Martin Keown made over 400 appearances for Arsenal and earned 43 caps for England during his playing career, winning three Premier League titles and three FA Cup medals.
LONDON - Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez were like panthers in the way they prowled around the pitch at Selhurst Park. The new partnership at the heart of Liverpool’s defence has the perfect blend of youth and experience, pace and poise, tenacity and understanding.
They have the potential to become one of the greatest pairings the Premier League has ever seen. Van Dijk, 27, is now playing with the confidence and maturity of a central defender at his peak.
He has that look of a player who senses he is on the cusp of major success. Not only did he deal with everything that Crystal Palace threw at him on Monday but I loved how determined he was to win the header in the dying moments that ultimately set up Liverpool’s second goal.
The most successful centre backs are those who thrive on the responsibility of being a driving force for their team. At 21, Gomez is six years Van Dijk’s junior but he is starting to display the same impressive traits.
Since he broke into the Liverpool team, I have been crying out for Jurgen Klopp to move him into the middle. Given his sheer size and physicality, I thought that if he could play that well at right back he would make a wonderful central defender.
Liverpool’s first two assignments this season have pitted their defenders against Marko Arnautovic and Christian Benteke, two of the most physical forwards in the Premier League. Both were swatted aside with ease. Against West Ham, Van Dijk and Gomez could have been sitting on deckchairs, but that is because they make the game look so easy.
Of course, there are far tougher tests to come. How will they cope with Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero’s change of pace, or the clever movement of Tottenham’s Harry Kane? Van Dijk and Gomez have the attributes to deal with them. Up against the best sides, you want Rolls-Royces at centre back and rarely can I remember a partnership that boasts so much pace.
Having said that, I am not sure that Klopp himself is fully convinced by this partnership. When Palace had a goal kick on Monday night, Benteke would stand on Gomez. Rather than let him deal with the striker, Van Dijk - who is two inches taller than his partner - would come across to head the ball away.
I was two inches shorter than Tony Adams but backed myself to win every header that came my way. It would have been Klopp’s call to put Van Dijk on Benteke but he must be careful not to damage Gomez’s confidence.
Gomez has the ability to be just as good as Van Dijk. I wanted to be the best centre back at every club I played for and Gomez will relish that battle. Such healthy competition will bring out even more from both players.
Liverpool have Dejan Lovren to return but it is important they stick with these two. A brilliant defensive pairing is the cornerstone of a winning team. Van Dijk and Gomez have the makings of an outstanding partnership.