Sebastian Coates Loan Underlines Issues with Young Defenders at Liverpool

Sebastian Coates' Liverpool career can be considered a failure with scant opportunity.
Sebastian Coates' Liverpool career can be considered a failure with scant opportunity.Ian Walton/Getty Images
Jack LusbyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2014

Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool spent a relatively quiet transfer deadline day attempting to shift their plentiful deadwood—one such player was Uruguayan centre-back Sebastian Coates.

The 23-year-old former prodigy left Merseyside for Wearside, joining compatriot Gus Poyet's Sunderland on a season-long loan, per BBC Sport.

Having joined the Reds in 2011, this latest move away—following an under-the-radar spell with former club Nacional last season—will surely signal the end of a regressive time at Liverpool for Coates.

This transfer window, defenders Martin Kelly, Jack Robinson, Daniel Agger, Andre Wisdom, Brad Smith and Tiago Ilori have all joined Coates on the outgoings list, be it on permanent or temporary terms.

In response to Coates' move, former Liverpool centre-back and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher outlined the pitfalls of young central defenders at a Premier League level.

Coates was arguably not even given the opportunity to make mistakes at Liverpool, but this damning indictment is particularly telling of the development of young centre-backs in modern football, and in particular with the Reds.


Carragher and Humble Beginnings 

Jamie Carragher began his Liverpool career at right-back.
Jamie Carragher began his Liverpool career at right-back.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Questioned about his own beginnings as a defender within the Liverpool first team, Carragher discussed his initial versatility within the back four.

Carragher's show of support for young right-back Jon Flanagan, last year operating as an orthodox left-back, underlined this importance, per the Daily Express.

Furthermore, this is a notion that the 36-year-old lampooned during a debate with Gary Neville on Sky Sports flagship show Monday Night Football (h/t Daily Mirror), claiming "There's only two things for a full-back. You're either a failed winger or a failed centre-back."

Behind the intended humour remains a pertinent point from the former defender—performing on the flanks is a rite of passage of sorts for an aspiring top-level centre-back.

Coates—whilst adept on both the right and left side of central defence—is not mobile enough to perform with such versatility, and this may be where the defender failed.


CoatesIlori and the Loan System 

Tiago Ilori is another young centre-back who has struggled to make an impact at Liverpool.
Tiago Ilori is another young centre-back who has struggled to make an impact at Liverpool.Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

In recent years, Coates and Portuguese centre-back Ilori have joined the Reds as highly rated defensive options for the future.

However, both have seemingly reached an impasse with their Liverpool careers—on loan this season, the pair are unlikely to return in a long-term capacity.

Coates joined from Nacional following a starring performance at the 2011 Copa America, wherein the defender was awarded Best Young Player.

Per, Coates made 24 appearances for the Reds during his tenure on Merseyside, the highlight of this spell being an exquisite scissor-kick opener in the club's 3-2 Premier League loss away to QPR.

Similarly, Ilori joined last season with a considerable reputation as one of European football's hottest defensive prospects, per BBC Sport.

However, the Portuguese was loaned to La Liga side Granada last season and, subsequently, to Ligue 1 side Bordeaux for 2014/15.

This points to Brendan Rodgers' inclination towards the loan system when approaching young centre-backs, a notion that contradicts the upbringing of the iconic Carragher at Anfield.

Academy product Andre Wisdom is seemingly in the same boat even despite his ability to play at both right-back and in central defence—the problem seems to be deeply rooted for young centre-backs at Liverpool.


Rodgers' Liverpool Rise 

Brendan Rodgers has overseen a rapid rise during his short spell with as Liverpool manager.
Brendan Rodgers has overseen a rapid rise during his short spell with as Liverpool manager.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

This is, ostensibly, due to the rapid rise of the club under Rodgers.

Finishing, unexpectedly, in second place in last season's Premier League, Liverpool surprised most with their buccaneering style and its staggering success.

Per Tim Rich of The Independent, Rodgers believes that his side is "a year ahead" of schedule in terms of the league, and this will have had an impact on the introduction of his young defenders.

Despite the loss of Luis Suarez this summer, Liverpool are expected to challenge for the title in 2014/15 due to their strong showing in their previous outing.

Given Carragher's comments, this would likely see Rodgers less inclined to experiment with his back line.

Every game is a must-win, and the Ulsterman cannot risk these routine "mistakes" linked with the employment of young centre-backs by Carragher.


The Future

Is this one of the last appearances by Sebastian Coates in a Liverpool shirt?
Is this one of the last appearances by Sebastian Coates in a Liverpool shirt?David Banks/Getty Images

Given this forecast, it is unlikely that the Reds will utilise a young centre-back in a regular role until league stability at the upper end is secured.

The acquisition of Dejan Lovren, and subsequent loans of Coates and Ilori, shows that Rodgers is looking to add more experience, as opposed to potential, to his back line.

From the outside looking in, and with Kolo Toure now the club's de facto fourth-choice centre-back, it may have been wise to hold on to the superior Coates and/or Ilori this season.

However, this season is central to Rodgers' development of the club, and the development of young centre-backs may not be risked due to this.


Is Brendan Rodgers right to loan both Sebastian Coates and Tiago Ilori this summer? Let us know in the comments below.

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