Liverpool: Why Blaise Matuidi Can Help the Reds Back into the Champions League
Forget all the Luis Suarez speculation for a moment—central midfield is currently Liverpool's greatest weakness with or without him.
Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva are a fine starting pair, but the former is now 33 and the latter missed months last season due to injury.
What Liverpool desperately need is a player who can come into the squad and immediately shore up central midfield.
Liverpool have players that still have the potential to develop—Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson are 23—but they are not the impact players necessary to succeed.
Enter Blaise Matuidi.
The 26-year-old French international is a regular starter for Ligue 1 Champions Paris Saint-Germain and has actually been on the Liverpool's radar since at least 2011.
Matuidi's statistics from last season imply real talent, successfully completing 88 percent of his passes and winning 75 percent of his tackles.
He has proven himself composed as well—some of his best performances came during last year's Champions League campaign, which saw him notch one assist and score twice, including a goal against Barcelona.
He hails from a long line of excellent French defensive midfielders who excel at meeting both the physical and mental requirements of the holding role—his positioning is instinctual and interceptions come often.
At 3.5 a match, Matuidi averaged more interceptions than any other midfielder in Ligue 1.
His 3.3 tackles a game put him at ninth in the league while while he only averaged enough fouls to rank, oh, 119th.
In a league brimming with defensive midfielders, Matuidi clearly excels.
However, Leiva is still more than talented enough to serve as the primary defensive midfielder.
Liverpool ought to offer him a key role as the box-to-box engine in Rodgers' 4-3-3—one in which Jordan Henderson has shown promise, but not enough to warrant regular starts, should Liverpool have real ambitions next season.
While primarily a defensive midfielder, Matuidi has started further up the pitch—10 times centrally and another nine on the left. His performances in those positions were solid, garnering average WhoScored? ratings of 7.5 and 7.35 respectively.
His proven passing accuracy, his comfort in various areas of the pitch and his physical condition—starting in 44 of PSG's matches—make him the perfect candidate for the position Henderson currently occupies in the squad.
The question really is, can Liverpool convince him to sign?
Ligue 1's style of play and the presence of mega stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani, Javier Pastore and Lucas Moura mean that Matuidi's defensive contribution tends to take center stage. Outside observers tend to overlook him.
With the World Cup coming, this can be less than ideal if he wishes to continue featuring for the French national side.
Liverpool would have to do everything within their power to make it clear that coming to Anfield would mean greater exposure and a greater accomplishment, should they succeed in their ambitions to reenter the Champions League. I believe that's possible.
Difficult, expensive, but possible.
What do Liverpool need most?
What do you think? Is central midfield Liverpool's greatest weakness? If not Matuidi, who can Brendan Rodgers look to for support in the middle? Have your say in the comments!
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