on this other continent, not by Dracula.

But when confronted by "a dracula" – in Stoke, north London or wherever – one has multiple problems. First off, there's a dracula to deal with, and it wants to kill you. But more importantly, even if this "a dracula" can be defeated – or at least neutralized until one escapes to the airport – it's now known that other draculas are out there, on the hunt, ready to drain life from the body every couple of weekends. And sometimes on Thursday, for the purposes of this discussion. 

So a dracula-filled away lineup for Liverpool, which started on-Trent two weeks ago and will culminate with meeting Raheem "Nosferatu" Sterling on Nov. 21, meant a confrontation Monday with Arsenal. Since the date was set, this fixture harbored doom and gloom and possibly an extensive loss of blood. But this was all before child savior Joe Gomez revealed himself to the Liverpool-loving faithful.

To be clear, check with the much smarter, more organized and thoughtful oh you beauty (@natefc) for a detailed breakdown of just how Joe Gomez stared down the vampiric Alexis Sanchez and stood firm against the Transylvania-inducing Mesut Özil. But know now the hero Liverpool fans need when the undead armies helmed by Jose Mourinho, Tony Pulis and Tim Sherwood come for the vibrant red blood of Liverpool's young, relentless players (and James Milner), is the hero no fan expected until, like, a couple weeks ago. The man that stands between life and death is 18-year-old Joe "Event Horizon" Gomez.

Bournemouth last week was one thing. And the frisky and pre-Shaqiri Stoke of Mark Hughes in the season opener was a test that made young Joe creak and teeter at times, too. But Alexis Sanchez, shining star of the South American champions, is the Level 17 Boss compared to the Super Mario Bros. 3 ghost foot soldiers on display at the Britannia. And Monday night, the virtuoso Sanchez took aim at Joe Gomez. Joe snuffed some moves, counterpunched others and generally made the best of it he could without conceding a goal-making move – in his third top-flight game. At age 18.

Look, it's natural to feel that pull toward posting in the Guardian's comments section that Joe Gomez is destined to be the 21st century Phil Neal, only at left back and even better at penalties. Don't let me stop you from getting carried away with the fun. Again, this is not the home of step-by-step analysis of tactical performances. Hell, I was able to keep only one eye on the match for much of the proceedings Monday, but only one eye was needed to see Joe Gomez launch past pleasant surprise and continue flying with angels up and beyond giddy-inducing fresh face. By Friday, the whole of Liverpool fandom will be at the "How could you miss his testimonial?!" stage with Joe Gomez.

Matching an undead champion like Alexis Sanchez, even once, would burnish any youngster's legend. But Alexis, for all his might, is just a dracula. Memphis is also a dracula. Willian and Pedro are other draculas, along with the lesser-known Vardy and Kouyaté varieties. And three months off in the distance, even though he's a left-sided player now, Joe Gomez might face a dracula just as young and vital as he is.

Still, it's fun to think about what a Vampire Dream Warrior could do. There will be time later to recall that Bram Stoker got all this going on May 26, 1897, shortly after Aston Villa completed the double, and the supply of draculas has been endless for 118 years and counting. Until then, however, here's hoping Joe Gomez can be as fun as this while the draculas keep coming.

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