Joel Matip or Joe Gomez: Who should be Virgil van Dijk’s partner?

José Díaz
Read Time:3 Minute, 22 Second

With all three senior center halves at the club being injured, which players should be the star pair for the Reds next season?

By José Díaz Navarro (@Cheduardo99)

With the new signings of Diogo Jota and Thiago Alcantara, debates have sparked about who should start where for Liverpool. Some people say Jota should start ahead of Firmino, while others say Thiago needs to start every game, but what about our defence? Everyone knows that Virgil van Dijk is without a doubt the best defender at the club, but who should start alongside him?

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Although both Joel Matip and Joe Gomez haven’t been featured that much this season due to long term injuries, there are still some stats to compare.

In Gomez’s 17 appearances in all competitions this season, he’s averaged a total of 2.14 goals conceded per 90. Meanwhile, Joel has averaged 0.65 in the 11 games he’s been featured in. Joe also recorded an average of 0.7 tackles and 1 interception per game compared to Matip’s 1.5 tackles and 0.4 interceptions. The Cameroon international also manages to beat Gomez in almost every other defensive stat, having better averages in fouls conceded per game, offsides won per game, and dribbled past per game.

Joel has managed to record an average of getting dribbled past only 0.2 times per game, while the Englishman is slightly higher, at 0.6 times.

When it comes to passing, despite having played less games, Matip has managed to assist twice for the Reds. Gomez has only done it once. Both players record a 0.3 key passes per game, but it’s in average passes where Joe truly shines, having a whopping 80.6 passes per game compared to Matip’s 57 passes. Compared to other Premier League defenders, Joe Gomez excels in the passing area, having more average passes per game than Ruben Dias, Gabriel Magalhães, Harry Maguire, and Toby Alderweireld. Despite it not being a centre-halves’ most important stat, it should also be said that the Cameroonian has scored twice so far into the season while Joe hasn’t found the back of the net.

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If we were to go to previous seasons, in the 2018/19 campaign, the Englishman conceded an average of 0.25 goals per 90 compared to Joel’s 0.53. Both players had a close amount of games played each, with Gomez having featured in only two more games. Despite conceding more per 90, Matip had a 0.18 booking per game average while Joe only had .01 less than that. It must also be noted that I did not choose to compare last season due to Joel playing 30 games less than his counterpart.

Now the big question is this: who should start alongside the Dutchman?

In my most humble opinion, after looking at stats and previous games, I think Joel Matip would be the better fit. Not only has he been very solid at the back throughout his games this season, but he’s always a threat in set-pieces. Recently, it’s been quite obvious that without Virgil our corner kicks aren’t as deadly, but Matip’s height and eye for goal could be very key in those positions as well.

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The only issue with choosing Joel over Gomez is that he is quite injury prone. This abnormal season has seen him get injured several times, and this is nothing new. In previous campaigns the centre-half has also struggled with injuries. Not only this but starting him would only hamper Joe’s development as a player. But when fully fit, Matip is one of the league’s best defenders and that’s something we must take advantage of whenever he’s available.

Whether it’s Joel, Joe, or any other defender we might bring in the future, our backline seems to be solid and that can only be good going forward.

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