Having come to a pre-contract agreement with Liverpool Football Club in February of this year, Joël Matip had some time to acquaint himself with his new employers by watching the club's exploits in the Europa League. Asked about that game against Borussia Dortmund, Matip spoke enthusiastically about the vicarious thrill of watching Liverpool's comeback victory at Anfield on television, punctuated by Dejan Lovren's goal and the eruption of the entire stadium in joy (and perhaps there was an element of glee for the longtime Schalke player as well to see Borussia Dortmund eliminated).
Matip also confirmed that he has had the opportunity to watch Liverpool's performances in the Premier League, and if he was paying attention, he will have a good sense of what is asked of central defenders in the league generally, as well as an appreciation of how Liverpool need to improve in this area. We've looked at how Matip can potentially help with Liverpool's set piece defending (or lack thereof) and how his particular gifts mesh with Klopp's preferred style of play. What does the man himself feel he needs to work on to get ready for life at Liverpool?
I am ready for it but I also have work to do on my body. This is another league, so I have to work on my body to play in the Premier League. To be physically strong [enough] for the Premier League.
Of course, the Bundesliga is at a high level. Maybe it’s a different level, but it’s also a high level and I think I have got enough to play here.
I decided for myself [to focus on strength training], but I think [the coaching staff] will help me reach this level and to be fit for the new season.
It's interesting that Matip has decided, on his own and apparently without prodding from the coaching staff, to prioritize strength development as he prepares for his first season in England. The Premier League is justifiably identified as a relatively "physical" league, and various observers have consistently described Matip's frame as "gangly", but the Bundesliga is not exactly a league for the faint of heart, and part of Matip's presumable appeal is his special blend of height, pace and technical ability. Still, a bit of muscle probably can't hurt when trying to fend off a Marouane Fellaini elbow.
The exact role Matip will be expected to play, and the aspects of his game that will have to be emphasized, will probably become more apparent once the preferred central defender pairing materializes. In his first interview at the club, Matip's description of his conversations with Klopp suggests that the newcomer is not expected to step into a regular role right away - Klopp apparently told Matip that he "needs to develop" and work on himself. But with Martin Škrtel about to Instagram his way into a permanent move away from Anfield, Kolo Touré no longer in the picture, and Mamadou Sakho's disciplinary situation still frustratingly unresolved, that regular role might not be too far away, especially if Matip impresses during the pre-season.