Liverpool Transfers: New Arrivals Could Lead to Reds Fielding 3 at the Back
If Sunday proved one thing, it is that Martin Skrtel can perform under pressure.
The Slovakian, who on Monday became arguably Liverpool’s fourth- or fifth-choice central defender, was undertaking one of the toughest jobs in European football in the full glare of the spotlight at Anfield; namely keeping Robin van Persie quiet.
Yet with no little psychical intimidation, he achieved it quite excellently, as the Reds won 1-0. Watching up in the stands, Mamadou Sakho, Tiago Ilori and Kolo Toure couldn't fail to have been impressed.
Only one of that trio was officially a Liverpool player at that point, with Toure’s displays since his summer arrival—and indeed the form shown by Jamie Carragher in the latter half of last season—one of the main reasons why Skrtel has been somewhat fading from Liverpool's view for a while.
The transfer deadline-day arrivals of Sakho and Ilori might eventually see Skrtel vanish forever, but more importantly, they will give Brendan Rodgers increased options when it comes to picking a defence to try and keep his side’s great start to the season alive.
Sakho is, of course, the headline arrival.
The 23-year-old’s price tag, his 14 France caps and his status as one of the best young defenders on the continent at one point all seem to point to him becoming a leading light in the Reds defence right from the word go—or namely Liverpool’s next league match at Swansea in a fortnight’s time.
London-born Portuguese youth international Ilori, at just 20 and with limited senior football to his name, might have to be a little more patient before he can dream of making such an impact. Still, the pair’s arrival—along with the presence of Toure, Skrtel and, of course, Daniel Agger—has raised the question of Liverpool potentially switching their defensive approach during the campaign.
Of course, Rodgers isn’t going to rip up the formula which has taken the Reds to the top of the Premier League table with three wins from three so far, but he might be more receptive to fielding three centre-backs in certain matches. He has done so before, of course.
The penultimate game of last season at Fulham was remembered for a hat-trick from Daniel Sturridge, but Liverpool lined up with Carragher, Sebastian Coates and Andre Wisdom in the centre of defence.
Similarly, Carragher, Agger and Wisdom lined up in the 1-1 draw at Chelsea last year, the third such time that Liverpool had started with three centre-backs there in three years following back-to-back Stamford Bridge wins for Kenny Dalglish in the previous seasons.
The approach doesn’t always work, of course, and it would in all likelihood only be seen in fits and starts throughout the season. Still, adding another string to Liverpool’s bow must surely be a welcome move at a time of the campaign when they’ll be searching for everything they can in order to stay near the top of the table for as long as possible.
It remains to be seen whether the left-sided Sakho can form a potent partnership with Agger given their similarities, but you’d have to feel that that the price tag of one and the seniority of the other will ensure that they’ll be Liverpool’s senior partnership—regardless of the form of Toure.
But the prospect of all three playing together on occasion certainly shouldn’t be ruled out.
The key thing for Rodgers with the deadline-day signings of Sakho and Ilori, and indeed of Victor Moses on his season-long loan from Chelsea, is that he’s given himself options, and quality ones at that.
He hasn’t really had those during his time at Anfield. Couple that with the club’s terrific start to the season, and there are mounting reasons for optimism at Liverpool at the moment.
Just as there are a mounting number of quality centre-backs, too.
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