Liverpool’s dismal start to the season is still showing no clear signs of improving, with further misery arriving after Jurgen Klopp confirmed Joel Matip is still unavailable.
What’s the latest?
The defender has been sidelined for a few weeks now, after picking up a calf injury in the defeat against Arsenal, in what was a damaging game for the Reds in terms of injuries.
While Klopp did hint that fellow defender Ibrahima Konate could return and start, there will still be a sense of disappointment that his Cameroonian centre-back is still unavailable considering his defence’s poor showing this season.
Liverpool are going into this mammoth clash after a shocking 2-1 defeat at home to Leeds in their last match. The Reds had threatened Illan Meslier’s goal throughout but only punctured it once, with the real issues emanating at the back.
Like most games this season, Klopp’s men suffered from defensive frailties, Joe Gomez and Alisson Becker involved in a calamitous mixup early doors to gift Rodrygo an easy goal. Gomez had attempted a back-pass across goal without properly looking, which the Liverpool goalkeeper was not correctly positioned to receive – resulting in the onrushing Leeds forward intercepting and scoring.
While ordinarily, the omission of the 31-year-old through injury might not be such a big deal, these defensive mistakes by the likes of mainstays Gomez and Virgil van Dijk has led to fans crying out for different options – in the hopes that a change in personnel may lead to a change in fortunes at the back.
Liverpool signed the German-born defender all the way back in 2016, and since then the experienced centre-back has made 174 appearances for the club. Couple these numbers with the 258 appearances for his boyhood club Schalke, it’s clear to see the experience the £100k-per-week man brings.
The long-serving defender also has very good numbers statistically in relation to his oppositional peers, ranking in the top 10% for progressive passes and passes attempted, as per FBref, which is indicative of how forward-thinking Klopp likes his defenders to be.
This is one of the reasons that Gomez is making mistakes, as there is an expectation to remain calm and play the ball frequently – but a crisis of confidence has scuppered this approach for the Englishman so far this season.
The former Schalke man would undoubtedly bring a calmer presence alongside Van Dijk, largely due to his age and experience, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that he also brings a lot of height – measuring in at 6 foot 4.
Supplementing this height the defender also ranks in the top 10% for aerials won, as per FBref, meaning his return could mean the Reds potentially pose more of a threat in opponent’s boxes while also being more assured at the back.
The injured man signed a contract extension with Liverpool back in 2019, and his manager has previously said he “cannot help people who don’t see the quality of Joel Matip”, which may signify a return to the starting lineup once calf issues have been overcome – and it may be a necessary return based on events this season thus far.
Therefore, to still be without the Cameroon centre-back is certainly a frustrating and big blow for Klopp heading into kick-off tonight, where the Reds need a convincing win to top their group.