Liverpool’s heavy defeat in Naples wasn’t much of a boost to the Reds’ defence, but the introduction of Joel Matip highlighted how he adds a new level to Jurgen Klopp’s squad when he is deployed. It seemed only a matter of time before Liverpool would face a result that could be cause for concern, as Alisson had been given too many chances this season to finish this season.
Points dropped at home against Crystal Palace were among the first damage suffered after Wilfried Zaha outpaced Nat Phillips and scored, while Marcus Rashford’s goal for Manchester United at Old Trafford showed that teams had found a way to normally strong defenses.
Klopp has commented that the reason the high line has remained is because of the way the system works in regards to the press. Some on social media have even gone so far as to suggest that the publication of Pep Lijnder’s book has helped teams find a way to exploit the Reds, but the reality is that Liverpool are simply not applying pressure as effectively as they used to. Their ability to create opportunities comes from opposing and locking up teams, and right now that ability has let them down.
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That could mean a minor style change to make attacks less prone to counter-attacks – with an emphasis on mastery of the game. Perhaps one of the biggest problems for Liverpool in recent weeks has been the lack of options available in central midfield. Arthur’s signing has eased that somewhat, but it wasn’t long before Jordan Henderson made it onto the injury list. When the Reds are going to control matches, they need available options and Matip is a player who can set the tone from behind.
Although he only played one half against Napoli, his ball skills are great, and Matip finds easy ways to get the ball across to midfield. That is helped by his ability to get the ball out through his dribbling, where he creates more space for Liverpool’s midfielders by forcing the opponent to put pressure on him. He’s nowhere near as fast as Joe Gomez, but the basics he provides seem to be level up in terms of game reading and quick communication, coupled with providing an element of control from the back.
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The consistency Matip offers with his performances has been ubiquitous since he joined the club for free from Schalke in 2016. While his injury record could be called into question in some campaigns, there can be nothing about his performances – they were on par with Virgil van Dijk’s last season. With the Dutch international having a slow start to the season, a once untouchable partnership between Gomez and Van Dijk now looks fragile.
Gomez has put in some solid performances, of course, but after missing nearly a full season after making the move to right-back in the 2021/22 season, it’s clear he needs more time to stay sharp before he’s able to fight against teams that want to squeeze. A home game against Ajax on Tuesday night offers a chance for the former Charlton star to redeem himself, but in Premier League terms, Klopp must try to get Matip back on the case as soon as possible before the Reds leave the Premier League. title race.
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