Why Marcos Rojo Is the Solution to Liverpool's Left-Back Problem

Daniel EdwardsFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2014

Argentina's Marcos Rojo, left, clears the ball from Germany's Thomas Mueller during the World Cup final soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, July 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

After 24 years of fruitlessly trying to lift England's top football prize, Liverpool proved once more to be so near and yet so far in 2013/14. A dynamic side coached by Brendan Rodgers led the Premier League for large stretches of the year, only to fall short in the final weeks and allow Manchester City to sneak home for the title. 

There was no shortage of reasons the Reds could not break that drought of almost a quarter-century. But looking back over the 38 games, defensive fragility and inattention in key games have to rank as principal culprits. 

Liverpool conceded 50 goals over the course of the season, an average of well over one per game and 13 more than their title rivals allowed. 

And who can forget the spectacular collapse that followed a 2-0 reverse to Jose Mourinho's men, the result that really put the title out of reach? Cruising 3-0 up against Crystal Palace, Liverpool somehow conspired to draw the match with 10 minutes to play, putting Manchester City in the driving seat.

Such mistakes cannot be tolerated again if Rodgers, this time without inspirational goalscorer Luis Suarez, wishes to go one step further. 

Alastair Grant/Associated Press

This is where the modest, unassuming Marcos Rojo comes into the picture. Few commentators had positive words to say about the Argentina international prior to the World Cup. But a series of tough, uncompromising displays on the left-hand side of defence raised the Sporting man's profile tenfold. It no longer seems fantastical to speak of Rojo as the solution to Liverpool's defensive woes. 

Much of the fragility last season was caused by a crisis out on the left flank. Spanish full-back Jose Enrique suffered a nightmare campaign. He appeared just seven times, as injury robbed him of minutes on the pitch.

In Enrique's absence, Glen Johnson, Jon Flanagan, Aly Cissokho and even centre-back Daniel Agger were chopped and changed in that position, with no candidate doing much to prove he could be a long-term solution. 

That defensive Achilles' heel could be forgiven while Liverpool racked up thrilling 6-3, 5-3 and 3-2 results across what was an excellent season at Anfield. But in the really tight games, points were squandered that could have made all the difference late on. 

It would be a wild stretch of the imagination to present Rojo as some sort of magic bullet, although the signing of Dejan Lovren, as per Dominic King of the Daily Mailis a step in the right direction. But the 24-year-old does have many of the qualities needed by Rodgers. 

Having played alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain, Rojo is no stranger to featuring in a team in which the defensive arts are diminished in favour of goal-scoring capacity.

His appearances at the World Cup demonstrated how effectively he defends high up the pitch, pressing the winger as soon as he receives the ball. 

Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

No other left-back shackled the Netherlands' Arjen Robben so effectively in his bursts off the right, and even the unstoppable German attacking machine was kept quiet for large periods of the World Cup final before finally prevailing in extra time.

The immense figure of Javier Mascherano in the middle was crucial, of course, but alongside El Jefecito, Rojo kept his flank quiet, forcing teams to cut inside and face the wrath of the Barcelona man. 

Tall and strong in the air, Rojo has the legs to play on the flank and the physical capability to move inside as part of a central pairing or the left side of a back three. Versatile, young and full of enthusiasm, he could be just the player Rodgers needs to strengthen his defensive ranks ahead of an assault on the Premier League and Champions League in 2014/15.