Liverpool have little choice but to back Joel Matip next season. That’s despite him starting just eleven games all season – a career-low.
Matip has struggled with injuries this campaign. A knee injury in October kept him out until January, by which point Joe Gomez had solidified his role in defence.
Then while Matip did start the first game after the restart, injury once again cut his spell in the first-team short. He went off after 73 minutes and that was the end of his season.
In all, Matip has started just eleven games this season. Eight of those came in the Premier League, one in the Champions League, one in the Super Cup and one on his return from injury against Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup.
He’s only had two substitute appearances on top of that so that’s a grand total of 13 games this season. That’s quite the turnaround considering the start of the campaign.
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We weren’t alone in thinking he was that good, either, as Matip won the PFA Player of the Month award for September. He was playing fantastically and it’s a huge shame that his season started to suffer the following month.
A strange situation
Every club is in an unusual situation, it’s safe to say. The economic downturn makes it hard to spend money and it certainly appears that Liverpool will stick with what they’ve got.
And that means keeping faith in Matip to turnaround his injury issues and refind form.
There’s little doubt that Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez will be first and second choice next season at the back. But Gomez is still a little bit shaky at times – to be expected at 23, mind. As expected as that is, though, it means Liverpool do need senior experience behind him, just in case he has a poor spell.
Dejan Lovren, the other senior centre-back, looks like he could leave. Zenit St. Petersburg will reportedly make an offer soon and we’d imagine Liverpool will accept it.
That would leave Matip as Liverpool’s only senior backup to Van Dijk and Gomez. Assuming there are no players incoming, of course.
And given Gomez’s relative inconsistency – compared to Van Dijk – Liverpool do need someone to swap in at times. That will have to be Matip then, and Liverpool will have to hope he overcomes his problems.
There’s little choice, in truth. This isn’t a terrible position to be in but it’s not ideal. Liverpool would be better off with another option there, one who is reliably fit even as fourth-choice (Lovren, with injury issues of his own, is unreliable in that role, anyway).
What they’ve got, though, is a player who is fantastic on his day but with unreliable fitness. Fingers crossed Matip can turn things around – because Liverpool have a real problem if he can’t.