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Comparing Konate, Gomez and Matip - who should partner van Dijk?

Next season we will see Ibrahima Konate, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip battle it out to partner Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the Liverpool defence.

Each of the trio is incredibly talented.

£36m new signing Konate is one of the best young defenders in Europe. The 22-year-old is already at an incredibly high level and is only going to get better.

Like van Dijk, Joe Gomez is on the comeback trail after a serious injury saw him miss the majority of the 2020/21 season. He is expected to come back fit and ready to go for pre-season.

On top form, Gomez is nothing short of world-class. He is still incredibly young for a defender, having only turned 24 last month.

Finally, Matip is also coming back from an injury that ruled him out for the last five months of the season. As we know, he is incredibly injury-prone.

He is one of the most underrated defenders in the world because of this.

It is a nice selection headache for Jurgen Klopp to have. Which of these three potentially elite players will he pick to partner the best defender on the planet?

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We have compared each of their per 90 stats for the last three seasons to try and come to a conclusion.

Konate aggressive, Gomez reliable, Matip dominant

Since 2018/19, Gomez has played 51 times, with Konate on 50 appearances and Matip on 41. So they all have similar sample sizes.

First, we will look at the defensive numbers.

Konate leads the pack for tackles and interceptions, with 2.9. However, he has the lowest tackle success rate with 37%, while Matip comes first with 44%.

The Frenchman also makes the most pressures per 90, as well as blocks.

This indicates that Konate is the most aggressive of the three.

Jurgen Klopp likes his centre-backs to back off the attackers to allow the midfielders to get back and put in the tackle. This prevents the defenders from getting caught out of position and leaving space in behind.

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So, tackle numbers may not exactly be the best thing to look for in this scenario.

Gomez has just about made the most errors leading to goal, but it is not a high number at all.

The Englishman is also the best passer of the lot, coming top of the majority of ball-playing stats.

He attempts and completes the most total passes, while he also has the highest average progressive distance. Matip is slightly more accurate with his short passing, but Gomez is clear with medium- and long-range balls.

Konate is the weakest of them in this regard, but his numbers are by no means bad. He makes up for it by attempting and completing the most dribbles.

Matip is the most aerially-dominant, with a huge 78% success rate. Konate comes in second with 76%, while Gomez is way down at 60%.

Finally, while it’s not that important, Matip has the most goals in this period, with three. Konate has two, while Gomez is yet to score for the Reds.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is not much between the trio.

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Konate is probably bottom of the pile at the moment, but his potential is scary. Even at that, he is not far off either of the other two as it stands.

He is going to have to adapt to Liverpool’s way of defending. He will have to resist the urge to go and win every ball that comes near in favour of a more passive style.

As many will be able to tell from just watching them, there really isn’t much to split Gomez and Matip. Both of them are top, top players.

Because Konate and Gomez are younger, they will benefit a lot more by playing than Matip will. This means that Liverpool will benefit, as the plan is surely to pair them up whenever van Dijk leaves the club.

So, considering there is not all that much between the three, we would lean towards starting one of the two youngsters.

Matip is also likely to miss large portions of the season through injury anyway.

With Gomez and Matip still getting back to full fitness, we would probably play Konate alongside van Dijk on the opening day of the season.

However, as the campaign goes on, Joe Gomez is probably the best candidate. We saw how good his partnership with van Dijk is in the title-winning season, while it is only going to get better.

No matter who plays, Liverpool are going to have a solid defence, both next season and beyond.

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