Liverpool yesterday confirmed that an agreement has been reached for us to sign Schalke defender Joel Matip on a free transfer at the end of the season.
The 24-year-old is a Cameroonian international with World Cup experience, and over 240 senior appearances to his name with the Bundesliga club.
He will join our centre-back ranks, which already includes Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho, Kolo Toure, Dejan Lovren, Steven Caulker, Joe Gomez and Tiago Ilori.
So where will Matip place in Jurgen Klopp’s defensive pecking order for next campaign? If it isn’t at least in the top two – then signing him is a waste of time.
There are clearly enough numbers for us to get by without adding another centre-half – seven in total who have started for the Reds in all competitions this term.
There was a time – notably either side of the New Year – when our stocks were thin. All seven, except for Caulker and Ilori, who have only been available since January, have spent time on the sidelines.
But, during a normal season in which we are not so incredibly crippled by injuries, five centre-backs – Skrtel, Sakho, Toure, Lovren and Gomez, would be plenty.
To prove my point – Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur have only used three central defenders apiece this term and occupy the top two spots in the Premier League.
Matip should not be coming in to add competition or depth to the group, but to add quality to a defence which has conceded 36 goals in 26 league games this season.
He is a player with Champions League pedigree, the physical size to adapt to English football – standing at 6ft 4in – and expert positional play and prowess in the air.
Regardless of whether he is a free agent or not, if Klopp did not think that Matip was better than what he already had, then surely he would not have brought him in?
Caulker and Toure’s contracts expire in the summer and probably won’t be retained, and Ilori could follow them out of the door, either permanently or on loan.
That would leave Matip as first-choice, right-sided centre-back, with Skrtel as back-up, and Sakho and Lovren competing to partner him in a balanced and stable pairing.
Gomez would return from injury to battle Alberto Moreno for the left-back berth, and can be shifted inside once he gains experience, or Sakho or Lovren flounder.
Just because Matip is arriving for nothing, that does not mean that we should not expect him to play a significant role. He cannot be just another defensive number.
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