Liverpool

Would Dejan Lovren Be an Upgrade on Martin Skrtel for Liverpool?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 05: Dejan Lovren of Southampton applauds the supporters following the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Southampton at Etihad Stadium on April 05, 2014 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
Matt LadsonFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2014

Southampton defender Dejan Lovren continues to be linked with a move north to Liverpool this summer, as Brendan Rodgers seeks to strengthen his defensive options ahead of the new season.

Lovren, the 24-year-old Croatian centre-back, enjoyed an impressive debut season in the Premier League after joining the Saints from Lyon last summer.

Darko Bandic/Associated Press

The player himself has been commenting on the reports of a move to Anfield. “I follow the media and I saw that Liverpool is allegedly interested in me, but that is all that I know so far," as quoted by The Liverpool Echo.

With Brendan Rodgers having spent £18 million on Mamadou Sakho last summer, the Frenchman is set to become the key component of his defence going forward. Reports indicating that Liverpool are willing to listen to offers for Daniel Agger this summer, as per The Telegraph, strengthen this view further.

With that in mind, it's highly likely then that if Rodgers does indeed sign a centre-back, it will be to become the long-term partner for Sakho, and thus a right-sided centre-back.

 

Martin Skrtel

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Martin Skrtel of Liverpool celebrates with teammate Luis Suarez (R)after scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on December 29, 2013 in London, Eng
Clive Rose/Getty Images

That role last season was one which belonged to Skrtel. The Slovakian was able to rejuvenate his career at Anfield after falling completely out of favour at the end of the previous campaign—when he was overlooked for the retiring Jamie Carragher.

The 29-year-old chipped in with seven goals during 2013/14—but also broke the Premier League record of most own goals by a single player in one season, with four. It was a roller coaster of a season for Skrtel; vastly improved but always looking like an error was around the corner.

If Sakho has the left-sided position locked down for the future, it's Skrtel's place that appears most in threat.

 

Statistical Comparison

Squawka compared the two defenders recently and it was Lovren who came out on top, explaining how the Croat has a vastly superior defensive performance score than not just Skrtel but any Liverpool defender last season.

@DejanLovren05's first Premier League season was an absolute success. He slots in at no. 34 in our Top 100 Players: http://t.co/qJ1UCR3X2g

— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) May 13, 2014

Lovren won more tackles, despite playing five less games, but Skrtel won more aerial duels. As with all stats, context is required to truly determine whether those stats are actually relevant or accurate. Skrtel's superior heading could be due to his role on set pieces and whether he is the centre-back who attacks the ball (he is) rather than drops off.

Jon Super/Associated Press

Furthermore, Lovren's stat of more tackles is likely due more to Skrtel having less opportunity to make tackles.

What's more important is percent stats—Lovren's aerial duels won is just 2 percent lower than Skrtel's (60 percent vs 58 percent won).

The one area Skrtel does truly, statistically at least, excel is in pass completion—91 percent vs. 82 percent. Again though, this can be skewed by Liverpool's style of play and often domination in games. Does making dozens of passes under no pressure, to a teammate 10 yards away, when 4-0 ahead, constitute being a better footballer? No. That's why stats require a pinch of salt and some context.

 

Conclusion

Squawka conclude their analysis by claiming Lovren would be an astute signing for Rodgers, especially if done for less than £10 million. You can't argue with that.

Loren's age—five years Skrtel's junior at 24—means he also has room to develop further.

Similarly, Henry Jackson of This Is Anfield writes how there is a nagging feeling that Rodgers isn’t totally convinced by Skrtel. Jackson also notes Skrtel's proneness for committing errors. According to the stats, he has four in 2013/14, compared to one for Lovren.

Clearly then, Lovren would be an upgrade on Skrtel, particularly in the long term.

If Liverpool are to allow Agger to leave the club, then signing Lovren and keeping Skrtel for another year seems very wise.

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