27-time international is the perfect Liverpool solution to troubled position ahead of Merseyside derby
Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Why Joel Matip is the perfect solution to Liverpool's recent defensive woes

Jurgen Klopp may have been handed a timely defensive boost ahead of Saturday’s Merseyside derby against Everton.

There was plenty of noise during the summer transfer window for Liverpool to sign another central defender following the departure of Dejan Lovren yet Klopp resisted the urge to strengthen further in that particular area.

Fabinho’s imperious performance against Chelsea last month eased any initial worries that Liverpool were thin in defensive cover although Joe Gomez’s recent struggles against Aston Villa have since complicated matters.

Despite the EFL window still open until Friday, Liverpool will not be making any late defensive additions according to reputable journalist James Pearce.

One major boost for Liverpool ahead of the clash at Goodison Park is the return of Joel Matip, who is expected to be fit in time for Saturday’s match.

Matip’s continuous injury setbacks have all-but seen his status as Virgil van Dijk’s preferred central defensive partner made obsolete yet he could still yet stake a claim for a regular starting berth.

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 22: Joel Matip of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge on September 22, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

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After all, it wasn’t too long ago that Matip was matching, and even on some occasions surpassing the performance levels of the finest defender on the planet.

A knee injury suffered at Old Trafford last season has proven to be the definitive moment which saw Matip’s incredible rise to prominence blighted, with the Cameroonian defender featuring just twice for the Reds since that setback 12 months ago.

It is often forgotten just how influential Matip was alongside Van Dijk to get Liverpool’s title credentials rolling during their procession to a 19th league championship last season.

In the eight matches he started last term, Liverpool conceded just five goals and dropped just four points before his season was eventually curtailed. To put that into perspective, this season the Reds have already shipped 11 goals in just four PL outings and have suffered their heaviest club defeat in over 50 years.

Such capitulation in defensive standards so far this season could see Klopp look for a defensive reshuffle and Matip’s return to fitness could have come at the perfect for the Liverpool boss.

Matip is particularly outstanding in his defensive actions during a game as well as dominance in aerial duels.

Liverpool’s German-born Cameroonian defender Joel Matip (C) challenges Everton’s English striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin (C) during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on June 21, 2020. (Photo by Jon Super / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by JON SUPER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Last season, Matip won 5.2 of his defensive duels which surpassed that of both Van Dijk (5.0) and Gomez (2.7) according to WhoScored. It is a quality that is particularly beneficial in helping the Reds reclaim the ball and then maintaining possession.

Another factor in Matip’s corner is Klopp’s preferred use of a high defensive line which left Liverpool – especially in the case at Villa – vulnerable to long balls over the top which creates a greater onus for suitable cover in the air to avoid the risk of being split open from lofted passes.

Liverpool cannot afford to be left as open defensively to that as they were against Villa. While Gomez has a number of outstanding defensive qualities, Matip is more naturally suited to thrive in a higher defensive line.

Should he be fit on Saturday, it could be the perfect occasion for Matip ahead of Gomez to return to the fore of Liverpool. After all, when both were last fit and available, it was was the former who was given the nod to start in the reverse fixture at Goodison Park last season.

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