Liverpool’s central defensive pairing is becoming a bit of a nightmare of late – I say this with all sincerity, as Rafa Benitez will struggle to choose a pair out of his 3 best. His rotation policy will become evident (and managing it more tricky) as we see him try to build a solid partnership at the back, whilst using the best of all 3 players at the same time.
It is oft quoted that if Steven Gerrard is the heart of Liverpool, then Jamie Carragher is its soul – this is true, and it is obvious that he is one of the first names on the team sheet every week. His partner will depend upon the opposition – either Daniel Agger or Martin Skrtel.
Not enough credit is given to Daniel Agger’s ability. I firmly believe that Daniel Agger will become one of the great defenders in Liverpool’s illustrious history – right up there with Ronny Moran, Alan Hansen, Sammi Hyypia and Jamie Carragher. The extra element he provides on the ball was sorely missed whilst he sat injured, and I think it will be a telling feature in The Reds’ 2009/2010 title bid.
On the ball, he makes it seem like he has all the time in the world, and is deceptive as well; he looks as if he is looking for a short pass or long ball to play, all the while carrying the ball up field as he jogs along nonchalantly. Suddenly, in 4 or 5 steps, he is within 35 yards of the goal – a distance we know is well within his range. I think we’ll see a lot more of him this season and particularly in games where we have struggled to break down the defence in the past – his distribution and ability to carry the ball up field and strike it from range will give Liverpool another option when we need it most.
On the other hand, I have often watched games in which Martin Skrtel is playing, and when he gets the ball in that halfway region thought to myself, “if only Daniel Agger were playing; we might get something out of this”. Martin Skrtel is not known for his long range shooting or attacking ability, but neither was Sami Hyypia or Carra. A relative unknown, Skrtel established himself quickly, and showed his no-nonsense attitude and ferocious tackling ability early on. A surprisingly good find at such a young age; Martin Skrtel quickly made himself useful in the defence. Hard as nails and terrifying ugly, he is an imposing figure to take on in a 50-50 challenge.
Where Daniel Agger might feature more prominently against teams whose defensive ability is more of a problem than their attacking threat, I think we’ll see Skrtel take the field when the situation is reversed. As one commentator put it: “Tattoos, skinhead – he certainly looks the part of a Liverpool defender doesn’t he?” He has put in some commanding performances and has won over any doubters, and can still improve greatly at such a young age. In short – he was a terrific buy and is an excellent prospect for both now and the future.
With either of these two featuring next to the rock that is Jamie Carragher, Liverpool are certainly well equipped to handle any attacking threat thrown at them. And when you consider Pepe Reina behind them, new signing and first choice England right back Glen Johnson, and technically gifted Fabio Aurelio with emerging star Emiliano Insua all pushing for first team places alongside the centre pair, Liverpool are more than covered defensively. It has taken Benitez some time to find a spine strong enough to win the Premiership, but with Skrtel and The Dagger, you can’t help but feel that he is nearly within reach. Come on you Reds!