Henry Jackson

Feature Writer

Comparison: Martin Skrtel vs Steven Caulker vs Dejan Lovren

Martin Skrtel has enjoyed a terrific season at Anfield on the whole, while Cardiff’s Steven Caulker and Southampton’s Dejan Lovren have both been strongly tipped to join Liverpool this summer. Henry Jackson (@OnFootballTweet) compares the trio’s various attributes.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 15, 2013: Liverpool's Martin Skrtel in action against Tottenham Hotspur during the Premiership match at White Hart Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

(all stats via Squawka and WhoScored)

Skrtel, Caulker and Lovren were three of the standout centre-backs during the 2013/14 Premier League season.

With Liverpool looking to improve defensively ahead of the new season, both the Cardiff and Southampton stars have been linked with a move to Anfield in the coming months.

Despite Skrtel’s excellent season – he was far and away the Reds’ most consistent defender – there are some who feel Brendan Rodgers can do better. Could Caulker or Lovren partner Mamadou Sakho at the back next season instead of the Slovakian?

The table below gives a good indication as to who was the most effective of the three last season.

2013/14 Premier League
Skrtel
Caulker
Lovren
Goals Scored752
Appearances363831
Total Errors401
Pass Completion Rate91%74%82%
Average Duels Won 60%58%58%
Average Tackles Per Game 1.41.22
Average Blocks Per Game 1.11.60.3
Average Interceptions Per Game 1.71.22.7

Strengths of each player

Skrtel’s goal tally was hugely impressive, and many of them were at critical times. His doubles against Arsenal and Cardiff, and his towering header against Manchester City back that up.

His pass completion rate has also been superb, especially when you consider the 29-year-old is not always associated with being the most accomplished centre-back on the ball. It’s a testament to how he has improved since losing his place in the side in 2012/13.

The statistic that stands out with Caulker is the fact that he has not made a single error leading to a goal all season. While that’s impressive enough if you’re playing for a top four team, to do it in a side that has been relegated is almost unheard of.

CARDIFF, WALES - Sunday, November 3, 2013: Cardiff City's captain Steven Caulker in action against Swansea City during the Premiership match at the Cardiff City Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The former Tottenham man has also chipped in with a decent amount of goals, while his average blocks per game show that he is a player difficult to get past. At 22 he has a lot of potential, and could well be a future regular for England.

Lovren’s terrific reading of the game is highlighted by his interception statistics. To make 2.7 per game on average shows just how important he was to Southampton’s success this season. The same applies with his tackling.

The Croatia international also only made one error, which highlights the consistency in his game. There is no doubt he is someone who can play at the very top.

Weaknesses of each player

Skrtel is comfortably the most error-prone of the three, and the argument that some have against him is that his goalscoring has masked some of his defensive flaws.

He has scored four own goals, while his positional sense can also be slightly erratic. The way he and Sakho capitulated in the 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace was concerning.

It’s hard to pick out flaws in Caulker’s game this season, but you could perhaps look at his pass completion rate and say it’s not particularly strong.

Rodgers’ risky but ultimately rewarding style of play means his centre-backs must be comfortable on the ball and be confident of playing it out from the back. Whether the Cardiff man is top class in that respect is debatable.

Lovren’s statistics are hugely impressive, and it really is hard to criticise him in any aspect of his game. His goalscoring has not exactly been prolific, but that’s no major issue.

The one thing you could potentially say is that, although his tackles and interceptions per game are the best of the three players, that could be because he’s got himself into the wrong position in the first place.

Someone like Sami Hyypia, for example, never had to be lunging into tackles because positionally he was almost perfect.

Conclusion

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 21, 2013: Liverpool's Raheem Sterling and Southampton's Dejan Lovren during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There can be no denying that Skrtel, Caulker and Lovren have all enjoyed superb seasons in their own right, but with Sakho clearly looking like a definite starter for the foreseeable future under Rodgers, who would be the best partner for him?

Skrtel’s age works against him, and there is a nagging feeling that Rodgers isn’t totally convinced by him.

Caulker is still very young, and has the potential to get better and better over the years. Whether or not he’s ready to be a regular at such a huge club i’m not so sure.

In my opinion, Lovren would be the best option of the three. At 24, he is still a few years from his prime, but he has the experience- he already has 23 caps for Croatia, and will start for them at the World Cup- that Caulker lacks.

He’s good on the ball, is a strong, dominant presence- something Liverpool have lacked hugely at the back- and would be the perfect signing by the club.

Who would you prefer for Liverpool's first-choice right-sided centre-back?

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Who would you prefer out of Skrtel, Caulker and Lovren? Let us know in the comments section below.

Freelance football writer with an enormous passion and knowledge for the game. More importantly, LFC fanatic.
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  • Josek

    I think the combination of Stevie & Caulker at set pieces could be worth 10 to 12 goals a season. Don’t let the fact that he is English turn you off.

  • Josek

    Again you clearly don’t watch football matches

  • Prince

    We need a left CB Skertel is fine his partner is what we need. Sakho makes me nervous is position. Agger is not a very physical player so he can’t really play certain games

  • Shah

    Why does Sakho have to be a definite starter under Rodgers? IMO, he’s been the weakest of the pair. If we do buy one of the other two CB’s, I don’t think they should displace Skrtel, based on his performances this season. Yes, Skrtel has been error prone, but he’s also got us out of a lot of sticky situations and has looked our best defender since stifling out RVP early on in the season. I know Sakho is a ‘marquee’ signing, but Rodgers has not backed away from dropping his signings when they haven’t been playing well (e.g. Borini, Aspas, Alberto). It depends on the price, but I think Caulker will be a quality, quality player in the near future.

  • Rak S

    Henchoz did OK. He was Hyypia’s partner for several seasons under Houlier. and was part of the treble winning team. Hypia was always the rock at CB but Henchoz wasn’t bad, apart from the odd dodgy game.
    Same with Westerveld.

  • rurikbird

    Lovren mostly played at LCB, didn’t he? Even though he’s right-footed. So I think if we buy him, he will definitely start and Skrtel and Sakho will compete for the other spot. I think Lovren is exactly the kind of quiet, cerebral, intelligent defender who could complement either Sakho or Skrtel well.

    But my first choice would be to prize Vetonghen from Spurs. He is a real master of defense.

  • Zanatos

    I think Skrtel gets to much stick. He had a really good season in my books and proved he can play in this system. He did make errors, but what the stats don`t always show is why those errors happened.

    Sakho for me makes more errors, but they prob don`t show on the stats. He makes bad choices when passing. They often find the player, but leave the player in a very pressured position. Thus Sakho gains a pass completion stat an no error stat when really it might have been his fault. When Gerrard slipped, he was being closed down fast, Sakho shouldn`t have passed the ball to him. It didn`t change the slip, or the reason for it, but it wasn`t a smart pass. He did a pass like this to Skrtel which left Skrtel having two attackers right on his heels, of which he lost the ball and the other team nearly scored.

    For me, I would keep Skrtel but use someone else in Sakhos place.

    • Redatheart

      Spot on mate. Yes, M.S. scored a few own goals – but more a consequence of our cavalier style of play where, when we lose possession our defence is running back towards our goal, than any shortcomings on Skrtel’s part. It seems to me that his name comes up so often in this context on this site (comparing him in this instance with players who probably aren’t even on Brendan’s wish list) that TIA must have some kind of an agenda against him. The truth is he has been a rock for us all season – close to being our player of the year in my opinion, and the problem, as you correctly identify, is his CB partner and definitely NOT him. PS. Bring Illori back and loan him out to an English team as he will never get the hang of the Prem League playing in Spain.

    • Josh

      Great point about Sakho’s passing. He often passes into ill advised places, it seems often like he’s trying a bit too hard to make spectacular passes. He over hits passes, etc.

      However, Gerrard’s slip had nothing to do with Sakho. Stevie wasn’t being closed down. The problem only happened when the ball got under Stevie’s foot and slid out into Ba’s path. If Stevie either traps the ball correctly or doesn’t slip, then it probably wouldn’t have resulted in that dreadful goal.

  • http://www.redordeaddesigns.com/ Red Or Dead Designs

    I would take Lovren. He seems like a younger version of Agger, and even though he only scored 2 goals, I feel he could get more, because he throws his whole body at the ball when he is attacking. However I am a little skeptical that Southampton would let us take Lallana AND Lovren. (Especially considering they just brought in Lovren last summer.)

  • kotun

    In terms of statistics, sometimes we have to also analyse how the numbers came about… Total Error “0” should also implies that Caulker was completely outplayed and/or out positioned when the opposing team scores, that will mean his positioning and reading of the game is basically zero to none. Think about it, how can a defender whose job is to get into the tackles, breakdown the oppositions’ play and take down their best players not be committing errors now or then UNLESS he is not doing his job right. Only scoring goals and duel won to me are more reliable stats to look at :-) …. as for Sakho, he still needs to convince us on his ability to be a great defender…. Another thing to look at with the Skrtel and Agger partnership is their past records, just like statistics, it is history, and BR should consider why their performance past seasons can be better conseding less goals than now and work on his game plan :-)

  • Gabe B

    So Sakho has become our chosen #1 CB has he Henry? Clueless as ever you are mate.

  • soberphobia

    Not really convinced by any of them. Lovren couldn’t run out of sight on a dark night and that is a major concern for a team that plays with split centre halves set high up the pitch. Skrtel is always a good chance for a cluster*uck under pressure. Caulker looks a decent player with potential but whether he has enough quality for us is debatable. He is defensively very solid and has good pace so is the best choice of these three but I can’t help wishing there was a better option.

  • Abyss

    All 3 very good players judging from the stats. Lovren has had a pretty phenomenal season but I think he will end up costing a lot more than Caulker. It just irks me that Rodgers prefers Sakho over Agger. There really is no foreseeable logic to choosing him over Daniel. Our entire defensive framework ends up looking a lot more stable when Agger is around. The mistakes, the dropping back and errors really only start at away venues when Skrtel is paired up with Sakho.

    One question I had with regards to errors. Aren’t passes that are not completed from the back also errors themselves? Losing possession in that part of the pitch would almost always lead to some kind of goal scoring chance at that end of the pitch.

  • Abyss

    Not sure if serious or sarcastic.

  • Jas

    What about Papadopulous or Alderwierled? Apart from their lack of Premier League experience, would love to see them compared to Lovrern too.
    Who would you rate the better centre back from these three?
    Lovren, Papadop.. and Alderwiereld??
    Y.N.W.Alone