When Liverpool conceded to Chelsea in the second half at Stamford Bridge last Friday, one would have been hard pressed to find a confident Liverpool fan anywhere on the planet. And that includes ex-Red John Aldridge, who certainly wasn’t alone in thinking Liverpool looked set to let another result slip away.
The players, though, settled. They steadied themselves and fought their way back into a game that they might have had the advantage in on the scoreboard but Chelsea had the momentum in. And in the end, they were successful, with Liverpool taking all three points. Aldridge says a lot of that is thanks to Jöel Matip.
“He was brilliant on Friday,” was Aldridge’s take on the Reds’ new starting centre half. “He went to ground a little bit too early for their goal, but other than that he didn’t put a foot wrong. Another thing I realised against Chelsea is just how I feel a lot more confident defending set plays because of him in the back four.
“Matip's size and height means he's winning those high balls in the box, he's a real man mountain. He reminds me of Sami Hyypia in that respect, in how he likes to get his head on everything. We've looked susceptible from set pieces in recent times, now we look solid.”
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Matip, though, might be that the defender who turned 25 in August didn’t cost the club a transfer fee. He arrived at Anfield on a free after Schalke failed to agree a new deal with the imposing centre half. It should have been a move Liverpool fans were counting as a coup.
Many, though, saw a young player just entering what should be his prime years and wondered just how it was Liverpool could have got him in for nothing if he was really all that special. Many assumed the worst despite glowing reports from regular watchers of German football. Many counted his cost as a point against.
But it shouldn’t be a point against. At least according to Aldridge. And especially when so many people are quick to complain about a club pending too much money for players who deliver too little. Matip’s quality and free transfer should be something fans celebrate. Fortunately, it looks as though most are beginning to.
“Don't forget this lad came on a free as well,” Aldridge added. “Ridiculous. We always moan about paying big fees for ordinary players but Jurgen Klopp has plucked this one out of nowhere. He could be a revelation. He has every attribute—he's great in the air, dominant, fantastic on the floor. Klopp has found one here.”