17 July 2024

News flash: A 6-foot-3 academy giant is prepared to replace Matip for Liverpool.

The Anfield side could land the perfect heir to Joel Matip without spending a penny…

 

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Liverpool have shaken off last year’s malaise and are now pushing for a more successful season, securing ten points from the opening four games of the Premier League campaign.

 

The important point, however, is not the points tally itself but the rekindled verve and cohesion that has suffused across the squad in such a short time; where previously Jurgen Klopp’s side was bereft of inspiration, now a course to success looks attainable once more.

 

The focus was on rebuilding the midfield after the disappointing campaign, with a fifth-placed finish ending an illustrious seven-year streak in the Champions League.

James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain left in June after their contracts expired, while Jordan Henderson and Fabinho were sold to Saudi Arabian sides and Fabio Carvalho left on loan.

 

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Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai, Wataru Endo and Ryan Gravenberch made up the additions to replenish the ranks, and while it looks an impressive reconstruction, the defence is still untouched despite growing concerns over the Reds’ defensive ranks.

 

Last season, the Merseyside outfit conceded 47 goals to compound a miserable year, a far cry from the 26 strikes shipped across the 2021/22 Premier League season, with a 92-point season leaving the club just one point behind champions Manchester City.

 

For now, Liverpool will endure with the same backline, but change is needed to ensure a lasting spot is cemented among England and Europe’s elite. One move could well be to replace Joel Matip.

 

Is Joel Matip leaving Liverpool?

It is likely that veteran centre-half Matip is nearing the end of his time at Anfield, having now entered the final year of his contract and unlikely to reclaim a starting berth with regularity.

 

Signed on a free transfer in 2015 following the culmination of his contract with German side Schalke, Matip has made 189 appearances, scoring 11 goals, and played an important role in the whole gamut of silverware secured under Klopp’s stewardship, praised for his “outstanding” performances by pundit Jamie Carragher.

 

The 32-year-old was culpable for poor displays last season, however, and it does not look like a new contractual proposal is on the horizon, with Liverpool’s pursuit of fresh faces to bolster the defensive line well-documented over the past several months.

 

 

And indeed, as Klopp’s team orchestrated a late-season purple patch at the business end of the 2022/23 campaign to salvage European football, Matip was left on the periphery, starting only three of the final divisional matches of the calendar.

 

The £100k-per-week centre-back is a very distinctive defender and boasts an array of arresting qualities, ranking among the top 6% of positional peers across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for goals, the top 4% for shot-creating actions and the top 1% for progressive carries per 90, as per FBref.

 

Accurately replacing his presence will be no easy task, but given Liverpool’s desire to sign a left-sided central defender, when that bridge is crossed it might be wise for Klopp to opt for a shrewder path when landing the perfect heir to his position in the squad.

 

As such, rising talent Jarell Quansah, who is projected for his most prominent role yet on Merseyside this season, might be the man for the job. Here’s why.

 

Who is Jarell Quansah?

The 20-year-old titan has been on Liverpool’s books for a considerable time, rising through the club’s youth ranks from the age of five and captaining the U18 outfit to the FA Cup youth final in 2021.

 

Blessed with electric pace and an innate technical ability, Quansah completed a loan move to League One side Bristol Rovers last season as Klopp and co sought to nurture him closer to the fore, with Rovers boss Joey Barton proclaiming that “the sky’s the limit” after he made 17 appearances, completing 78% of his passes and averaging 4.3 tackles per game, as per Sofascore.

 

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Having also been been described as “impressive” by reporter Ben Bocsak following his England call-up for the U20 World Cup, Quansah has been building a foundation on Merseyside, and while some supporters will bemoan the decision to make do with the current crop of centre-backs, it is the opportune moment for the 6 foot 3 colossus to shine on the major stage.

 

His chance came against Newcastle United. Liverpool had gone a goal down at a raucous St. James’ Park and looked destined for a date with disaster after captain Virgil van Dijk’s botched challenge on a box-surging Alexander Isak resulted in a red card.

 

The Reds pulled through and clinched an unlikely victory through substitute Darwin Nunez’s clinical double following a commendable display of defensive resilience, with Quansah entering the match action in the 77th minute and looking the part as a momentous result was achieved.

 

After that eye-catching debut, Scouted Football said: “An imposing centre-back, he defends on the front foot, holds his own in the air, and is comfortable on the ball.”

 

His second appearance, another substitute showing against Aston Villa last weekend, was even more arresting, with the defensive giant completing 96% of his passes (22/23), succeeding with his one attempted dribble and making one clearance.

 

As Liverpool search to sign a left-footed defensive ace to continue the renaissance and allow Van Dijk to shift onto his favoured right side, it might be unwise to break the bank on a right-sided centre-back to replace Matip when Quansah currently waits in the wings.

 

The current campaign will be telling, and as the season progresses, Quansah’s qualities will be more easily discerned, but after such a promising ascent from his formative years to top level football, he looks like he may well prove to be an invaluable asset.

 

There is also the matter of the holding midfield; Fabinho’s £40m sale to Al-Ittihad this summer left a gaping hole in Anfield’s centre, and while Endo and Gravenberch have both been signed, the former is not quite the first-class phenom to make the role his own for years to come, while the talented Dutchman is more of a multi-functional midfielder than a specialist No. 6.

 

Allowing Quansah to develop within the Liverpool first-team could prove to be a masterstroke, and with Matip ostensibly headed for the door next summer, he is the shrewd and suitable replacement.

 

 

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