Matip’s Injury: A Significant Setback
As soon as Joel Matip grimaced on the side of the pitch against Fulham, you just feared the worst.
The centre-back injured himself out wide and didn’t make an instant return to the field, and moments later, he was sat on the turf making it clear that a substitution was required.
This is such a cruel blow for Matip, whose return to form has been one of the most pleasing aspects of this season, following a dismal 2022/23 campaign.
He was far from alone there, though.
Jurgen Klopp has made it clear that Matip’s absence is not going to be a short-term one, and considering his injury woes in the past, and his age, it is easy to envisage him not being back for months, rather than weeks.
It is a major setback for Liverpool ahead of their busy run of fixtures of the season so far, and all of a sudden, there is a huge amount of pressure on Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez, in particular.
Impact on Liverpool’s Defence
With Matip set to be out for the foreseeable future, these two are going to have to come to the fore, both in terms of his consistency and availability, in order to ensure the Reds continue to fight Man City and Arsenal to the death.
In fairness to Konate, he has done little wrong to warrant losing his place to Matip in the first place this season, apart from simply being unavailable at times, starting only five Premier League games.
The 24-year-old is a wonderful defender, possessing such power and pace, but he has reached a key point in his career where his failure to stay fit for long periods is becoming problematic in his development.
It is only natural that any Liverpool fan should have reservations about Konate avoiding injury until the New Year, at least, with recent evidence suggesting that another problem of some kind is never too far away.
Then there’s Gomez, who like Matip, has been largely impressive this season, doing a solid job at both centre-back and right-back.
Klopp’s Tactical Challenge
There were plenty of supporters who had rightly lost faith in the Englishman after some woeful performances last term, but he has cut a more focused and reliable figure this time around, showing that he still has lots to offer as a squad player.
Gomez has picked up several serious injuries throughout his career, however, and for that reason, he doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence that he can be consistently in contention to start during this period without Matip.
Jarell Quansah is also an option, following a leap into the first team that few saw coming back in the summer, but while his displays have been excellent, he isn’t yet ready to be starting regular Premier League games for a team with title aspirations.
Title Race Implications
On top of all this, we are also assuming that Virgil van Dijk will remain fit – frankly, losing him for a chunk of the season really would feel fatal, with the Dutchman in wonderful form since August.
There is the option of delving into the transfer market for Klopp, with Sporting CP’s Goncalo Inacio someone who has been linked with Liverpool numerous times of late, for example, but the Reds manager has shown in the past that he isn’t one to panic buy.
Assuming no additions are made, it is imperative that Konate, Gomez, and to a lesser extent Quansah, stand tall and help the Reds tackle a relentless spell of fixtures, making the loss of Matip feel as harmless as possible.
Frankly, how these three centre-backs fare without him, and whether they can avoid the injury curse, has the potential to define Liverpool’s title push.