July 22, 2024

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Liverpool may have opportunity for transfer solution after Joel Matip injury setback

4 min read
Liverpool may have opportunity for transfer solution after Joel Matip injury setback
Liverpool may have opportunity for transfer solution after Joel Matip injury setback

Liverpool have suffered yet another injury in the centre-back department, with Joel Matip forced to leave the pitch during the 1-1 draw against West Brom yesterday.

The Reds have coped reasonably well without Virgil van Dijk and the Joe Gomez, but may supporters believe reinforcements are needed as the club edge closer to the opening of the winter transfer window in January.

Jurgen Klopp is waiting to find out the extent of Matip’s setback, but he can ill afford to be without the 29-year-old for a significant period.

It remains to be seen whether any business will actually happen next month give Liverpool’s desire to get value from negotiations.

But a recent development in France could catch the attention of the English champions.

It was reported earlier this month that Lille President and majority stakeholder Gerard Lopez met with Elliott Management – who are the club’s main funders – to discuss issues related to debt and what lies ahead in the future.

The word was that the club must repay loans by next summer, which could possibly open the door for other sides to move for Sven Botman, who is a centre-back and one of their best talents.

Since then, Lopez has left Lille as new investors have been brought in. But the Guardian reports that while Lille remain financially viable, “changes are coming and sales are a must in the medium term”.

Botman only moved from Ajax in the summer for around £9m, and he signed a five-year contract meaning that in normal circumstances, he would cost a lot or would be unavailable for a transfer.

Lille’s situation means that the club could be considering departures and if that is the case, the Reds should consider testing the water with a conversation about the Dutch defender.

Sven Botman of Lille during the UEFA Europa League match against AC Milan

Botman ticks plenty of the boxes that Liverpool typically value and he’s just 20 years-old which only increases his potential worth.

Despite his youthful age, Botman is 6-foot-4 and possesses a number of dominant features which allow him to control situations against most opponents, with his height aiding his aerial ability.

As of December 16th, he had contested 78 duels in the air in Ligue 1 this season, winning 58 of those which leaves him with a impressive success percentage of 74.4%. For perspective, Van Dijk won 81% of his duels in the Premier League last season and Joe Gomez won 62.1%.

Pep Ljinders has talked about the importance of aerial strength for a Liverpool centre-back in the past, stating: “As a pressing team you have to accept a lot of long balls and second balls, so it’s important you have centre-backs who are good in the air so they can win the first challenge.”

That is certainly an advantage held by Botman and it doesn’t have much of a hindrance on his speed across the ground, as he’s reasonably mobile despite his size which is important given Klopp’s tendency to deploy a high defensive line.

Moreover, the Dutchman is left-footed which is a relatively rare trait amongst top central defenders, and he’s comfortable in possession which is perhaps no surprise given his progression through the ranks of the youth academy at Ajax. His passing network from the Ligue 1 match in which he’s played the most passes so far this season is pictured below, and it captures how he uses the ball in a variety of different ways.

Sven Botman's passing network from his display vs Lorient earlier this season
Sven Botman’s passing network from his display vs Lorient earlier this season

Up to December 16th, he ranked third in the French top-flight for passes to the final third behind only Marco Verratti and Steven Nzonzi, and he places top for progressive passes, with those defined as completed passes than move the ball towards the opponent’s goal at least 10 yards from its furthest point in the last six passes or completed passes into the penalty box.

Botman has a very modern profile and his skill set is suited to not only coping, but thriving in defence for a high-risk team such as Liverpool, as less capable centre-backs often have their weaknesses highlighted once presented with difficult responsibilities such as managing one-on-one situations and defending open spaces 50 yards from goal.

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It remains to be seen how much Klopp considers his central defensive struggles as an emergency.

But ultimately, given Lille’s current predicament and Botman’s suitability to performing at Anfield, a transfer in the near future could be one to keep an eye on.

*A version of this article was first published on December 16th.

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