Garth Crooks has hailed the impact of Liverpool defender Joel Matip in the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez. The pundit thinks he makes the Reds much more ‘dangerous’ from set-pieces.
In his previous three starts for the English champions, Matip has clocked up a goal and an assist during important victories against Wolves and Crystal Palace.
Matip, 29, supplied Mohamed Salah’s first goal of the afternoon in the second half of a whopping 7-0 win at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
The Cameroonian defender was back in the Liverpool XI to partner Fabinho having missed the midweek clash with Tottenham Hotspur as a result of a back problem.
Matip’s impact on the team this season has been huge in the absence of Jurgen Klopp’s first choice centre-back partnership. He was outstanding once again at the weekend as Liverpool recorded their fourth league clean sheet of the season.
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And Crooks believes alongside Fabinho, the defensive duo are forging a formidable pair.
“Matip hasn’t found it easy to settle in at Liverpool,” he wrote for the BBC. “Especially since the arrival of Virgil van Dijk, but the Cameroonian looks very impressive alongside the combative Fabinho.
“Together, they are becoming a formidable pair. Matip is also proving to be very dangerous in the opposition’s penalty area and gave Crystal Palace nightmares on set-pieces.
“It was his header that provided Mohamed Salah with his opening goal on Saturday.
“Van Dijk’s absence through injury, and that of Joe Gomez, has forced Reds boss Jurgen Klopp to use Matip and Fabinho as a partnership and they have developed in areas they once struggled.”
What RTK has to say
Crooks is absolutely right. Matip and Fabinho have been utterly outstanding for the Reds in 2020/21.
At the beginning of the season, if there was one player Liverpool could ill- to spend a sustained period on the sidelines, it was certainly the irreplaceable Van Dijk.
The towering Dutchman has arguably been Liverpool’s most transformative signing of the modern era. To lose such a figure would undoubtedly leave a gargantuan void to fill.
It’s not an understatement, to say that such a loss coupled by the injury to Thiago Alcantara, had the potential to totally derail Liverpool’s season.
However, the response from Klopp and his players has been nothing shy of inspiring.
In the nine league matches, Liverpool have been forced to cope without their chief organiser and defensive lynchpin, they have recorded seven wins, scored 23 goals and have conceded just six times.
Matip and Fabinho have been integral to such sustained brilliance from Liverpool’s behalf.
With the Reds top of the tree at Christmas for a third consecutive year, Klopp will certainly feel indebted to the significant impact both Matip and Fabinho have been able to make in recent months.