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Daniel Agger in positive appraisal of Joel Matip’s “always tough” debut Liverpool season

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Daniel Agger believes Joel Matip enjoyed a positive maiden campaign with Liverpool, and has backed the centre-back to continue to grow.

Matip joined the Reds from Schalke in a free transfer last summer, and established himself as one of Jurgen Klopp‘s first-choice options in defence.

The 25-year-old made 32 appearances in all competitions in 2016/17, though he battled a series of ankle injuries throughout, restricting his role on Merseyside.

Expected to go from strength to strength next season, potentially alongside a new centre-back partner, Matip can hope to become central to Liverpool’s success under Klopp.

And Agger, who spent eight years as a stalwart of the Reds’ back line, believes Matip impressed in a debut season littered with obstacles.

“I think he did well. The first season is always tough, not only for defenders but any Premier League player,” the Dane explained.

“Playing your first season in the Premier League, you always have to adapt; some do it quicker than others.

“I think he has done pretty well. He’ll learn from this season, I’m sure about that.

“He can use that next season. To play for Liverpool you need to be consistent and that’s something you can see after a few seasons.

“His first season has definitely been good and I think he can be happy with that.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 25, 2017: Real Liverpoolís Daniel Agger in action against Real Madrid during a Legends friendly match at Anfield. (Pic by Peter Powell/Propaganda)

There are certainly elements of Matip’s game that recall Agger’s time at Liverpool, particularly his composure, anticipation and ease in possession.

One area that he will hope to improve is his end product in front of goal, scoring just once in 29 outings in the Premier League, despite going close on a number of occasions.

But Agger believes keeping clean sheets should be Matip’s primary focus, taking an encouraging defence-first approach.

“Of course, every player wants to score goals. It doesn’t matter if you’re a defender or a striker, you always like to score goals,” he said.

“But obviously his main thing is to defend and keep clean sheets—that’s the most important thing.

“If he can chip in with a few goals, that’s just a bonus.”

Ahead of a potentially defining campaign under Jurgen Klopp, it is most important to ensure Matip has the right centre-back partner in place to thrive at the heart of the defence.

With a big-money move for Southampton‘s Virgil van Dijk falling through earlier in June, it remains to be seen who will line up alongside Liverpool’s No. 32 come August 12.

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