IS GOMES ANSWER TO MERSEY MISERY?
By Mark Willis
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Michael Owen has come flying out of the starting blocks this season and has already left a trail of defenders for dead with his devastating pace. The pocket dynamo slammed a brace past West Ham on the opening day of the season and has landed a third of his overall efforts on target so far.
Former fox Emile Heskey opened his 2001-02 account at the Reebok Stadium, but Robbie Fowler has experienced a turbulent time on the domestic front. While he is undoubtedly a crowd favourite, the Toxteth terror has seen all four of his shots blocked and has yet to trouble the goalkeeper. Finnish forward Jari Litmanen has proved similarly ineffective and has yet to land a single shot on target after two appearances.
However, Liverpool's trio of English strikers have all netted for their country in the recent World Cup qualifiers against Germany and Albania respectively. Similarly, Gomes possesses an internationally renowned scoring pedigree of his own after notching four goals during Euro 2000, including the winner against Kevin Keegan's men.
Following the European Championships the striker left his homeland to join Italian side Fiorentina where he plundered a disappointing nine goals in Serie A last term. After an impressive start for the Viola, Gomes faded away and a loss of form saw him make just five appearances in their entirety during the latter half of the season.
However, it was his first season in Italy and it often takes time to acclimatise to a new style. While he may not have earned the hero worship of the Fiorentina faithful, Gomes did show glimpses of his potential. All of his goals were poached from inside the area and given the opportunity, he could profit from a continued supply of dangerous balls in the same fashion as Owen.
Although he didn't hit the back of the net as regularly as many anticipated, the fact that Gomes landed 56% of his shots on target proves that he cannot be left unattended. This represents a higher ratio than both Heskey (49%) and Fowler (52%) managed last season.
The 25-year-old created a hat-trick of goals for his team-mates last year and weighed in with an exquisite back-heeled assist against AC Milan last week. A 75% pass completion rate proves that he has the ability to slot into the Liverpool 'pass and move' mindset and Gomes confessed that he would relish a move to Merseyside, stating: "I think I could easily adapt to the Premiership style and atmosphere."
No club relies solely on two or even three strikers in the age of the modern game and with the Reds having lost two out of their three opening league games, fresh impetus may be just what they need. If he can raise his scoring rate to above an average of one every 259 minutes, which the statistics imply he is capable of, then he could be the man to propel Liverpool forward.
Gomes won 80% of his tackles in 2000-01 hinting that he is suitably equipped to handle the physical nature of the English game and Houllier has him earmarked as a suitable candidate to raise the Reds' tempo. With Fiorentina in financial dire straits, it could be move that whole-heartedly benefits all parties.