The progress of Joe Gomez since arriving from Charlton in 2015 has been astronomical and has effectively cemented his place in the Liverpool side at the expense of others. But do not underestimate the capability of those waiting behind him in line for first-team opportunities, particularly the Reds’ Cameroonian defensive maestro Joel Matip, after putting in a superb performance against Bournemouth on Saturday.
The former Schalke man, who arrived on a free from ‘Die Knappen’ in the summer of 2016, really illustrated to Jurgen Klopp why he should be the man to step in the shoes of the injured Gomez, who unfortunately fractured his lower left leg during the 3-1 win over Burnley at Turf Moor.
Arise Sir Joel
Matip may have been a surprise inclusion into Klopp’s team as many expected Dejan Lovren to fit back into the fold, sometimes unfairly represented as an understudy for the World Cup finalist and Virgil van Dijk, especially last season during Liverpool’s old swash-buckling ways. Defenders have appeared to look better playing next to the Reds’ record signing and Matip arguably played his best game in a Liverpool shirt on Saturday at the Vitality Stadium.
Not only do Jurgen Klopp’s men tire opposing defenders, but they also work into tiring opposing attackers and by keeping the ball having to face high pressing teams. The level of passing from Matip was a different class at times, completing 85% of his passes during the 90 minutes, according to WhoScored.
There is a level of composure this season at the heart of the Liverpool defence that we simply have not seen since the glory days of the late 80s with Alan Hansen, and Matip has hugely benefitted by getting a run of games in the side and has helped his team get on the front foot with his vision, completing three long balls.
Defensively, that is his primary job in the side, he did everything right. Granted, he did concede two needless fouls which didn’t need to be made, he made three interceptions in the game, made three tackles and three clearances. He did not put a foot wrong and the Reds did not look like conceding a goal. He has made himself a legitimate contender to start against Manchester United next Sunday.
From the outside looking in, the roles have seem to reversed from this time last season, when van Dijk came in Matip was in the team and eventually lost his place due to a thigh injury which saw him sit out the rest of the season, with Lovren coming in and forming a solid partnership with the Dutchman. Now Matip appears to have got his opportunity in the team once more after he was praised by the manager during his post-match press conference.
Quoted by the Metro, he said:
“I could write a book about Virgil’s strengths and Alisson’s strengths, but look what Joel Matip did today. How good he was, and he has absolutely no rhythm. He trains on the highest level and he’s not even in the squad sometimes.”
There’s even a possibility that he could start further games in the future, predictably, he may miss the game against Napoli as Klopp tends to favour Lovren in the big games. But this is a great opportunity for the manager to experiment with his defensive strength in depth. Even if Matip doesn’t get into the starting XI this season. Joel Matip is certainly a solid backup player.
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