Joël Matip Analysis: One of the Most Underrated Defenders in European Football?

Joël Matip Analysis: One of the Most Underrated Defenders in European Football?
October 21, 2021 Mizgan Masani

When Liverpool signed Joël Matip on a free transfer from Schalke in the summer of 2016, not many were sure of what we would get from the former Cameroon international. Although his ability and experience was touching the roof in the Bundesliga before he left Germany, there was a tiny bit of doubt as to how he would fare in the Premier League.

To put his time in Germany in context: the now 30-year-old had made 258 appearances for Schalke in all competitions while playing as a centre-back, as well as a defensive midfielder. Furthermore, he represented Cameroon in two World Cups (2010 and 2014) before hanging up his boots from the international game in 2015.

From the 2016/17 season onwards, we have seen an excellent player continuing his good work playing for Liverpool. Matip has featured in 133 games in all competitions for the Reds so far, consistently putting in good performances and being a rock at the back. He has played key roles in the side winning the Premier League and the Champions League (especially the latter when he and van Dijk were the rock at the back that helped Liverpool beat the likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona and an in-form Tottenham in the final on their way to continental glory).

The table below shows the stats of how the team has played while he was on the pitch (2016/17 till date in league games) –

Goals and expected goals conceded being less one per game is a more than decent return, especially after considering the fact Virgil van Dijk came in the January of 2018, eighteen months after Matip’s arrival. The only downside has been fewer than 50% of minutes played. His injury record hasn’t been too kind to him; however, in the title-winning season, Jurgen Klopp preferred a partnership of Joe Gomez and van Dijk even when the Cameroonian was fit and on the bench (he played the initial half of the season very well that year).

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