Michael Baddeley outlines why Joel Matip can be the solution to Liverpool’s defensive issues.
How many times have we sat down and torn Liverpool’s defensive efforts apart? Personally, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve done it and there’s no doubt that we will sit down in the future and moan about how poor our defensive efforts have been in certain games.
So often we’ve struggled to find a partnership that works. We’ve seen Lovren and Sakho, Sakho and Lucas, Lucas and Lovren, then this season we’ve seen Klavan and Lovren. But none have ever worked out the way we desired.
Every partnership we’ve tried has been bullied in the air, never had the pace to keep up with the quicker strikers, didn’t show any aggression, had no real organisation, no leadership and shown really poor positional play.
In my last article I slated the back four and who can blame me? Against Burnley the defence was a complete joke, it was even horrendous against a weakened Arsenal side the week before.
In the first two games of the season there was no leadership, there was no strength and there was no control when we were on the ball. But the last two games have been the exact opposite. Alright, it was only Burton and they didn’t really trouble the back four, but most people went into that game expecting us to concede.
Then yesterday, well let’s put it this way: in my eyes, it was the best defensive performance we’ve put in for a long while, it wasn’t anything special, but it was good, which is a rarity for Liverpool and it’s mainly down to one man. That man is Joel Matip. He’s looked like a player who we brought for £25 million, not a player we signed on a freebie.
He was calm, composed, aggressive and in general a breath of fresh air to the defence. There were times where he looked a bit shaky when it came to the physicality side of the game, but that will come with experience in the league.
The most impressive aspect of his game is the way he can step out of defence and play the ball forward. So many times we saw it against Spurs and it eventually proved vital as he was the one who played the ball into Firmino just before the Brazilian was brought down for the penalty.
The early signs of a partnership with Lovren are very promising. The two seem to have an understanding. The base of a solid defence is there and if Lovren could find the form he had at Southampton then I really think we could be on to something with him and Matip back there.
Lovren has always looked shaky alongside the other defenders we have, but with Matip by his side he’s looked like the player we saw at Southampton. In fact, the whole back four looked settled with hm being there.
Clyney – there’s no need to discuss him, he always looks comfortable. Mr Reliable very rarely makes errors let alone ones that lead to goals. It looks like we are going to stick with Milner at left back; maybe Joe Gomez will come in when he makes his return and I would love to see that, but as it stands Milner is going to be the one playing makeshift left back and credit to him, he played really well against Tottenham and always puts in 110%. Karius is still to come back too and that will only strengthen a defence that seems to be on the up.
People may think I’m jumping the gun here, but Matip looks the real deal. He looks like the guy the will bring a little bit of organisation, calmness and who knows, he may eventually prove to be the leader in defence that we’ve lacked for a while now!