The day before Mamadou Sakho signed for Liverpool, Martin Skrtel played a blinder, coming in to replace the injured Kolo Toure alongside Daniel Agger in a 1-0 win over Manchester United in the Premier League.
It was a performance that would change the whole dynamic and idea of how Liverpool’s defence would shape up for the 2013/14 season.
Many had predicted Skrtel to be sold during the summer months, with veteran Toure coming in as back-up and athletic Sakho to be Agger’s new central defensive partner.
It didn't quite turn out that way and even now, in late November, Liverpool haven’t really found their ideal back line yet.
Nevertheless, Sakho did enjoy a good run in the side, making seven Premier League appearances and keeping Agger out of the side (albeit partially down to Agger's rib injury), whilst Skrtel enjoyed his own good form.
The 23-year-old has even endured the wrath of the French press in recent days, which has criticised Sakho and Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, despite both recently helping France to qualify for next year’s World Cup finals.
Jack Wilson wrote in the Daily Star on Monday: "Big-selling newspaper l'Equipe have dubbed Sakho a flop for missing Liverpool's 3-3 draw with Everton."
What Sakho provides in pace and strength, Skrtel and Agger can beat in experience. No matter what Sakho does, the Slovakian and Danish internationals trump him on that important attribute every day.
But Sakho has youth on his side and both he, and the damning French press, must remember that when recalculating a plan of action at Liverpool.
Five years Skrtel and Agger’s younger, Sakho can take this opportunity to work with two of the Premier League’s finest performing centre-backs and absorb their wisdom.
Both Skrtel and Agger have seen good days and bad with Liverpool over the years and watched the players around them in the first team change multiple times. They've even played with Paul Konchesky!
Inevitably, Skrtel and Agger will pick up knocks. Sakho must be in the right frame of mind and physical state to walk straight into the team by being alert and impressing during training.
Liverpool’s absence of European competition this season becomes less of a blessing in disguise and more of what would have been a useful tool when you have players like Sakho looking for first team experience.
In that case, a run of games with Liverpool’s Under-21 team could certainly benefit Sakho.
It could even work as a mini-project for the future, giving Sakho time to work with his inevitable central defensive partner in years to come, 20-year-old Tiago Ilori.
Next year’s World Cup, providing Sakho keeps his place in the French squad, could be the makings of the man, giving him invaluable experience at the highest level.
Last week Sakho spoke to Andy Hunter of The Guardian about making the switch from his childhood heroes Paris Saint-Germain to Liverpool:
It was always going to be hard because I've only ever known one club and been a one-club person before coming here, so that makes things a bit more difficult, but I've been prepared to go and ask advice from everyone—my teammates, coaches and the manager. I've asked them a lot about the game here, my family has settled in, it's going well.
At the risk of sounding cliche, Sakho does need time to settle in and learn his own game to grow into being a senior player.
He’s still got a young head on him, but an athleticism and strength to match any other defender in the league.
In a world full of expectation on the shoulders of youth, maybe the French press are expecting too much and too soon of Sakho.
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