Liverpool: Joel Matip turning into a stalwart at centre-back

Joel Matip has been an exceptional, underrated player for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool for more than a year now, and he is turning into a stalwart at centre-back.

When Liverpool signed Joel Matip from Schalke 04 for a free transfer back in 2016, hardly anybody in world football batted an eye. Sure, the Reds were struggling defensively, but nobody was expecting the Cameroonian international to make a massive difference, especially since the deal went under-the-radar since it was on a free.

While he did have an excellent debut season in the Premier League, his 2nd season was somewhat of a disappointment, and young Joe Gomez started to take a grip on the right centre-back position alongside new signing Virgil van Dijk.

At that point, many expected Matip to fade away onto the bench, as the 3rd choice centre-back at the club. While this may very well have happened if things went in a linear motion, the lengthy injury that Joe Gomez suffered midway through last season changed everything, and forced Jurgen Klopp to throw Joel Matip into the starting XI for the rest of the season. From then on, Matip never looked back.

While Virgil van Dijk is of course, the very best defensive partner that a centre-back could ask for, Matip has been exceptional in his own way since sealing his spot in the first-team. He was key for Liverpool in their run to the Champions League crown, and his start to the 2019-20 league season is a sign that the only trajectory his play is taking, is an upward one.

Matip has put in man-of-the-match worthy displays against both Arsenal and Newcastle this season, and many would agree that he has actually outshone UEFA Player of the Year Van Dijk on many fronts. His ability to win aerial duels with ease has caused him to frustrate the likes of Abraham and Joelinton this season.

His form is great news for Liverpool as they aim to win their first ever Premier League title this season, but Matip is currently keeping Joe Gomez out of the team, and the youngster will be looking to challenge for a spot as the season goes on.

Liverpool will face Leicester City on Saturday, as they aim to win a 7th consecutive game to open the new Premier League season, to try and maintain their 5 point lead atop the table.