Liverpool’s defence has been an area of weakness now for up to six years. Long gone are the days under Benetiz where Liverpool fans could see Carragher, Hyypia, Agger, Reina, Mascherano and Xabi Alonso line up at Anfield. All six players featured heavily in the 2008-09 season, where Liverpool came 2nd to Manchester United. The year before, Liverpool had been beaten in their second Champions League final in three years. Compared to the Liverpool side under Klopp’s stewardship today, its chalk and cheese.
To apportion any blame on Klopp for Liverpool defensive fragility would be ludicrous. He could have used the January window to strengthen (Steven Caulker seems to offer up little else than defensive cover in an injury crisis), but everything points to a summer squad overhaul for Klopp to start formulating a team that carries his name and his footballing philosophy. Joel Matip may well just be the first of many a name to arrive at Anfield before the start of the 2016-17 season.
The Cameroonian international seems to embody FSG’s ‘moneyball’ style of running a football club to a tee. Out of contract this summer, Matip has recently turned down Schalke’s latest contract offer; the 24 year old defender has his best years ahead of him. Since breaking through into the Schalke first time in 2010, Matip has gone on to make over 175 appearances for Schalke in the Bundesliga but this summer seems to signify pastures new and a different challenge for Matip.
Matip hasn’t missed a league game for Schalke this season and according to Squawka ranks as the most effective player in the Schalke squad. Matip is a versatile defender, with an ability to play the ball out from the back, something required of the centre defenders under Klopp’s ‘gegenpressing’ philosophy and something that has left asking questions of some of the current Liverpool crop. He leads his team in interceptions, clearance’s and blocks and whilst he only wins just over half his duels, partnered with the correct centre back, Matip seemingly has all the potential to be a successful and highly effective ball playing centre half in a time when decent central defenders are hard to come by.
Klopp will be well aware that one piece of jigsaw doesn’t solve the puzzle and that Liverpool’s defence will need more than one signing but Joel Matip certainly represents a good starting point as Klopp looks to stamp his personality on a side that’s greatest undoing in recent seasons has been defensive errors and the amount of goals conceded.
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog
(Featured image is not my own, please click on image to find source article)