Opinion: £5.2m/year star’s absence has been more costly than van Dijk and Gomez

Liverpool were doing quite well without Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk until Joel Matip was ruled out for the season as defensive levels dropped immediately.

When it became clear that Jurgen Klopp was going to navigate his first Premier League title defence without his first-choice centre-back partnership, alarm bells starting ringing.

Yet the German manager seemed to cope with the dilemma as Fabinho and Joel Matip slotted in between the fullbacks without any issues. In fact, the first game they played together saw Liverpool keep a clean sheet over Leicester City, winning the game 3-0.

It seemed as though the duo were ready for the task at hand and just over a month later the Reds were back on the top of the Premier League table, with a three-point lead over Spurs and eight points on Manchester City.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 06: Joel Matip of Liverpool celebrates with teammate Fabinho after scoring their sides third goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield on December 06, 2020 in Liverpool, England. A limited number of fans (2000) are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. (Photo by Peter Powell – Pool/Getty Images)

However, the month of January brought a disastrous run of form and an unforeseen lack of goals. The Reds scored just six goals in the first month of 2021 and were prevented from scoring on four occasions but the defence held strong as they conceded just five times.

Then February came and Joel Matip was ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle ligament injury. Fabinho was ruled out for a short period later in the month as well but was on the pitch when Manchester City violated Jurgen Klopp’s side at the Etihad.

They ran out 4-1 winners and extended their lead over Liverpool to 10 points. The title got away from the Anfield outfit in February and it began with a defeat to City after Matip was ruled out with injury.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 27: Joel Matip of Liverpool interacts with Alisson Becker of Liverpool he kneels down injured during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on December 27, 2020 in Liverpool, England. PHOTO BY NICK POTTS – POOL/GETTY IMAGES.

There is no denying that Liverpool would have been in a strong position had Gomez and van Dijk been fit this season but things only really started to go sideways when Joel Matip and, to a further extent, Fabinho got injured.

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Michael Mongie
Football Central Media Group founder, owner and editor.

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