Dave Davis explains why Jöel Matip cannot escape criticism at Liverpool in light of the Reds’ horror show at Vicarage Road.
Emre Can has had his stick from the press and fans, Dejan Lovren is still a favourite and Alberto Moreno may never escape them.
Certain elements of Liverpool fans will usually have their targets when it comes to criticism and derision. Saturday’s performance defensively wasn’t a huge surprise unfortunately and if the level doesn’t improve, you wonder if some Reds will question another player.
When Liverpool announced a pre-contract agreement with Jöel Matip when he was at Schalke, fans were instantly intrigued. 6ft 4′ surely meant he’d be aerially dominant and when he was named in the Bundesliga Team of the Year in 2015/16, excitement levels reached fever pitch.
Emre Can made everyone aware that Jürgen Klopp had already spoken to him about the Cameroonian centre-half as a player he’d coveted for some time.
Matip’s early performances showed great promise and as Liverpool started the 2016/17 campaign so well, the 26-year-old appeared to be the centre half we’d been crying out for.
His presence meant that fans wouldn’t be as nervous as they would usually be with the likes of Lovren in the back line. However, early season form was curtailed by a number of issues as recurring ankle problems and international obstacles meant Liverpool badly missed the former Schalke man.
Since his return in the second half of last year, there has been a small section of fans who haven’t been too impressed with Matip’s performances.
The usual calm and collected demeanour appears to have been replaced at times by rash, frantic defending and occasionally a lack of reaction.
It was telling that Saturday’s performance at Watford whilst disappointing, wasn’t too surprising to some.
Matip may well have been helped by the performances of Lovren and Klavan at times, but he may well find himself under the microscope if performances at the back don’t improve.
There is a clamour to get Virgil van Dijk through the door, which is proof that leadership and presence is still lacking in Anfield’s back line. Jöel Matip could find himself the next one up in the firing line.