It didn’t take long for Joël Matip to establish himself as Liverpool’s undisputed first choice centre half last season, a towering, calm, commanding presence at the back. The defender, though, isn’t content with trying to simply carry that over into the 2017-18 season. He wants to do more.
“I am very self-critical,” Matip told the club’s official website as he and some of the other players not off on international duty this summer prepared to return to the club for pre-season. I always want to improve myself. You have to work hard and keep trying and learning—that’s the way you get better.”
The simple fact he’s now had a year in England to adjust to the at times frantic pace of the league—and to the competitiveness of the bottom-half sides—is something he expects to make a big difference in his second year. It’s not that he didn’t know what to expect, but knowing and experiencing are two different things.
He will also be hoping that a full season under his belt and now a second full pre-season will help him to stay fit in the often frantic, physical league he now calls home, something he struggled with at times last season despite only having missed a single game the season before with Schalke.
“Before I came here I knew about the Premier League,” Matip noted. “I saw a lot of games and I had an idea what to expect. So I prepared right from the beginning. Maybe the top teams try to play a bit more, but every team gives everything in this league.
“The ball goes from one end of the pitch to the other, all the time, so you can always be vulnerable if you’re not at your best. You have to concentrate because in every match just one situation can decide it.”