Joel Matip continues to be a key piece of Jurgen Klopp’s puzzle … and proved it against Aston Villa
Joel Matip continues to be a centerpiece of Jurgen Klopp’s puzzle … the silent center-back rarely makes headlines, but he’s hugely important for Liverpool – and he’s proven it against Aston Villa
- Joel Matip continues to be a strong defensive partner alongside Virgil van Dijk
- The 29-year-old continues to impress at the forefront of the Reds’ defense
- Germany-born Matip joined Liverpool on a free transfer from Schalke in 2016
The irony of it all for Joel Matip was that the moment he turned the highlights on was the moment a calamity seemed about to befall Liverpool.
As Aston Villa cautiously started asking their hosts questions, goalkeeper Alisson rushed out of his goal and slammed a clearance straight into Matip. The pair got a pickle, substitute Danny Ings tried to intervene and Alisson was lucky not to concede a penalty.
Fortunately, the games are more than just packages edited together, and Matip’s real picture of the day was totally different from that scrambled snapshot.
Matip has been a shrewd company after moving from Schalke for free in 2016
Matip has forged a solid partnership alongside Virgil van Dijk in the heart of defense
He might be the quiet man in the Liverpool locker room, someone who rarely makes the headlines, but his importance to this team is enormous.
Liverpool have started the season with questions asked about their defense, especially after conceding five goals in one week against Brentford and Manchester City. But their form improved and they started to be stingy again.
Since the 3-2 defeat at West Ham on November 7, Liverpool have won seven games in a row, keeping five clean sheets. Matip played in both of those matches, when he was at rest against Southampton and AC Milan, and the only time they were raped with him in the squad was Demarai Gray in the derby of Merseyside.
Matip was one of the first signings for Klopp, a free transfer from Schalke in July 2016. It’s one of the smartest deals Liverpool have done in recent times, as the fees for a player its quality would have collided with tens of millions.
Matip (left) takes on Ollie Watkins in Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa
Mohamed Salah won Liverpool a penalty after being slashed by Tyrone Mings
Villa arrived in Merseyside with ambition and, while still in his early stages under Steven Gerrard, they look like a progressive and united team. But the frustration they had here was that they just couldn’t get into the positions to cause problems for Liverpool.
This was mainly due to the dominance of Matip – whose influence is crucial as Virgil van Dijk returns to peak form – and the two totems in midfield, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho.
We all know Liverpool’s ability to break away and score goals on the fly, but Klopp gave you the impression that the last two domestic results – 1-0, 1-0 – were the kind he absolutely loves .
“A draw, a tough opponent, a clean sheet – we can’t be too hard on ourselves,” said Van Dijk, who got an unusual card for battling Ollie Watkins in the first half. “We did well, they created moments of danger but we deserved the victory.”
Such was Liverpool’s overwhelming desire to make the big yards, Klopp turned to roar at the crowd when Henderson – again outstanding – ran 25 yards at full speed to close.
Salah converted the resulting shot on goal to help Liverpool to three points at Anfield on Saturday
Villa manager and former Reds legend Steven Gerrard kisses Matip full-time at Anfield
He celebrated it more than the penalty – converted by the angry Mohamed Salah – which ensured the victory.
“It’s something that we have to be fully committed to as a team – defending,” Klopp said. This is our idea. If this team, this team defends at the highest level, we still have a chance to score a goal and if we don’t, we have to score two, three, four.
“It doesn’t make sense because it’s not always possible. There are so many things to think about, but the most important thing is that you are well protected because then you really feel free for offensive things.
There will still be plenty of days when Salah and Sadio Mane and the other members of Liverpool’s powerful attacking let go, but in tough times they will look behind and recognize the protection is there. No one provides more than Matip.