Who Should Be Liverpool's Next Vice-Captain?
With speculation constantly surrounding Daniel Agger’s future at Liverpool—with or without the reportedly imminent signing of Southampton’s Dejan Lovren, as reported by BBC Sport's Ben Smith—the Reds vice-captain may find himself behind Mamadou Sakho in the pecking order this season, or even headed toward pastures new.
Having been appointed Liverpool vice-captain after Jamie Carragher’s retirement last summer, Agger had a stop-start season last year, with injury problems striking yet again and Sakho seemingly establishing himself as Brendan Rodgers’ first-choice left-sided center back.
With Sakho having playing a pivotal leadership role in France’s World Cup campaign this summer and Lovren’s impending arrival at Anfield, Agger’s place in the starting XI may be more threatened than ever.
Given his recent public comments that he was considering his future, per Sky Sports, the Danish defender might yet start the new season at a new club.
So it might not just be a practical decision to reassign the vice-captaincy; it might be an inevitable one.
Here we look at three first-team candidates who would be alternative options for the Liverpool vice-captaincy, and we also discuss possible future candidates in the role as well. Let us know your picks and views in the comments below.
First-Team Candidate: Martin Skrtel
With Brendan Rodgers having turned to Martin Skrtel to lead the team out on various occasions in the absence of both captain Steven Gerrard and vice-captain Agger—Wednesday’s friendly match against AS Roma in Boston was an example—the Slovakian defender may seem to be a natural choice.
Commanding in the air and an imposing presence on the pitch, Skrtel could succeed Agger as a vice-captain also playing at the back, giving instructions to those in front of him and especially his young teammates.
But there are potential downsides to his appointment.
Being constantly culpable for fatal mistakes like own goals—he scored four last season—doesn’t make the responsibility any lighter, while his tendency to commit defensive errors also puts his place under pressure, especially if Rodgers intends to convert Lovren into a right-sided center back to play with Sakho.
There’s also the small matter that Skrtel just isn’t a naturally vocal leader from the back…
First-Team Candidate: Jordan Henderson
It may be relatively early in his career, but at 24 years of age Jordan Henderson is just about to enter his prime as a footballer. Given his impressive maturation and development during Rodgers’ tenure, it’s tempting to suggest him as an option for the vice-captaincy.
His backstory at Anfield certainly helps his cause: Having been criticized strongly after his big-money move from Sunderland, Henderson was the on the verge of leaving the club. But he stayed and fought to win his place back in Rodgers’ team and Liverpool fans’ hearts.
Henderson’s physical fitness and work rate endear him to Reds fans as well as his own teammates, and a vice-captain who leads by example and almost never gets injured is certainly appealing, especially as Gerrard enters the twilight years of his career.
Having captained the England U-21 team before, Henderson has leadership experience under his belt. The only question is if he will be able to step up to the task as a relatively young member of the squad, much like his midfield partner once did all those years ago.
First-Team Candidate: Adam Lallana
New signing Adam Lallana arrives at Anfield after two full years of experience as a Premier League captain at Southampton, where he led the Saints to two consecutive seasons of impressive football.
Regardless of his status as a newcomer to the Liverpool squad, it will be Gerrard who calls the shots on the pitch, but Rodgers’ clear preference for signing known leaders may reap rich benefits as his players will all be capable of handling pressure and inspiring teammates during games.
Thrusting Lallana into the vice-captaincy so soon after his arrival would boost his confidence and signal his importance in Rodgers’ setup, and it may yet bring the best out of a big-money transfer.
At age 26, Lallana appears to be at the right stage of his career to take on such a big responsibility at Liverpool. It’s now a matter of whether he can establish himself as a permanent member of the starting line-up for his leadership to actually influence the team.
Future Candidate: Mamadou Sakho
Mamadou Sakho has leadership written all over him. From being appointed as Ligue 1’s youngest-ever captain aged just 17 years and eight months in October 2007 to gradually becoming Paris Saint-Germain’s first-choice team captain at just 21 years old, Sakho is a natural-born leader.
And it appears he’s fully on board with this description as well. According to the Liverpool Echo, Sakho has touted his leadership skills publicly and has shed light on his “big-brother” style leadership in the dressing room.
He is also a dominant physical presence on the pitch and an imposing figure, so it was no wonder that Didier Deschamps gave Sakho his first taste of international-level leadership responsibility by naming him captain in France’s pre-World Cup friendly match against Norway in May.
With just a year of Premier League experience—and more importantly English-language experience—under his belt, Sakho isn’t ready to take on the vice-captaincy at Liverpool yet. But there’s no question that when he gets his English up to speed, he’d be a very strong contender.
And Liverpool are all the better for it.
Future Candidate: Emre Can
It’s still early days for Emre Can as a Liverpool player, but all the signs are that he might well prosper into a midfield general for the Reds after his signing from Bayer Leverkusen this summer.
His technical and physical attributes are nothing short of impressive; his cameos in Liverpool’s pre-season friendlies have shown as much already. But it takes something special to have both Sami Hyypia and Dietmar Hamann, two of the Reds’ greatest players in their recent history, to sing his praises.
Can’s tremendous work ethic and his swashbuckling style of play make him a potential candidate for further leadership roles at Anfield down the line, especially if he makes the holding or box-to-box midfield role his own in the next year or two.
With experience as captain of Germany’s U-17 World Cup semi-finalists in 2011, Can still has a long and prosperous career ahead of him. And playing alongside Steven Gerrard will only help him develop his leadership skills.
Further Development Required: Daniel Sturridge
After our first-team candidates and future options, we also have two long shots in mind that are worth exploring and for Brendan Rodgers and his coaching team to keep grooming.
The first is Daniel Sturridge, who, with his jovial personality and tendency to come off as a relatively selfish player—whether it be because of his playing style or because of the nature of his goal celebrations—might not immediately come off as a good option as an “official” leader.
Yet he is well-spoken, polite and confident, all traits that would make him a perfect public face or spokesperson for the club. If he ups his work rate to Luis Suarez-like levels and becomes more of a known team player, Sturridge could yet become a decent option for vice-captain.
Further Development Required: Raheem Sterling
Our last candidate is new Liverpool favorite Raheem Sterling, who captured the imagination of Reds fans around the world with his scintillating performances last season and impressed both Rodgers and Roy Hodgson with his maturity and development.
What stands out immediately is Sterling’s willingness to do the dirty work and play a strong defensive game, which, when allied with his technical and physical attributes going forward, make him quite the complete winger.
With Luis Suarez having left Liverpool, Sterling may yet be required to take on more responsibility in the Reds attack this season, and Rodgers may be looking for a contribution of more than 10 goals as he steps up his growth from a promising hotshot to a world star.
Add this to his roots as a graduate from the Liverpool academy as well as his humble personality, and Liverpool might be looking at a future star to lead their attack for years to come.
Our Choice: Jordan Henderson
Right now, though, it’s Jordan Henderson who gets our pick.
Having established himself in Brendan Rodgers’ starting XI, as vice-captain Henderson would get a chance to further stamp his authority on both the Liverpool squad and in games, and having both the captain and vice-captain at the heart of the Liverpool midfield can only help their authority in the center.
Henderson appears to have all the qualities to thrive as a captain, and the confidence boost that he will undoubtedly get when leading the team as his responsibility may turn him into an even better player than he’s already grown into at Anfield.
Who knows—he might be the natural successor to Steven Gerrard when he retires.