Jack Lusby

Feature Writer

Turning Glass into Steel: How Daniel Agger Can Salvage his Liverpool Career

With speculation mounting this season regarding the future of Daniel Agger at Liverpool, Jack Lusby (@LusbyLatest) considers whether the Dane still has a future at the club.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 1, 2014: Liverpool's Daniel Agger celebrates scoring the first goal against Hull City during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Speaking at a press conference prior to last weekend’s FA Cup Fifth Round loss away to Arsenal, Brendan Rodgers reserved some choice words Liverpool vice-captain Daniel Agger, as per Sky Sports:

“Everyone talks about ball-playing centre-halves but you have to be able to defend and be able to cope with that first. Obviously if you have the qualities then we want you to play because it is important how we build our game and there is no doubt Daniel Agger is an outstanding footballer.”

This somewhat damning posit for the Danish centre-back serves as a personal challenge in forcing his way back into the long-term thoughts of the Liverpool manager.

Whilst playing the ball out from the back is an undeniable facet of the Northern-Irishman’s tactical remit, this still requires defensive stability.

Agger’s return following a calf problem to complete the full 90 minutes at the Emirates underlines an alarming regularity for the heavily-inked defender: injury.

A classy ball-player by trade, injury problems have blighted the Dane’s Liverpool career in recent years – seemingly being made of glass.

With the emerging behemoth Mamadou Sakho nearing a return to full fitness, according to IBTimes, Agger will once again face a fight for his place in Rodgers’ preferred XI.

To salvage his Liverpool career, Agger must perform the near impossible and turn glass into defensive steel.

 

Can It Be Done?

Agger’s long-standing defensive partner, Martin Skrtel, is indisputable proof of redemption under Rodgers’ gaze.

In a recent report by the Liverpool Echo, the Liverpool manager opined:

“He’s a player who has maybe been deemed a big, aggressive defender…[Now] he is defending with real intelligence and real composure.”

Skrtel’s rise from Anfield outcast to defensive mainstay represents a justified redemption through adaptation.

The Dane undoubtedly possesses the intelligence and composure, what Rodgers now wants is a renewed sense of aggression.

The Slovak is proof that it can be done, and the future for Agger at Liverpool seems to be either sink or swim.

 

Facing the Drop

One of Liverpool’s most scintillating offensive performances of the season also signalled one of the worst defensive displays for the season: November’s 3-3 Merseyside derby.

Opting for the experienced partnership of Skrtel and Agger, Rodgers saw his men torn apart time and again by the guile of Ross Barkley, and the sheer power of Romelu Lukaku.

Most notably, as per Squawka, Agger’s trademark ball-playing prowess may well have played a part in this: the Dane found a teammate with a meagre 70 percent of passes attempted.

Agger was unceremoniously dropped for Kolo Toure for the next game, a 3-1 loss away to Hull City, with the Liverpool Echo reporting Rodgers’ testimony:

“I just felt we’ve struggled at times against big physical opponents and Toure has obviously coped well with that type of player… The first attribute [of defending] isn’t about the ball. It is to defend. When you can defend, you then look to build the game from there.”

This has sparked a veritable sea-change for the Brøndby man, as data from Squawka shows:

Agger Stats (via Squawka)

Prior to being dropped for the Hull game, Agger won on average only 54 percent of duels attempted and made a total of two defensive errors leading to an attempt on goal.

In his five appearances since – limited due to injury – Agger has responded with an average of 73 percent duels won, and has also seemingly cut defensive errors from his game.

This suggests that perhaps Agger has taken Rodgers’ words on.

 

Adding Defensive Action

Continuing statistical analysis, and comparing Agger with Sakho and Skrtel this season, reveals an alarming deficiency in his game.

According to Squawka, Agger contributes an average of seven defensive actions per game.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 16, 2014: Liverpool's Daniel Agger in action against Arsenal during the FA Cup 5th Round match at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Skrtel, at an average 15 defensive actions per game, contributes more than twice as much defensively as Agger. Elsewhere, Sakho averages at 11 defensive actions per game.

This alludes to the aggression that Agger’s overall game is missing.

It would be regressive to suggest that to ‘get stuck in’ is the most important part of the modern defensive game – not every centre-back can be John Terry – but, naturally, it is in its essence.

As Rodgers says, “you have to be able to defend”, and this is something that Agger will need to work on.

 

Problematic Factors

Other factors, perhaps out of his control, stand in the way of Agger’s development and route back into the Liverpool first team.

Injury-proneness is an issue that can be portayed dismally with the downturn in fortunes of Nemanja Vidic at Manchester United.

Once a trusted defensive stalwart, fitness issues have dampened the progress of the Serb and his contract is set to expire this summer, as per BBC Sport.

Elsewhere, the imperious form of Sakho puts the future of the Reds’ vice-captain under threat.

Sakho is the epitomy of a Rodgers centre-back: adept at breaking up play with aggression and urgency, physically imposing, and comfortable with the ball at his feet.

The Frenchman boasts, again courtesy of Squawka, an average passing accuracy of 92 percent and a tackle success rate of 69 percent.

 

The Verdict

It is clear that Agger has defensive issues within his game that need to be forged, but he is far from a bad option for Liverpool and Rodgers.

An upturn in performance, statistical at the very least, since being dropped for the loss at Hull, suggests a glimmer of hope for Agger.

Unfortunately factors above do weigh heavily against the centre-back, the BBC Sport reported £18m spent on Sakho over the summer suggesting that he is far from a mere squad player.

Nonetheless: continue to absorb Rodgers’ immeasurable wisdom, and Agger may follow Skrtel back into Anfield’s upper echelons.

Does Agger have a long-term future at Liverpool, or are his days numbered? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jack Lusby

Aspiring sports journalist and ardent Liverpool supporter based in Norwich.

  • rubyrm

    yes.

  • redder

    Totally agree with this. There are not that many (available) top class defenders out there at the minute – not one’s that have his experience (PL, EC, Int). He still has few years left at the highest level.
    Despite all the injuries and dip in form, I’ll be gutted if he leaves!

  • Luiss

    Liverpool would be barking mad to let go of such a consistent performer. Toure isn’t the brightest prospects in the world, and 3 good CBs feature for every club with some CL ambition.

  • http://enria.org/ JonnyS

    Rodgers has proven to be pretty much top draw at developing players, young and mature in a very short space of time (in contrast to Dalglish it has to be said) which is why he’s so invaluable to Liverpool.

    He makes it possible to pursue the strategy of buying young hungry players aswell as using the academy and combine that with improving the senior players too so there is a balance in the side of age and experience.

    There is mental strength evident in the side which improves as the players improve and really the defence is the next piece to get right as the injured come back for the final push. If Agger improves that will be huge for the back line. We assume there’s nothing wrong with players like Agger whereas in reality there are mistakes and fallibility in there.

    Still nervous about teams that are organised in possession – like Swansea for example. Lets hope we can control that midfield as that will surely take pressure off the defence too.

  • Abyss

    I have always maintained that I don’t want Agger to leave and continue to stick by that opinion. However, I can really see this happening and I don’t think it would ultimately affect the team in any manner. Agger’s long term replacement in Sakho is already acquired. If Ilori comes back in to the squad next season, we’ll end up having five central defenders assuming Kolo is still staying at the club, I’m pretty sure Martin will continue to do so.

    Also, let’s not forget that Gerrard is going to be a year older next season and I think he might end his career as a CD, possibly even playing as a CD for some games next season itself – Rodgers has already hinted at it as well.

    • arron

      Agger is our best cb

  • allaboutanfield

    What ever time had left in this season , Agger should fight his way back into the team just like what Skrtel had done.He still better than Toure no matter what.

  • arron

    U no nothing clearly second choice Agger is our best cb and one of best in the league

  • frizzmuncher

    let him go. had the best out of him when not ‘injured’ . rumoured to like too many beers.

  • serbianred

    Even though it pains me because I like him as a footballer best thing for club would be to sell him while he still can bring in decent sum. Skrtel and Sakho are first choice for next year, and as back up we have Kolo, Wisdom and possibly Illori. Thats enough for next year. Or sell him and use money to sign a younger CB with Prem exp( I like the look of Caulker, think he is underrated and could be gotten cheaply if Cardif get relegated). We also have Coates to come back from injury and with hopefully 4 fronts to contend next year he could be given chanc to stake claim for first team spot as well