Joel Matip Signing Another Much-Needed Step Forward for Liverpool Before 2016-17

Jack LusbyContributor IIMarch 30, 2017

Schalke's Cameroonian defender Joel Matip reacts during the German first division Bundesliga football match FC Schalke 04 v SV Darmstadt 98, on August 22, 2015 in Gelsenkirchen.   AFP PHOTO / SASCHA SCHUERMANN RESTRICTIONS: DURING MATCH TIME: DFL RULES TO LIMIT THE ONLINE USAGE TO 15 PICTURES PER MATCH AND FORBID IMAGE SEQUENCES TO SIMULATE VIDEO.  == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE == FOR FURTHER QUERIES PLEASE CONTACT DFL DIRECTLY AT + 49 69 650050.        (Photo credit should read SASCHA SCHUERMANN/AFP/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp made his next move to reinforce his Liverpool squad for the 2016/17 campaign on Monday afternoon, with the Reds announcing the signing of Joel Matip from Schalke. While this is a hugely positive move for Klopp, this is just one step of many that should see the German remould his side.

According to the Express' James Cambridge, the Cameroon international has signed a four-year deal with the Anfield club, leaving Schalke on the expiry of his contract after a 16-year spell in Gelsenkirchen.

Cambridge relays word from Matip on his move, with the 24-year-old revealing how he was leaving Schalke with a heavy heart but in anticipation of a different challenge on Merseyside:

I have always said that I would only leave Schalke for a team outside the Bundesliga - to get to know something new.

Therefore, a change within the Bundesliga never came into consideration, although my decision is definitely not easy.

I am convinced that now is the right time to take this step.

Despite making his first foray out of the Bundesliga with this summer switch, Matip is primed for success under Klopp in the Premier League, and after a disappointing winter that saw the Reds miss out on big-money target Alex Teixeira, this is a positive step forward for the club.

Following Marko Grujic into Anfield this summer, Matip's arrival should be one of many changes within Klopp's squad ahead of 2016/17.

Schalke's Cameroonian defender Joel Matip (C) and his teammates celebrate after 1-0 during the German first division Bundesliga football match FC Schalke 04 v Eintracht Frankfurt in Gelsenkirchen, on September 23, 2015.    AFP PHOTO / PATRIK STOLLARZ  RES
PATRIK STOLLARZ/Getty Images

Progressing through the ranks at Schalke since joining their youth setup from VfL Bochum in 2000, German-born Matip has developed into one of the Bundesliga's leading defensive talents and a key player at Schalke over the past six seasons.

Able to play at left-back, right-back and defensive midfield, Matip is most comfortable at centre-back—a role he has made his own alongside captain Benedikt Howedes, taking advantage of his defensive qualities.

Matip is a strong, aggressive defender who, despite being right-footed, is capable of performing on either side of a centre-back pairing, navigating his embryonic positional sense with bold, decisive moves to step out of defence and quell attacks.

Schalke's Cameroonian defender Joel Matip , Moenchengladbach's midfielder Lars Stindl and Moenchengladbach's Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka vie for the ball during the German Cup DFB second round football match Schalke 04 vs Borussia Moenchengladbach in Ge
PATRIK STOLLARZ/Getty Images

At 6'4" tall, Matip is a dominant presence, and he has won more aerial challenges on average per 90 Bundesliga minutes this season (3.3) than any of Andre Schubert's regular defensive options at Schalke.

According to the Bundesliga's English-language commentator Kevin Hatchard, Matip is also "confident on the ball (occasionally too confident), and a threat from set-pieces."

On paper, Matip has all the qualities to fill a hole in the Liverpool back line, and at 24 years old, he has the scope to continue his develop under Klopp, who could oversee an overhaul in his defensive ranks this summer.

With Kolo Toure and Jon Flanagan both set to see their contracts out at the end of the season—with only Flanagan seemingly likely to extend his terms, as the Telegraph's Chris Bascombe revealed on Monday that Toure is "aware his deal will not be renewed in the summer"—and on-loan Queens Park Rangers centre-back Steven Caulker unlikely to secure a permanent move, Klopp's selection will continue to diminish.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Martin Skrtel of Liverpool gestures during the Capital One Cup Quarter Final between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on December 2, 2015 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Imag
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Question marks over the long-term fitness of 22-year-old prospect Tiago Ilori, and the suitability of Reds mainstay Martin Skrtel, indicate that Matip could enjoy considerable first-team action at Liverpool.

Able to cover for Nathaniel Clyne at right-back, Alberto Moreno at left-back and Lucas Leiva in defensive midfield, Matip's versatility will only add to this.

Acquiring such a useful defensive option at this stage of the season is another pragmatic move by the Reds, with the club showing an efficiency in the market in the first months of Klopp's reign.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14 : Jurgen Klopp the head coach / manager of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on February 14, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by James Baylis - AMA/ via
James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

Arriving at Liverpool at the beginning of October, Klopp has not enjoyed the most stable of starts to his career on Merseyside.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Angelo Ogbonna Obinza of West Ham United celebrates as he scores their second goal during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, E
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Though Liverpool have reached the final of the League Cup, taking on Manchester City at Wembley at the end of the month, they remain far off the pace in the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League; and while hopes of UEFA Champions League qualification through success in the UEFA Europa League remain on track, crashing out in the fourth round of the FA Cup at the hands of West Ham United remains a major disappointment.

The 2015/16 season has—though supporters will recoil at the suggestion—been another transitional period for the Reds, with the departure of Brendan Rodgers seeing owners John W. Henry and Tom Werner shuffle their deck and start afresh.

This comes despite major investment last summer, including the arrivals of £32.5 million Christian Benteke and £29 million Roberto Firmino, and a fruitful pre-season tour of the Far East and Asia.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14:  Kolo Toure of Liverpool celebrates with team-mates after scoring his team's sixth goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on February 14, 2016 in Birmingham, England
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Sunday's 6-0 win over Aston Villa showed signs of Liverpool's youthful side beginning to jell, with the attacking trio of Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge particularly impressive, but that this was their first appearance together highlights the injury issues that have dogged the Reds this season.

Speaking to reporters including the Mirror's Steve Bates after that win, Klopp stressed the need for Sturridge to undergo a full pre-season before he hits a sustained run of top form in 2016/17, looking to pour cold water on suggestions that he should be called up by Roy Hodgson for the European Championships in France this summer:

It’s not my decision if he goes with England. Hopefully at the end of the season Roy Hodgson can make this decision.

That’s the most important thing, because that will mean Daniel is fit and playing for us. Roy then has to decide whether he can take him.

If I say now, "Yes, it’s good for him to go" I can see the headline 'Klopp says Roy has to take Daniel.' So there’ll be no word from me about this.

In the summer, if he’s fit, I’d like to have him in the pre-season with us so it’s not something like a pre-season, it is a proper pre-season.

This notion of a "proper pre-season" is hugely important for a major club with such a demanding tactical approach, and Klopp will be looking to utilise the summer months to continue to impose his ideals on his squad.

BELGRADE, SERBIA - JANUARY 29: Marko Grujic of FC Liverpool attends the 2015-2016 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 game between Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade and Lokomotiv Kuban at Pionir Hall on January 29, 2016 in Belgrade, Serbia.  (Photo by Srdjan
Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

Signing Matip in February, ahead of a summer move, allows the Cameroonian more time to adjust to his surroundings and settle in with his new team-mates, and the same can be said of Grujic, who was allowed to return to Red Star Belgrade on loan until the end of the season, after securing a £5.1 million move in January.

Liverpool's efficiency in the market should provide Klopp with the raw tools to build for success in 2016/17—but signing Matip cannot be the end of this personnel overhaul.

For a long time, Liverpool have lacked the strength in depth and match-winning quality to mount a sustained challenge for the Premier League's top four, having finished in the Champions League spots just once in the past six seasons.

Schalke's defender Sead Kolasinac and Schalke's Cameroonian defender Joel Matip celebrate during the German first division Bundesliga football match FC Schalke 04 v Eintracht Frankfurt in Gelsenkirchen, on September 23, 2015.    AFP PHOTO / PATRIK STOLLAR
PATRIK STOLLARZ/Getty Images

Costly transfer mistakes such as the misfiring, ill-fitting Benteke have set the Reds back continually, and the arrival of Klopp should see them buck this trend, with the assembly of a new spine at the top of his list of priorities—while Simon Hughes of the Independent reaffirmed the club's interest in Matip's Schalke team-mate Leroy Sane on Monday.

The signing of Matip is another positive step for the Reds, particularly as the 24-year-old is a cost-effective solution to a problem area within Klopp's squad, and this bold, front-footed approach to the transfer market must continue before 2016/17.

 

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