Brendan Rodgers' Defensive Juggling Act Is Damaging Liverpool's Top-Four Chances

Matt Ladson@mattladsonChief Writer IIIDecember 17, 2016

HULL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01:  Brendan Rodgers, manager of Liverpool looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Liverpool at KC Stadium on December 1, 2013 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

If this is a sign of things to come for Liverpool, December could be a very long month for Brendan Rodgers' side.

The news that Daniel Sturridge faces six to eight weeks out with ankle ligament damage was compounded by the worst performance of the season, as Liverpool suffered defeat to Hull City for the first time in the club's history.

 

Deja Vu

This was a throwback to Liverpool of 12 months ago—devoid of creativity with Luis Suarez subsequently cutting a frustrated figure, attempting to do too much himself.

Liverpool's squad looks vastly stronger than a year ago, but the fringe players, when called upon here, were extremely disappointing.

It's easy to write-off the defeat as "one of those days" but in truth, this performance has been coming. The signs have been there.

In their last three away games, Liverpool escaped defeat at Everton, were woeful at Arsenal and only just came away with a point against 10-man Newcastle.

With trips to Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea all to come this month, coupled with other teams in the top half now starting to put together a run of results after slow starts, Liverpool will struggle to maintain their top four place into the new year.

 

This is going to be a long month.

— Ged Rea (@ged0407) December 1, 2013


HULL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01:  Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet of Liverpool fails to stop Hull City's third goal, an own goal by Martin Skrtel of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Liverpool at KC Stadium on December 1, 2013
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

 

Juggling The Defence

Since the opening three fixtures, which Liverpool won each 1-0, the Reds have kept just one clean sheet in 10 games—at home to Fulham. Such an issue is surely not helped by the constant rotation of centre-backs.

Today, it was Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure, Skrtel switching to left-sided centre-back. The last two games it was Skrtel and Daniel Agger. Before that, it was three at the back with Mamadou Sakho, and earlier in the season it was Agger and Toure.

 

and when Chelsea and City win in the next matches, this'll be the last time Liverpool will see 2nd or 3rd place all season.

— oh you beauty (@natefc) December 1, 2013

 

When Rodgers spent £15m on Sakho, it was a surprise that Skrtel remained at the club—giving Rodgers a problem in having four senior centre-backs, plus youngsters Tiago Ilori, Andre Wisdom and Martin Kelly in reserve.

In fact, the only constant presence in the Liverpool defence, whether that be as one of the three centre-backs or in a regular two-man partnership, is Skrtel. Coincidence?

The Slovakian is somebody who divides opinion among the Anfield faithful—many would prefer Rodgers to give the partnership of Sakho and Agger an opportunity.

Centre-back is the one area of the side that teams rarely change. Consistency and familiarity is preferred as it is essential for a partnership to develop and become solid.

The constant rotation of centre-backs is not helping and Rodgers needs to decide on his best partnership and stick to it—and quickly.