Defensive crisis drags down Liverpool title challenge

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As 2018 came to an end, Liverpool would have been very happy indeed. Champions League heartbreak aside they had enjoyed a very good year. Having matched Manchester City toe to toe across 2018 they entered 2019 top of the Premier League table and four points ahead of the champions.

Adding Virgil Van Dijk in the January transfer window and Alisson Becker in the summer had transformed the once weak Reds backline into a formidable outfit. 12 of their 21 games before the turn of the year had seen them keep clean sheets. They had conceded just ten goals in that period, the best in the league. Manchester City were their closest competitors with a tally of 17 conceded.

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EPL Best XI – Riyad Mahrez leads the way

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The sixth weekend of the Premier League season saw Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea maintain their unbeaten starts to the campaign, while Burnley picked up their first three points of 2018-19 with a 4-0 win over Bournemouth. Let’s take a look at which players made our Best XI of the Weekend.

GK: Petr Cech, Arsenal – seven points
With eight teams keeping clean sheets this weekend, EPL Fantasy managers picked up plenty of points from goalkeepers and defenders. Petr Cech was key in the first half of Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Everton, earning himself seven points.

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Salah extension shows Liverpool mean business

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Liverpool have already returned for pre-season training, and there was some good news to come out of Melwood on the first day back.

Far and away their player of last season, Mo Salah announced that he’d penned a new long-term deal, bringing to an end rumours which had linked him with Real Madrid, Barcelona and others.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Liverpool were still something of a laughing stock. Not anymore. Continue reading

Joel Matip: The Liverpool Lowdown

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The next brick of Jurgen Klopp’s rebuild of Liverpool has been put in place with the signing of giant defender Joel Matip on a free transfer.

The 24-year-old, who currently plies his trade for Schalke in the Bundesliga, will make the switch to Anfield in the summer when his current deal runs out.

And the German manager was delighted to secure the signature of the Cameroon international. “I’m very happy,” Klopp said. ”Everybody who knows him would have been interested.”

“He was an easy choice. I know in England it is really difficult to sign a player without paying a transfer fee, but I thought it cannot be a reason not to take him only because you cannot put a number behind his name.

“If you asked in Germany what other clubs would have paid for him had he still been under contract, you can just pick a number.”

So what can Liverpool fans expect from their new man?

The End

As one door opens another often closes, and that is certainly the case with Liverpool’s central defensive department. It is likely that one or more of Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho and Diego Lovren will depart – most probably the latter two – as Klopp looks to get the personnel in place that can take the club forward.

Neither man has set the world alight at Anfield, and the Reds faithful won’t be overly concerned if they were to leave in the summer.

Physicality

There won’t be any concerns that Matip is up to the hustle and bustle of life in the Premier League. Standing 6ft 4in tall, he will be up for the aerial scrap but is fast enough and mobile enough to keep pace with the more fleet of foot too.

And having made nearly 250 career appearances for Schalke at the relatively young age of 24, it is clear that this is a player who doesn’t suffer with injuries.

Distribution

It’s a charge often levelled at messrs Skrtel, Sakho and Lovren: they simply don’t have the ability on the ball to be the launchpad for their team’s attacks.

Matip started his career as a midfielder, and so is clearly comfortable in possession, and bizarrely for a centre half he has already contributed three assists to Schalke’s cause this term.

“He plays very good passes – he can do short passes and long crosses,” Sky Sports’ German analyst Thorben Hoffmann said. “That will be good for the play from defence to midfield or direct to the striker.”

Set Piece Security

It will come as no surprise to learnt that a guy who stands 6ft 4in tall offers certain qualities at set pieces, but it is clear from his career to date that Matip will be able to improve Liverpool’s defending of crosses into the box.

He’s dominant in the air and regularly nets five or six goals a season – a huge bonus from your defensive linchpin.