When England supporters mull over the fortunes of their regular centre-backs Harry Maguire and John Stones this season, they may well decide not to bother watching Euro 2020 in the summer.
Stones endured a miserable summer with England in 2019, dropping a couple of high-profile clangers in the UEFA Nations League semi-final defeat to Holland. The Manchester City defender's wretched form continued into the new season, and he currently finds himself out of the team after failing to regain Pep Guardiola's trust.
On the other side of Manchester, Maguire has (somehow) done enough to earn the prestigious captain's arm band at Old Trafford, but his performances have been well below par when compared to the heights he reached at the World Cup 2018 and for Leicester City.
With 2019's key defenders in absolute crisis, and the fate of another major competition hanging in the balance, you wouldn't be surprised if news broke of Gareth Southgate coming out of retirement as player-manager for the Three Lions.
But thankfully, one shining light is helping Southgate fight the urge of pulling on the old England jersey once more. After a difficult start to the new season, Liverpool defender Joe Gomez has re-established himself as one of the best central defenders in the Premier League, and has firmly nailed down a place in England's summer plans.
The 22-year-old has produced some stellar performances for the champions elect over the past two months, which has in-coincidentally coincided with the Reds' seven consecutive clean sheets, stretching back to early December. Liverpool's defensive resilience was finally broken by Wolverhampton Wanderers on Thursday evening, but it takes nothing away from incredible statistics that surround Gomez's impressive return to the side.
Gomez was unfortunate to find himself out of the team to begin with, having worked his way into Jurgen Klopp's plans last year, but an injury allowed Joel Matip a chance back in the first team. The Cameroonian took it superbly, and built up an impenetrable partnership with Virgil van Dijk over the second half of the 2019/20 season.
Matip maintained his place at the beginning of this campaign, and Gomez had to settle for a place on the bench, whilst watching his teammates complete the best start to a season of any team in history over Europe's top five leagues. The ex-Charlton man seemed destined to rot away among the Anfield substitutes for the remainder of the year, but fitness issues to Matip allowed Gomez another shot at a starting position, and he has grabbed it with both hands.
It's no surprise that every defender who plays alongside Van Dijk looks impressive, as the Dutch star could probably stave off a Premier League strike force by himself on a good day. But the giant centre-back improves those around him, and rather than reverting back to type in his absence, Van Dijk's teammates learn and grow thanks to his tutelage.
But the Dutchman will be grateful of Gomez's presence in the defence, too. It seemed impossible to improve a side which had dropped points only once in the league over the course of the entire season, but Gomez has done exactly that.
The England international has been left out of the Liverpool starting eleven 14 times in the league this season, and the statistics demonstrate just show much sturdier the team is with Gomez at the heart of the defence. The Reds have conceded three less shots at goal on average in matches which Gomez has played the full 90 minutes, and the expected goals tally is significantly lower, too.
It's not just the quantitative data which backs up Gomez's claims for an England starting spot. The youngster possesses frightening pace when chasing back towards goal, and speed is invaluable at international level, particularly against the other top nations.
His comfort in possession will bring great encouragement to Southgate, who implores his team to play out from the back with a freedom and expression which eventually cost England potential silverware in the UEFA Nations League.
The word 'mistake' is not in Gomez's vocabulary however, and his ability to also fill in at full-back shows he is comfortably England's most natural ball-playing defender. The Liverpool star has made only eight international appearances thus far, but despite his inexperience at the highest level, his inclusion feels like a no-brainer amid the current state of play.
Pace, poise and power. The lad has it all.
Gomez's inclusion in the England starting eleven will not come as a result of his rivals' regression, but it will instead be an indication of how far he has come over the past 12 months.