Liverpool centre-backs: Pros and Cons

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Liverpool's defence in recent years has been their achilles heel. 

In the 2013/14 season the Reds were prolific in front of goal. The strike pair of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge as well as support from Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho lit the Premier League alight.  Liverpool were the deadliest team in the Premier League, netting 103 goals with Suarez scoring 31 of those.

However, whereas Liverpool were freely scoring, they were conceding needless and unnecessary goals. Watching them defend mirrored something of a hungover Sunday league team at times and 50 goals were allowed in throughout the campaign.


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Last season, Liverpool were not as deadly putting the ball away - the opposite in fact. They racked up a tally of just 52 goals and felt the repercussions of the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona and hip and thigh injuries that forced Daniel Sturridge to miss most of the campaign.

Whereas the Merseyside club could not score, things did not tighten up at the back. They did not concede as many as the season prior but they still let 48 in. For a side who cannot score getting things correct in defence has to be a priority.

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It's safe to say that Brendan Rodgers for the past two seasons did not know who is best defence is. The tradition of Liverpool is that they have a strong back-four that features the same faces for most of the term. That is why success has happened in the past and a significant reason why Rodgers has not captured his first trophy since taking the helm at Anfield in 2012.

There will be nobody more desperate than the Northern Irishman to get it right this season. Nathaniel Clyne's arrival from Southampton for £12 million is a positive one and he'll slot in to right-back with minimal fuss.

Left-back is still up for grabs; Alberto Moreno was purchased for £12 million for Sevilla but his first season at Anfield wasn't the most inspiring and Jose Enrique's departure looks imminent. Joe Gomez has impressed during pre-season since his £3.5 million move from Charlton this summer and he could fill the role.

What Rodgers will be worrying about the most is his centre-backs. He played three centre-backs for a large chunk of last year, but, it's likely he will go back to four this term.

With two slots up for grabs there are pros and cons for who the former Swansea City manager should play?

Martin Skrtel

Skrtel is Liverpool's most experienced defender based on appearances for the club by a long way. He signed from Zenit St. Petersburg for £6 million in 2008 and made over 200 appearances at Anfield.


One thing Skrtel significantly has on his side is experience. Playing for Liverpool can be a daunting task, one that you have to tick a large number of boxes and down the years Skrtel has done so.

For the past two seasons he has been the club's best centre-back. When the Reds were conceding goals left, right and centre during the 2013/14 campaign, with Rodgers chopping and changing his defence, it was Skrtel who was a regular in the team and 50 could have well been a higher total without his presence. 

His whole hearted performances haven't went unnoticed by Kopites and their reaction when Skrtel was offered a sub-standard new contract he deemed "unacceptable" was something along the same lines.

The Slovakia international is never afraid to get his hands dirty and goes into challenges and headers gamely and is willing to take a knock for the good of his team. His persistence too when chasing an attacker is something to be admired - he out-marked Christian Benteke, Liverpool's new striker, when they beat Aston Villa 2-0 away last January.


As committed Skrtel is, he has a reputation for diving into rash challenges in dangerous areas.

Despite him being on an attacker like a rash, the 30-year-old sometimes gets too committed and lunges into a tackle which results in either a free-kick or a penalty.

When he is one-on-one with the opposition, there are moans and groans of him potentially giving away a foul. Albeit he has improved in this aspect, but, his previous errors are always in the back of the mind and he could make a costly mistake.

Mamadou Sakho

Sakho arrived at Liverpool in the summer of 2013 with a massive repertoire. He'd captained Paris Saint-Germain aged 17 and was a regular for France and wasn't cheap at £15 million.


Sakho is as strong as an ox. He is a fine physical specimen who will rarely be beaten in the tackle and dominates strikers by not letting them breathe on the ball. He is aggressive and does not allow the attacker time and space and meets them high up the pitch to win challenges,

He too is left footed, the only Liverpool centre-back to boast this attribute. Although this seems such a simple trait, it is something every manager wishes for. It's just more natural, defending flows so much better. 

Sakho too is capable of leading the back-line. He's admitted in the past that he wants to take on the responsibility which can only be a positive in a defence that has missed that quality since Jamie Carragher retired.


Sakho's downfall is his clumsiness. He looks hugely uncomfortable on the ball which goes against Rodgers' philosophy of playing the ball out from the back. So often, he gets his feet muddled up when on and off the ball - his slip for Harry Kane's goal when Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur last season was a prime case. Sakho's balance is something out of the ordinary and can lead to mistakes.

Dejan Lovren

Last summer, Rodgers spent a small fortune on acquiring Lovren for £20 million from Southampton. His first season at Anfield didn't go to plan, but, he will be desperate to win a place in Rodgers' starting XI.


On his day, Lovren is one of the best defenders in the Premier League.

His debut season for the Saints was top-class and he proved to be a nuisance for strikers.

He proved he had absolutely everything; he could tackle, head the ball, pass and organise a back-four. When the Croatia international's transfer to the Reds was announced, Daniel Sturridge admitted he was one of the best defenders he'd ever played against.

Lovren looked top-class during pre-season last summer. His performance in Liverpool's 4-0 thrashing against Borrusia Dortmund in a pre-season friendly had Kopites severely excited that they had a defender who could create a legacy at Anfield.


His first season at Anfield wasn't the most inspiring. He started off poorly when he was used heavily in the early stages of the campaign and made a number of high error mistakes and fans questioned the high fee paid for him.

Lovren looked short of confidence when put in Rodgers' side and was sidelined for most of the year. When put back in the team he too looked the same player and he will be down the pecking order, which will only further dampen his spirits.

Kolo Toure

Toure moved to the Reds on a free transfer from Manchester City last summer and is the most experienced overall player in the Liverpool team.


You are guaranteed that Toure will use his past to the best of his abilities. He's played at the top level for the majority of his career, winning league titles at both Arsenal and Manchester City.

Whereas he does not posses the speed he once used to, the Ivory Coast international has learned to improve his awareness of his game and gets himself into better positions. In Liverpool's 1-0 away defeat to Real Madrid last year, Toure was his side's best player. From the first until the final whistle he constantly put his body on the line to restrict Cristiano Ronaldo and co. to just one goal.


Although he has used experience to his side, the old saying is that speed kills. At the ripe old age of 34, Toure isn't going to get any better and is on a downward spiral of his career and his pace could be a problem against quick strikers.

He is a conventional centre-back and that unfortunately is not what Rodgers is seeking.  Toure does not comfortable playing the ball out from the defence - his mistakes for Victor Anichebe's goal in the 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion two seasons ago highlighted this.

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Martin Skrtel
Premier League
Kolo Toure
Brendan Rodgers

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