5 Defenders to Take over at Liverpool When Jamie Carragher Is Put out to Pasture
While club captain Steven Gerrard has long been described as the "Heart of Liverpool Football Club," there is no question that Carragher has been the soul of the team for the better part of the last decade. Carragher has never had any particular abilities that have made him stand out from the crowd, other than a huge heart and a burning desire to succeed.
During the early part of his Liverpool career he was forced to overcome serious injury as well as a manager, Gerard Houllier, who seemed not to believe in him. Houllier never seemed sure what position Carragher was best in, so he moved him from right back, to centre-back to left-back and then to right back again.
It didn't seem to faze Carragher who continually produced excellent displays and fought off the competition from the players bought to replace him.
It wasn't until the arrival of Rafa Benitez that Carragher finally settled into the heart of the Liverpool defense on a permanent basis, but once he did, there was no question that he was ever going to be moved again. Carragher was arguably Liverpool's most important player during their glorious Champions League campaign of 2004/05, turning in performances that drew comparisons to the legendary Anfield Iron, Tommy Smith.
Unfortunately, Carragher's best days are behind him, and he is now behind starters Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel as well as primary backup Seb Coates in the pecking order at Liverpool.
It's possible that Carragher will retire at the end of this season and move onto the coaching side of things at Liverpool. If that is the case, then the Reds will be needing a new central defender in the squad to replace him. Here are five possibilities.
Martin Kelly is the most obvious choice, so let's start with him.
Since making his Liverpool debut in 2008, Kelly has had a stop-start career at the club largely due to injuries which have hampered him. He's currently facing an extended period on the sidelines following a serious knee injury suffered against Manchester United which required major surgery.
Born and raised in Merseyside, he has been at Liverpool since the age of seven and was the first truly top end prospect to make his way through the Liverpool Academy since Steven Gerrard made his bow in 1998.
Kelly was converted from centre-back to right-back by then Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez and thus far has featured exclusively for Liverpool's first team. In the last 12 months or so, he has bulked up quite significantly and looks set to move back into his preferred central role when he returns from injury.
Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger are the current first-choice starters, but Seb Coates looks as if he is moving closer and closer to replacing Martin Skrtel as Agger's partner. Looking a couple of years down the road, Kelly would be the ideal replacement for Agger alongside the big Uruguayan.
It's a partnership that should be worked on in cup competition next season regardless of whether Coates is a first-team regular.
It is entirely possible that Brendan Rodgers will keep Martin Kelly at right-back for another season or so in order for him to gain more playing experience and keep him heavily involved until the time comes for him to move centrally.
If that is the case, then someone else will be needed to replace Carragher as the fourth centre-back.
Scottish international Danny Wilson was brought to Liverpool in the summer of 2010 after impressing massively for Glasgow Rangers. Wilson was seen by many as the best young defender to come out of Scotland in many years.
Things haven't gone to plan for Wilson at Liverpool. A combination of niggling injuries and being played out of position at left-back have left him short of form and short of confidence, but his talent is evident and he just needs a good run of games centrally to find his feet.
A natural left footer, he would provide good balance to the squad, and while some may doubt his ability at the highest level as he is unproven, as fourth choice he would play limited game and wouldn't be overexposed.
Born in Cameroon and educated in football at Borussia Dortmund, Stephen Sama arrived at Liverpool in 2009.
A powerful, pacy defender who possesses a powerful shot and the ability to play accurate long passes, Sama has impressed since arriving at Liverpool and was included in the first team tour of North America in the summer just gone.
He featured in all three games and put in impressive performances each time out. He was rewarded with a senior squad number, 45, for this season and was part of the squad that traveled to West Brom in the Capital One Cup.
Sama has the tools to become a good player for Liverpool, but he needs to work on his consistency as well as his positioning. Only time will tell if he's the man to replace Carragher in the Liverpool squad, but one thing is for certain, Brendan Rodgers will give him an opportunity.
Jakub Sokolik is yet another young player who was brought to Liverpool under the management of Rafa Benitez. The Czech defender was signed from Banik Ostrava in 2009, following in the footsteps of his compatriot Milan Baros who had made the same move seven years before.
Sokolik took a bit of time to settle at Liverpool and has not played a huge amount before this season, but as a result of Brendan Rodgers' decision to give youth a chance in the first team, he has benefited indirectly.
With Andre Wisdom currently first-choice right-back for Liverpool, Wisdom's central defensive spot next to Stephen Sama in the reserves became available and Sokolik has stepped into the breach and made the position his own.
Possessing the same cold stare as Martin Skrtel, Sokolik bases his game somewhat on the Slovak and Liverpool will be hoping that he can develop into a similar calibre of player.
The youngest player on this list and potentially the most talented.
Lloyd Jones turned 17 on 7 October, meaning he shares his birthday with Liverpool legend Sami Hyypia as well as current star Seb Coates. Coates is still considered a youngster, so being exactly five years younger than him, Jones is still only a kid with time on his side.
Time isn't the only thing he has going for him, though, because Lloyd Jones is fantastically talented young central defender who's currently earning rave reviews for his performances at U18 level for Liverpool.
Jones joined Liverpool from Plymouth in the June of 2011 when the Reds beat off competition from a number of Premier League clubs, including Everton and Manchester City, to secure the then-15-year-old's signature.
Similar in style and stature to Martin Kelly, Jones is a great blend of cultured ability and imposing size and strength. He's still growing into his frame and could potentially become another Coates-sized giant of a defender who can play the style of football Brendan Rodgers is instilling at Liverpool.
Although he was born in England, Jones decided to pursue his international career with Wales and has so far represented them at U17 and U18 level and looks set to progress quickly through the ranks.
He won't be ready to replace Carragher in the senior squad next season and possibly not the season after that either, but perhaps Danny Wilson or whoever could plug the gap until Jones is ready to make the step up.
No Reason to Buy
All five of the players I've suggested as replacements for Carragher are already on Liverpool's books and I don't think the Reds would go far wrong by choosing to promote any one of them into his place in the squad.
Liverpool are trying to implement a policy where 50 percent of the first team squad will have joined Liverpool aged 18 or below and been schooled in the principals of the club and the style of play used at first-team level before they reach Brendan Rodgers and the first-team squad.
Carragher, obviously, is a graduate of the Liverpool academy, unquestionably one of its best ever graduates, and it would be only fitting that when he does retire that he be replaced with another graduate. Who that is remains to be seen, but there are clearly plenty of options at Brendan Rodgers disposal.
It's still not known for certain if this will be Carragher's last season before he moves into coaching, or if he will play on next season. What is known is that even though he's been past his best for a couple of year, we'll miss him when he's gone.
The policy of promoting young players into the senior squad is something that Rafa Benitez envisaged but that wasn't implement until Brendan Rodgers arrived at Liverpool. That's just one change that Brendan Rodgers has brought to Liverpool. To read about others, click here.