After the opening three Premier League games of the new season, a debate has arisen between Liverpool and Manchester United fans about Joel Matip and Harry Maguire.
Simply put, certain individuals on social media have been arguing about which of the centre-backs is the better player.
It is an interesting discussion.
Matip is clearly a top-class centre-back. He just suffers from injury a lot, meaning non-Liverpool fans haven’t seen enough of him for them to really realise it.
Maguire, meanwhile, splits opinion. He earned a big reputation at Leicester, partly due to his 2018 World Cup performances, and an £80m move to United.
Since then, he went from very highly rated to much-maligned for a period and is now rated incredibly highly once again.
It is clear that he is a great defender, but his lack of pace, especially on the turn, can be got at.
For us, though, Matip has zero weaknesses apart from his injury record.
We are biased, of course, but we do believe that he is the better player.
But we won’t convince people that easily. We have decided to take a look at the stats and see if we can prove our argument.
We compared the numbers of Matip and Maguire in the league and in Europe from 2017/18 to the current season.
There is one quick point to note, and that is that Maguire has played much more football in this time. He has 164 appearances to Matip’s 86.
So, all of our stats are per 90 minutes.
Matip vs Maguire: The numbers
The most sensible place to start is with defensive actions. A high amount of tackles and interceptions is not always a sign of a great defender, as some players, like Virgil van Dijk, prefer to back off to cut out options rather than engage and risk being rounded.
So, the tackle success rate and successful pressures stats are more important. Matip comes on top in both, with 46.9% to 46.2% and 38.1% to 37.1%.
For that matter, he also makes more tackles and interceptions, with 3.1 to 2.9.
Matip is underrated in the air, but it is probably Maguire’s biggest strength so the Englishman wins out here. He wins 75% of his aerial duels while Matip wins 71.4%.
Yet Matip has improved this exponentially lately, and if we just count the last three seasons, his numbers go up to 77.1% while Maguire’s stay the same.
The Cameroonian is also a better passer. He attempts more (69.4 to 58.1) and has a higher success rate (89% to 87%). He passes the ball forwards more too, with an average progressive distance of 412 yards to Maguire’s 344.
Any manager looking for a centre-back will be looking at these three areas above all else. Defending, passing and aerial prowess.
Well, Joel Matip trumps Harry Maguire in all of them.
He is also better on the turn and faster over long distances. When watching Matip, we rarely think “he could have done better there”. Yet we do think that with Maguire from time to time.
So, there is really no argument as far as we are concerned.
If Liverpool’s 30-year-old can stay fit this season, we believe that he will be recognised as one of the best centre-backs in world football.