Joel Matip’s absence during the majority of January, first through injury and then because of infuriating legislation, definitely damaged Liverpool.
Our attack last month was stale but our backline was ropey at best, with Ragnar Klavan failing to ably cover for the Cameroonian.
What’s more, Dejan Lovren is a less assured player without Matip alongside him.
Liverpool were told they could face punishment if they fielded Matip during Cameroon’s stint at the AFCON, and only used the 26-year-old once we got a very delayed ‘OK’ from FIFA.
As a result, our best defender missed a total of nine games, and being sidelined was not something he enjoyed – in the slightest.
“Every time when they score and I’m watching on TV, I’m [celebrating],” he told Liverpoolfc.com.
“I always hope that they score and win the games – I really feel like a fan.
“My girlfriend is also a big supporter, us two sit on the couch and really support and hope we win.
“But she also hopes that I will be on the field.
“It’s a busy period, every few days there’s a game. It’s not nice to be on the side and always watch the game and not be on the field,” Matip added.
“When I was on the field it was much better – even just to stand on the field and not have the ball! My mood gets much better just standing on the field.
“It’s not good for the mood because every player wants to play and be fit. It was not the worst injury so [you can’t] say, ‘everything is rubbish’.
“But I’m on a good way and I hope it will be a long time until my next injury.”
Now Matip is back, with Liverpool out of the cup competitions, our defensive selections should be pretty consistent. With James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne at fullback, Lovren and Matip can hopefully develop their partnership which was beginning to look pretty impressive before Christmas.
With this back-four, we can hopefully shore up a defence which during January was regularly exposed.