While many of the Premier League’s top clubs are seemingly unsure as to who their manager will be for next season, Liverpool have already been going about the business of strengthening the team. Jurgen Klopp is settled at Anfield and although fans are looking forward to his first summer in the transfer market, some business has already been completed and includes the free transfer of Joel Matip, from Schalke.
Matip is a German born, Cameroon central defender, who has been playing in the Bundesliga for Schalke for a number of years. Indeed, despite turning 25 years of age prior to the 2016/17 Premier League season, Matip made his debut in the Bundesliga back in 2009. In that match, against Bayern Munich, Matip scored the equalising goal and was named man of the match for his performance. Since then, Matip has progressed to becoming a regular at the back for Schalke and has also represented Cameroon at two World Cup tournaments.
Not only has Matip played well over 200 times in the Bundesliga, the defender has great experience in both the Champions League and the Europa League. He has been playing well this season in the Bundesliga, as Schalke attempt to qualify for the Champions League and has achieved consistently good ratings throughout. Only Mats Hummels is ranked higher for central defenders on WhoScored.com in the Bundesliga this season and Matip’s pass success rate is over 80%, which is a good sign for a Liverpool team who will be aiming to play the ball out from the back efficiently next seaso
So what will Matip bring to the Liverpool defence in terms of playing ability next season? The Cameroon international has plenty of technical ability and is comfortable on the ball, as discussed above. In addition, Matip has a long stride, allowing him to recover quickly in to defensive positions and prevent counter-attacks and although he looks quite slight, he isn’t afraid to mix it, which is good news considering the physicality in the Premier League. However, perhaps a key area of Matip’s game is his heading ability, which due to his height of almost 6 foot 4 inches, makes him key when defending set-pieces but also when attacking them.
In terms of the negative aspects of his game, concentration levels can sometimes be an issue. Matip has been known to switch off mentally during games but this has shown signs of improvement this season. However, with that improved concentration, Matip has lost none of his ability to remain calm on the pitch, whatever the situation may be. During 236 games for Schalke, Matip has been shown the red card only once and yellow card 29 times. This season, in 32 appearances for Schalke in the Bundesliga, Matip has been shown 3 yellow cards and has not been sent off.
It has been obvious for a while that Liverpool’s defence needs strengthening. Manager Jurgen Klopp said, “When you build up a team, you start with the defence – that’s how it is.”
“It keeps you in the game and gives you the opportunity to score once and win the game.”
“It’s clear it’s how we build up a team and that’s one of the biggest targets for the next season – not for the rest of this season but for next season and then to build up a stability in this part of the game.”
With Martin Skrtel out of favour at Anfield at the moment and not the player he used to be, Kolo Toure is nearing the end of his career, Mamadou Sakho having to deal with a drugs ban and Dejan Lovren still to convince at the club, Joel Matip could become an important player and quickly for Jurgen Klopp next season.
Watch Jeol Matip in action below.