THREE weeks ago this would have been significantly shorter. What’s next for Mamadou Sakho you ask? It all seemed pretty obvious didn’t it? Stay fit and prove yourself to be one of the top centre backs in the Premier League now you’ve belatedly been granted a much deserved automatic starting place in the team. The rest would probably have read something like this:
Mamadou Sakho is Liverpool’s quickest centre back. He’s Liverpool’s strongest centre back. He’s Liverpool’s most physically dominant centre back. He’s Liverpool’s most reliable and progressive centre back when in possession. Liverpool concede less, score more and win more when he plays. Sakho is Liverpool’s best centre back and only needs to remain on the pitch this season in order to flourish. So good luck, stay healthy and go well in 2015/16, Mama. See you all later.
What else needed saying? It was all fairly clear to my mind.
Then the friendlies happened and now I’m left scratching my head and worrying that we’re going to have to sit through the worst reunion tour since the Sex Pistols in ‘96.
First of all, I realise that it can be dangerous to read too much into pre season games. That said, there has been a concerning pattern developing over the past month or so that leads me (and pretty much everyone else) to suspect that Brendan Rodgers has decided to get the band back together and pair Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren alongside each other at the heart of Liverpool’s defence when the new season begins next weekend. The manager has publicly claimed that he is still deliberating which centre halves will play together against Stoke City, but that seems highly unlikely at this juncture.
Much has been made of the Rodgers’ consistent partnering of Jordan Henderson and James Milner in midfield throughout the friendly games. Presumably that has been done to allow the two Englishmen to forge a coherent partnership ahead of the new campaign as they will likely feature alongside each other regularly when the real stuff begins. Fair enough. Makes sense. As would getting your first choice centre halves on the pitch together whenever possible for the same reasons.
Skrtel and Sakho were selected alongside each other just once in the six pre-season matches Liverpool played this summer (seven if you include that weird training session that morphed into an unscheduled game) while the Slovakian has played next to Dejan Lovren on four occasions.
It seems apparent that this has been done by design and that the manager is going to subject us all to watching a reunion of the Lovren and Skrtel partnership that had us tearing our hair out throughout the early months of last season. The only other alternative is that the manager of Liverpool Football Club thought that his two best centre backs only needed 45 pre-season minutes together before the new Premier League campaign began. To be frank, I’m not sure which scenario would be more damning of Rodgers.
I’ll do my best to prevent this from devolving into a rambling, scathing hatchet job on Lovren, but quite how there is any debate around who should be partnering Skrtel at Stoke and beyond is unfathomable to me. In fact, for me, the question I’d be asking would actually be ‘who deserves to partner Mamadou Sakho this season?’
I understand the concerns surrounding Sakho’s less than stellar injury record and it’s clearly fair to say that he does have the odd mistake in him – usually as a result of overzealousness – but if Dejan Lovren is the only realistic alternative to play alongside Skrtel this season then there really shouldn’t be much consideration required, should there? Even against substandard opposition this summer, the Croat has made some notable blunders and managed to look uneasy. Basic defending has seemed beyond him since he walked into Anfield, which isn’t something you can level at his French counterpart.
Is there a way to rationalise Rodgers’ reluctance regarding Sakho and his apparent love of the Lov? Well, perhaps the manager sees things in training that we don’t. Perhaps he’s worried that Sakho’s fitness record will not hold up and he wants Lovren in from the off to pre-empt that inevitable injury. Or perhaps he’s simply more willing to give additional undeserved chances to a player that he talked up and signed for mega money last summer than to a reported ‘committee signing’ that he’s never seemed fully convinced by.
Whatever the reason for his ‘deliberation’ regarding his central defensive partnership, I hope Brendan does the unexpected this weekend and selects Liverpool’s best centre half to partner Martin Skrtel at The Britannia. As we all know, his name is Mamadou Sakho. Not Dejan Lovren.
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We have to support Lovren. We just have to, that’s our job. His job is to try and defend, ours is to support him in doing so. I hope we don’t end up getting on his back in a well-intentioned attempt to get Rodgers to play Sakho instead of him. But we know what will happen, Stoke will batter us and the next home game Lovren will be destroyed by the vast majority of Anfield.
Any abuse should not be directed at Lovren. He is not being shit on purpose. He can’t help it.
After every mistake the anger should be directed towards the dugout. There should be chants of “Sakho Sakho”
Very good and well argued article. It echoes my sentiments on Sakho precisely. The mere fact this article was written goes a long way to show why our current manager’s out of his depth. As he’ll be gone by Christmas, at the latest, there’s every chance the next manager will take advantage of our only CB that would walk straight into most CL-teams in Europe. Too bad our current manager doesn’t realise this.
And this thing about supporting Lovren. What’s that all about? It’s the club we support and when the manager time and again fail to make the correct decisions, supporting them is hardly the issue at hand me thinks.
Quite right, who deserves to play alongside Sakho is the question ? He’ll probably plump for Skrtel but why hasn’t Ilori been given a chance. has he evn played in pre-season ? So our defence is so good we don’t need the player who came second to carvalho as player of the U21 euro championships ?
Next you’ll be saying Lovren is in the first team squad and on the teamsheet…..
I have this fear that Sakho is just the beginning of Rodgers exercising his power this season.
Can,Markovic,Moreno,Ilori and Sakho will no be LFC players next season.
I’m not anti Rodgers but he does play the favorites game and alienates other players in the process.
LFC might still sell Sakho and bring in Ashley Williams, there’s still time.
Its absolutely bizarre that Rodgers seems to favour Lovren over Sakho. I’m no Rodgers hater but it makes it very difficult to defend him from the haters when he makes decisions like this. It’s decisions like this that piles unnecessary pressure into him and the team.
Sakho starts in the impressive French national side along with Varane. He starts ahead of Kocielny and Mangala. They’ll be right up there when it comes to winning the Euros. However Rodgers doesn’t think he’s good enough to start for us??? You gotta question his judgement over this.
Maybe we’ll all be proven wrong and Sakho will start.
i agree with everything you have written here mate, i am no Rodgers hater but i cannot see how he could pick Lovren over the SaK.
Fantastic piece that not only cuts through all the bullshit, but shows up TAW contributors on their latest podcasts.
Listen to the “6 days to go!” pod. Listen to Melissa Reddy at 24.02. When asked how she felt Lovren did against Helsinki, listen to the hesitation. Listen to her try to convince those around the table, those listening at home and herself, that “she thought he did ok” – she um’d and ah’d before Mike had to step in and say “he’s not great.” As understatements go, that’s an award winner. She says “he wasn’t tested.” No, he wasn’t. And still looked dodgy. He’ll be tested in the premier league though.
Why don’t they just say what this article does? We all know it to be true. Why the incessant need to not call a spade a spade? Why the incessant need to always think there is a pure motive and clever thinking behind Rodgers’ decisions? Is it to sound intelligent? Is it to fill air time? Is it to defend the manager of LFC?
Whats next for Sakho, the best centre back at the club? Two possibilities: (a) Lovren improves significantly so that he performs to a 4/10 standard and Rodgers perseveres, meaning Sakho leaves in January with an eye to keeping his place in a French team that will win Euro 2016. (b) Lovren continues to play to a 1/10 standard and fearing the sack, Rodgers once again turns to a man he hates in order to help him improve the defense and save his job. Sakho plays but its not enough to save Rodgers. A new manager comes in and builds an appropriate defensive structure – one that doesn’t concede 50 goals every year – around Sakho and all LFC fans rejoice.
leave the conspiracies at the door mate, everyone at TAW is an individual with their own opinion. they’re also human like you and me. the end.
There are no conspiracy theories, only questions. Questions that seem to annoy you. Strange.
You won’t have the answers but perhaps you can go to the 24th minute of the latest pod and give your take on why the conversation went the way it did?
Maybe you can tell us why 99.999% of Liverpool fans are thinking and saying what this article has but those on the podcast chose to speak, or not speak, in the way they did.
Another insightful and informative intelligent comment from grumpy gunpey. Seriously get a life mate!
I thought Melissa’s “unmming and aahing” was more to do with the fact that Lovren hasn’t actually been too bad in pre-sesaon, but personally i think that’s more to do with the standard of opposition so far. He’ll have to improve on his dismal performances of last year, but that’s something the whole defence needs to do, we couldn’t blame it all on Lovren last year.
Having said all that, i still want Sakho to start alongside Skrtel. He was pissed off last year when he didn’t play, resulting in him leaving the ground (v Everton ?). I’ll be disappointed if the same happens again this year and he decides enough is enough and puts in a transfer request in order to get game time.
I don’t mind Rodgers having favourites, all managers (and supporters do), but if he gets it wrong, i hope he works it out pretty damn quickly. We need a good start this year if we want to challenge for anything worthwhile.
Do you not think he has had enough time to get it right? He’s had 2 years with Sakho & 1 year with Lovren. I’d suggest that is more than enough time to come to the same conclusion the rest of us did within a couple of months.
Aye, conceivably he should know, but as was mentioned on one of the podcasts, Sakho is a tad injury prone, and maybe that’s one of the primary reasons why Rogers doesn’t trust him.
Just a quick look at Wiki, shows Lovren has made 57 appearances in the Premiership of the past two years, but Sakho is way down on 34 – that’s quite a difference, but obviously not all explained away by either favouritism or injuries, but most likely a combination of both.
Got to give Rogers a chance though, we have to wait and see what he decides to do, and if he does decide Lovren is the better option, then he’ll be judged by that. Can’t castigate a man for a decision he’s not made yet.
Bodgers keystone cops style of management means he’ll struggle whatever the personnel, even with Sakho we conceded 50 goals the year we finished second. He still doesn’t believe in defensive midfielders, absolutely mental.
I actually think that Lovren could come good, and have more faith in him than Skrtel – I guess it’s the fact that there’s more ‘unknown’ to his game, and also goes a long way to explaining why I’d rather see Ilori in the teamsheet than either of them.
However, the discussion should definitely be about which of them partners Sakho in the centre of our defence.
I agree that Sakho is better than Lovren but this article reeks of bias. He isn’t Liverpool’s quickest centre back, not a patch on Gomez or Ilori and Skrtel isn’t much slower.
He’s also not great in the air and people seem to be forgetting it was Skrtel-Sakho who conceded 6 in the exact same fixture in May. He’s better than Lovren, yes, but not by a massive stretch.
It’s been said before but I’ll say it again, BR has favourites. No matter what, he plays those men. It happened at Swansea and it is happening here. Now if those players merited being a favourite and repaid that loyalty with 8/9 or 10 out of 10 performances, well you could live with it and understand it.
But they arent.
Sakho will walk, as will Lucas, as will Markovic, as will Illori, as have others, because, well they just arent one of the favourites.
And for me personally, that’s not how you pick your football team.
Like a few other posters, I’ve consistently defended Rodgers but he doesn’t make it easy when it comes to Big Mama.
Far and away the best CH at the club, but for some reason Rodgers seems to judge him more harshly than other defenders.
You can pick the players bought by the Transfer Committee (against Rodgers’ wishes, seemingly) and those who’s purchase Rodgers really pushed for.
Those who Rodgers feels were ‘foisted’ on him seem to get short shrift and, sadly, Sakho seems to be one of those.
I’m hoping that the likes of Gary Mac and SoD can convince Rodgers that Sak really is the man to lead the back four.
No matter how many games Sakho is voted MOM or lauded for his performances, Rodgers hardly ever congratulates him in the media. That kind of tells its own story of how this will end.
If Lovren is to be preferred to Sakho this season then I’ll be more than happy to join the ‘Rodgers OUT brigade.’
Its SO hard to back our manager, “Mr. I don’t need a Defensive coach” when he’s continually making the same mistakes over and over. I’m sure any new manager with our squad would have Sakho first choice and build around him. If he’s good enough for one of the best national teams in world football right now then why not us?
Injury prone or not (and I think its exaggerrated) Sakho is our BEST CB and should be first choice every week if fit. The stats show it, the performances show it and he has all the attributes to succeed.
I don’t care if he looks awkward on the ball… he’s strong and effective! He helps the team defend aggressively, wins 95% of his battles high up the pitch and plays it out effectively to start quick attacks in midfield.
When everyone’s fit you play your strongest 11 and after 3 years it’s obvious none of us including Rodgers know what that is.
First mistake of the summer: Giving Skrtel a new contract…
He’s the worst CB at the club when you actually WATCH his defending ability. Forget his memorable goals in 2013/14, or he looks ‘ard’ etc. This is a man who was consistently bullied by strikers like Jermaine fucking Defoe. Watch how he reads the game, and how every defender he plays with has had to cover his mistakes and lack of communication.
How he goes from being bombed out for Carra a few years ago by Brendan and not trusted to suddenly first choice CB just sums things up. Skrtel was the same player then as he is now so why the redemption and new hefty contract?
Lovren… he’s probably the only player in recent times who 99% of our fans agree is awful… even though most got on the ‘our new Sami/Leader’ Hype train Brendan set in motion after we beat Dortmund in preseason lol.
Shame that didn’t work out, especially after we’d spent 20mill on the guy after spending 18mill on Sakho the season before. Transfer Committee should never have let a decision like that happen regardless how much pull Brendan got after that magical season. Again though Lovren was bombed out last year when it wasn’t working so why the redemption?
I’ve been in Rodgers’ corner throughout his recent battles with disgruntled fans but I’m afraid I have to agree with this article in it’s entirety. LFC look so much more solid when he’s playing. He’s so tough and as the article mentions, his progressive and accurate passing, often into space and unmarked midfielders is a great platform for the attackers. Lovren should get his chance but if and only after Sakho has a bad run. I’m questioning why he wasn’t named vice captain to be honest.
Lord knows how much abuse I’ve endured this summer backing Rodgers to come around. “Apologist” is probably the nicest version. Of course, as someone who thinks Joe Allen is actually quite talented, I’m no stranger to the Saint Sebastian routine.
But the seeming preference for Lovren has me gobsmacked. Sakho for me is not only our best CB by a country mile, he is also the coolest human being on the planet. There is almost literally nothing he does that I don’t find utterly amusing or amazing. I love his gangly style. Yes, he’s had a howler in him, but how many howlers did Lovren and Skrtel have in them?
Rodgers has got quite a bit of credit in the bank with me for the months between the arrival of Coutinho and Sturridge and the second half of Crystal Palace. But every game that puts Lovren over Sakho serves as a massive withdrawal from that bank.
I’ve posted before that my neice is married to a Soton fan. When we signed Loveen he said ‘Tell uncle Kevin they’ve pinched the wrong bloke.’
I thought he was taking the piss but I l know now how right he was. The recent tour of Australa and Asia sry my optimism for next season right down. Lovren seemed to wander around aimlessly and appears to be completely lacking in positional awareness. Perhaps he can juggle a ball; Rodgers likes that, like all under 10 coaches.
Actually we’re not planning on doing any defending this season- just look at the players we have brought in, not a defensive trait amongst them.Lovren will be in the side for his threat at corners.We’re aiming to win 5-4 every week.
Sakho, Lovren? did well at Spurs with Dejan on the right. Skrtel has never fully convinced me like Agger, Carra, Sami.
Just maybe we will see the best of Lovren, solid but unremarkable, he knows he has to perform, with the France International center back on the bench ready to take his place. I can’t see Brendan being as patient with Lovren this year if he doesn’t perform as required, as his job is on the line and the pressure will mount quickly at least if he plays Sakho, the fans will stay with him for longer.
So, many reports gave that Dejan character MOTM.
Rodgers….what an idiot.