Liverpool confirmed yesterday that we have agreed to sign Cameroonian defender Joel Matip on a free transfer from Schalke at the end of the season.
Jurgen Klopp knows the 24-year-old well from his time in the Bundesliga, and so does Sky Germany journalist Kristian Sommer, who spoke to the Echo.
Speaking about Matip’s strengths and weaknesses, Sommer said: “He is usually very calm, he has a good positional play and is good in the air. On the other hand, Matip lacks physical presence and is not that strong though compared to other centre-halves at Schalke.”
It is a surprise to hear that Matip lacks strength and physicality considering that he stands at 6ft 4in. Klopp will need to get him in the gym straight away!
But his aerial prowess is very important considering the vulnerability that we have shown from set pieces this season, and makes him a bonus threat at the other end.
Matip has scored 23 goals in 243 games for Schalke, and Sommer rates him as the most dangerous defender from dead-ball situations in the Bundesliga, by a distance.
“He is without a shadow of a doubt the most dangerous centre-half in the Bundesliga right now,” Sommer said. “He is good in the air he scores a lot of goals from set pieces.”
Sommer added: “He is good on the ball and can create chances as he often sees the open space. He will need to get used to the ‘kick and rush’ aspect of the English game, as his major weakness used to be that he is not the quickest, but he always made that up because of his excellent positional play.”
That he is not lightning fast should not be a great concern. Our defensive problems – 36 goals conceded in 26 league games this season – have not been because of a lack of pace in the central areas.
Tottenham Hotspur have the best defensive record in the Premier League this term – 20 in 26 league games – but none of their centre-halfs are particularly rapid over the ground.
In a similar way, our full-backs are very sharp and would be able to provide cover for Matip, whose comfort on the ball and expert positional play will hopefully reduce our error count.
Matip, who is also capable of playing as a holding midfielder, is described as a “bargain” by Sommer, and the German reporter thinks that he can be a long-term defensive solution for the Reds.
It is a bargain to be honest,” Sommer said. “Matip is only 24 and has already played over 250 games for Schalke, over 40 of those were in the European club competition and he also took part at the 2010 & 2014 World Cups for Cameroon.
“He has got a lot of experience for a player of his age and Liverpool have managed to get him for free. If he adapts quickly to the Premier League, I can see him playing there for quite some time
“His advantage is that Jurgen Klopp knows him very well and he will understand what Klopp expects of him.”
Matip sounded like an excellent signing on paper and this recommendation from a journalist who has watched him up close and personal over the years only makes it appear a shrewder move.
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