Martin Skrtel: The one constant in Liverpool’s constantly fragile defence


Martin Skrtel is now Liverpool’s second-longest serving player, but he has been a long-term weak-link at the back for the Reds.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - Friday, July 24, 2015: Liverpool's Martin Skrtel in action against a Malaysia XI during a friendly match at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium on day twelve of the club's preseason tour. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Amid all the furore surrounding yet another hapless Dejan Lovren performance in Saturday’s 3-0 drubbing by West Ham, Skrtel’s ineptitude went bizarrely unnoticed on the whole.

The 30-year-old played a negative role in two of the Hammers’ three goals, failing to clear a header in the lead-up to Manuel Lanzini’s opener, and giving Diafra Sakho far too much time and space for his late strike.

In a lot of ways it perfectly summed up Skrtel’s Liverpool career, with the Slovakian largely receiving no criticism despite playing poorly.

He is a player who remains extremely popular with a fair chunk of the Reds faithful, but also wholly unconvincing to others. He divides opinion like few others.

Not all bad

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 21, 2014: Liverpool's Martin Skrtel celebrates scoring the second goal against Arsenal during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Before being accused of some sort of vendetta against Liverpool’s burly, no-nonsense centre-back, it’s important to stress that he is far from a bad footballer.

He has given Liverpool over seven years of service, producing some terrific, even match-winning, performances along the way.

The former Zenit St. Petersburg man excelled in a back-three last season, for example, in which he was able to focus solely on being a physical, aerially-dominant defender.

There have been memorable goals, like the double against Arsenal in February 2014, and he has proved to be a popular member of the dressing room.

Skrtel has never played with any consistency during his time on Merseyside though, which for a defender is problematic.

When he’s good, he’s very good; when he’s bad he’s awful.

Lack of leadership

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 17, 2014: Liverpool's Martin Skrtel in action against Southampton's Graziano Pelle during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Skrtel’s early years at Anfield saw him rotate with the likes of Daniel Agger and Sami Hyypia, with Jamie Carragher the undisputed first-choice centre-back.

While it was understandable for the Slovakia international to play with a little immaturity and inconsistency back then, he never took on the mantle of Liverpool’s defensive leader once Carragher and Hyypia retired.

We all watched and expected him to go up a few gears, blossoming into a potential future Liverpool captain, but he hasn’t.

At 30 years of age he should be a figure of real authority now, but he can often look like one of the Reds’ less dependable players. Lapses in concentration are all too frequent.

Has Skrtel been the problem all along?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Tuesday, January 27, 2015: Liverpool's Martin Skrtel looks dejected after losing 1-0 to Chelsea during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg match at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It is no secret that Liverpool’s defence has been a shambles ever since Rafa Benitez left the club in 2010, and Skrtel has been the only virtual ever-present during that time.

He has played in 176 of the Reds’ 194 Premier League matches between the start of the 2010/11 season and the West Ham defeat, and Liverpool have conceded 44, 40, 43, 50 and 48 goals in each campaign- three in four matches so far this season- respectively.

In the three full seasons Rodgers has been in charge, Skrtel has made 14 key defensive errors in the league alone. Compare that to three similarly ever-present defenders in John Terry, Gary Cahill and Vincent Kompany, who have made just 15 between them in that time.

After a while you have to start asking whether or not the constant in that defence is the reason for its shaky nature. There has never been a point at which it has looked rock-solid with Skrtel in it.

Time for a change?

Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Saturday’s woeful showing against West Ham was yet further proof that Rodgers needs a shake-up in defence, with those three opening clean-sheets masking its frailties.

Plenty of the focus is deservedly on Lovren, as he continues to endure nightmare after nightmare for Liverpool, but Skrtel feels just as problematic at times.

He’s not as noticeably calamitous as his Croatian team-mate, barring the odd avoidable own goal and rash challenge, but he is an understated weak-link.

His positional sense is erratic, he is incapable of playing in a high line and there is a general air of recklessness about him.

Even his use of the ball, which looks good on paper when assessing his passing accuracy, is never anything more than safe. There is no purpose to it.

There is complete bewilderment with many that Mamadou Sakho cannot get a game at the moment, and it could be argued that partnering the Frenchman with Lovren instead of Skrtel could at least be worth a try.

Admittedly both are left-sided centre-backs, which is an immediate issue, but on the one occasion they did start together, away at Spurs last season, they performed very well in a 3-0 win.


STOKE-ON-TRENT, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 9, 2015: Liverpool's Martin Skrtel applauds the supporters after the 1-0 victory over Stoke City during the Premier League match at the Britannia Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Skrtel has certainly been a loyal, likeable servant to Liverpool Football Club since his arrival in January 2008, and his commitment to the cause can never be put into question.

He responded well from being dropped in favour of a soon-to-be-retired Carragher in 2013, but has continued to flatter to deceive ever since.

While his blood-and-guts style of play seems to impress many, when you actually dissect Skrtel’s game there are plenty of flaws.

Those last-ditch slide tackles and brave headers may look heroic, but they are invariably called for because of a positional mistake in the first place.

It is the equivalent of a winger who can beat players but has no end product. Andros Townsend, if you will. It all looks impressive, but there is invariably no substance to it.

The time has come for Rodgers to consider life without Skrtel, although fortunately for him, Liverpool aren’t exactly brimming with quality replacements right now.

When he does finally leave Anfield, he will be remembered as someone who produced some impressive moments in a Liverpool shirt, but whose presence went hand-in-hand with the Reds’ leaky defence.

Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

That definitely applies to the way in which Skrtel has been forever trusted at Anfield.

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    • Well, we could do with an upgrade across the pitch and in the dugout… for example, Hendo-Milner ain’t no Masch-Alonso either…

      Unfair to single Skrtel out when he has been one of our relatively more consistent players in the last couple of years…

    • Why would gomez be murdered at CB, its his natural and prefered possition, he”s done a great job being played out of possition so surely he be even better at CB, his age should”nt come into it either, your good enough then your old enough imo.

  1. Skrtel may not be world class, but none of our current players are. There are probably 5-6 positions we can upgrade on before even thinking of Skrtel.

    The only criticism you can make of Skrtel is that he can’t play a high line…

    He has been blamed for 2 of the West Ham goals… But rather than blaming his positional sense, i invite people to see where Lovren was for the third goal… high up the pitch.

    For the first goal, all credit to him to win that header.. but at that angle, can you really control where it lands… if Can/Gomez were a bit sharper, we could have avoided that goal easily.

    I tend to agree with most of Henry’s views.. But i firmly disagree with this.

    • His positional sense is poor, he doesn’t move in sync with other partner that is the case, but I agree we will have to spend a lot or bring quality through academy. Lovern and Sakho both rush out and be aggressive when defending where Skrtel just doesn’t close the gap which is why BR should have tried Lovern and Sakho as CB pairing in preseason and should have kept other youngsters to try out in EL instead of loaning them out.

      • A) The LCB (Lovren) was responsible for defending that area. It is commendable that Skrtel even got there

        B) So any defender who gets nutmegged is the worst thing in the world? what does that make guys like boateng and david luiz?

        • Lovren sprinted forward since Moreno was too far, and the ball richocheted off of Moreno and tricked Lovren. Had Skrtel closed the attacker on time the third goal could have been avoided

          • As you say Moreno was far and the DM/CM were nowhere in their position… so the problems start with them, and with Lovren (who tried to compensate for others but ended being out of position himself) and finally with Skrtel (who did not close Sakho down quickly enough)

            Point is, goal #3 was a collective responsibility – unfair to lay all the blame on Skrtel.

          • Well if only he put up a challenge in that situation and closed down immidiately as Sakho would have done, it would defuse the situation. That incident is a microcosm of Skrtel’s game- he can’t play high up the pitch, terrible at intercepting the play, lousy at reading the game so his first instinct is to back off and let the other guy deal with it.

          • if sakho is so good how comes the biggest bid we got for him in the summer was 8 million hes well overated infact hes like nearly the entire team
            we do not have one player that would get in any fan over 30 best ever lfc side

          • That is also a big question- some would say he’s world-class potential yet cream of the crop when it comes to top tier clubs, fail to notice him. Something doesn’t add up I agree… But he’s surely better option at the back than Skrtel

          • i would have skrtel ever time sakho is one mistake a way from crumbling the amount of times he as slipped up but its not cost us a goal is shocking once he does it once i think his entire bottle will go

          • Well he may get his opportunity if Skrtel and Lovren continue their nosedive performances.

          • I still don’t get that “Moreno too far” argument as I see the ball ricocheting of him standing just a couple of yards away….but it was absolutely a chain of errors leading to that goal

      • I’m sorry i didn’t realize you were the know-it-all when it came to football… So why don’t you try and respect others’ opinions even if you don’t agree with them?

        Just to answer your question:
        LB, LCB, LW, RW, CM, DM….arguably even GK…

        • Migno has not done much wrong this year to be honest, he is up there in epl terms at least. We don’t play with out and out wingers but we do have several world class midfielders who drift in. Sahko in my opinion is excellent and is generally first choice for France over many other good CB’s so is surely world class? DM and LB are weaknesses for sure but I have faith in Moreno and Rodgers doesn’t seem to want to play with a true DM to often.

          • Sakho is considered first choice for Les Blues over Koscielny, Mangala and Zouma. He’s partnered with Varane. He’s only first choice since Deschmps favours him over Koscielny (EPL team of the year) just as Rodgers favours Lovren over Sakho- double standards and it proves nothing of his quality.

          • Ok so because you have decided that he only plays for France because Deschamps likes him, that means him being first choice for France means nothing? Even if Deschamps does favor him (which I don’t agree with), it’s probably for a good reason.

          • The same way croatian coach Niko Kovac, who is an unforgiving diletant and is wrecking croatian national team and using it as his graduation thesis in the basics of coaching, is favouring Vida and Corluka who are low to mid-table quality defenders, over Lovren soeaks nothing of their quality. The same way Rodgers favours Lovren over Sakho for LFC wrongly or not…
            Deschamps will always favour Sakho over the rest no matter the competition or accolades other conpetitors win. Sakho’s injury record for France is just as bad as for LFC- can’t remember the last time he completed full 90 min. Plain and simple- favouritism

          • Cool that’s your opinion mate, not fact. I disagree with you, managers always have players they believe in and that is generally backed up by what the player has done.

          • Generally… Managers faith can be often misplaced… All I’m saying manager’s selection is seldom influenced by sheer quality of the player other undelying influences are amiss

          • Ok so were all 98 of those because of Migno? Our defense has been all over the show for the past two seasons. Outside of his horror show in the first half of last season, I would say he has been pretty good. He has kept us in plenty of games, is he the top keeper in the league no, but is he in the top 5? I’d say yes.

          • Ok so were all 98 of those because of Migno?
            maybe not, but i can’t make myself to go about praising a keeper with that record. especially a LIVERPOOL gk.
            is he in the top-5?
            de gea, courtois, hart, cech lloris are obviously better. you can argue for begovic, forster and many others as well. i’d say he is between 6 to 10th in the league which is where we find ourselves (surprise!). but that he is okay because some of the players in that line up aren’t even PL quality

  2. The problem with Skrtel is he is poor for the whole game. Then suddenly he’ll make one block or a really good sliding challenge and everyone is like he’s so solid.

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    • “and so committed, what a warrior!”

      I’ll take a defender that reads danger before it even happens to one who reacts to it after it’s started any day

      • Reads the danger situations? He always backs off when there is a danger situation. He is one of the worst readers of the game. Moves around like a headless chicken.

        • I was a agreeing with you mate, that player I described (the game-reader) is the one I’d prefer OVER a player like Skrtel

          • I apologise. i get it now what you meant. Normally a good defensive partnership is one that has a good stopper sweeper combination. The problem is both Skrtel and Lovren are stoppers. Like to commit. You need a sweeper alongside them to cover up. A sweeper sweeper combination can work but a stopper stopper combination is catastrophic. Sakho too is a stopper but still his reading is better than the other two. Here’s where letting Agger go was a huge mistake. I still believe Lovren will come good if he is kept alongside a good sweeper kind of player who can guide him like Fonte did at Saints. He’ll also come good when we get a decent manager who knows how to train players and organise team defensively.

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  3. Well, been saying this for about three years now. One of the worlds’ best when he’s defending with his back against the wall or made a limited defender.

    Clueless with a high line, absolute shambles when we’re up 20 yards. Like Stoke, Palace and West Ham in recent games. Surely not helped by our open style of play, but has no idea how to defend space.

    Use him at old trafford and the bridge, bench him against the West Hams at home.

    • Rodgers failed system has made him a worse player. Was great under Rafa and the King and a shambles since Rodgers took over. If Rodgers had the intelligence to replace him with better it would have been accepted, but of course he hasn’t.

        • i was here all the time mate i do not go missing after a few lucky results like your mates give my love to nelly derek puddy and all the other deluded fools

          • Always good to know there’s someone knowing it all better. Even knows more about me then I do myself. Good stuff, cheers for that.

          • have you ever had the misfortune to read your posts you are the biggest know all on the lfc forums just have a read of some of your own posts
            talk about self importance
            buy the way have you caught up with your tattooist yet if you have i hope you gave him a good kick in ;-)

          • Yeah? “all”, teehee? Might go to your local pharmacist and get some Dulcolax, helps getting the bullsht out of you.

  4. Right then…I was wondering when this article was going to pop up. 7-8 years of service given to the club with him making a healthy number of appearances under 4 different managers and what is the conclusion this article comes to? That Skrtel has always been the weak link. That all the past mistakes of Lovren and other past LFC defenders is due to Skrtel.

    If anything, this article doesn’t reflect poorly on Skrtel, since he’s always been a constant more or less, but the club as a whole, who haven’t been able to make an upgrade on him for the last 2 years now excluding this window.

    We are atleast one good defender away from being able to drop him from the starting XI and probably 2 away from getting to the point where we drop him from the squad.

    Wonder how brave Rodgers feels about pairing Lovren and Sakho together going forward given the type of defending we’ve seen from him last match especially considering how they were only paired together for 90 minutes in the entire last season.

      • Agger Skrtel were alright for the most part weren’t they…probably one notch below Hyppia Carra, but a decent pair. To blame Lovren’s mistakes on Skrtel is not only irresponsible and inaccurate, it’s also insulting.

        Like you said, the third goal wasn’t Skrtel’s fault as much as it was Lovren just charging forward, taking Moreno out of the play as well…Skrtel barely had a couple of seconds to respond, by which time Sakho had already taken a shot at goal.

        • Skrtel has only been good next to someone yelling at him what to do like Carra did (and told so in many interviews). If we would’ve had Sakho or Lovren next to Agger we would’ve had a much better defence.

          So many options we tried that went from top defenders to shakey options next to Skrtel, it’s frightning.

          And you really need to stop blaming others for Skrtels shortcomings. That’s insulting to all the others. If you blame Lovren for the third goal against West Ham, then Skrtel needs to take blame for the other two. Because, where was he?

          Where was he against Stoke? Where was he against Palace? that list goes on mate. 174 duels in one of the leakiest defenses ever and we keep blaming everyone around him, but him? That’s insulting and far from accurate.

          • Have a look at the third goal again please…see where the mistake begins and the open space is shown…you think I went around blaming Agger and Sakho when we were conceding all those goals in the 2013-14 season? First goal was his fault along with Gomez, the 2nd one was all Lovren and 3rd was a mixture starting from Lovren.

            Nowhere did I blame others for Skrtel’s shortcomings.

          • It’s not starting with Lovren, defenders stepping in to intercept is extremely fine. Lovren has to as Moreno is too far away. From there on three people are watching and dropping off to watch him score the goal.

            Putting that on Lovren is… what did you call it? insulting?

          • Correct- and if Im not mistaking the ball richocheted off of Moreno and tricked Lovren all the while Skrtel was shifting gears going in reverse which defeats the purpose of cover Skrtel would have need to give. Sakho would close down immidieatly as a proper front foot defender

          • Aye, and either you press (which the entire team is doing this season) and thus defend on the front foot or you let them run at you for last ditch tackles.

          • and stipe strikes :p ………….finally someone wrote against skrtel you must be overthemoon right now

          • Defenders stepping in to intercept is fine….if they actually get their bloody man….if they merely just push forward with the player gliding past them, then how is that fine? He’s taking himself out of the game….Lovren charged so quickly he nearly crashed onto Moreno.

          • /watch?v=eSiy2c9HU84

            1:36:47 starts it all. See Moreno defends the long ball, Noble drifts wide, puts it back. Lucas applies pressure to their midfielder, who passes it back and Lucas applies pressure again. At this point Lovren is the free defender and Moreno defends Noble. Because Lucas moves upwards to apply pressure on their right back Lovren needs to step in. Moreno needs to stay with his man there (he wasn’t a free defender at that point) but steps in after Lovren is allready stepping in. That midfielder wants to pass a through ball on Noble, deflected off Moreno and balls come to Sakho.

            Now that’s the key moment, at that point Skrtel needs to step in, intercept and pass it to safety (or put it in Row Z), for no reason he drops off, allowing Sakho to get to the ball and let him get a free shot. Just watch the instant reaction by Skrtel on 1:37:02. I’ll take a major stride so you get room to operate. Why? He’s close to the man, stay with him, step in, intercept.

            Poor decision from Moreno to step in but major, major error from Skrtel there.

          • That vid seems to be restricted for me..but I did see the highlights yesterday…that’s some good analysis…goes to show how pretty much the whole team messed up isn’t it? Moreno shouldn’t have been as advanced as he was perhaps and got caught out of position….my issue is with just how big of a stride Lovren took…it wasn’t just a couple of steps ahead of Skrtel…he completely went for it. And when you charge forward in that manner and lose your man, shouldn’t that be considered as a mistake?

            Same thing with Can losing his man against Aston Villa in that FA Cup SF…it’s great to press and charge forward and close space down, but if your man gets past you, then that should be counted as a mistake, shouldn’t it? Duly noted about Skrtel…but that’s always been him hasn’t it? You can’t teach an old dog new tricks..I’d rather he continue to play the way he does than try to charge forward and intercept the man…it isn’t his game.

          • Isn’t the point of cover to be on toes and anticipate the proceedings and act before danger developes or rectify your partner’s mistake? Im confused…

          • So if Lovren starts running like a maniac past the half-way line, then Skrtel should follow him without any doubt?

          • He moved for a reason as Onyx explained and he missed his man (as the ball richocheted of Moreno and tricked him), and since they all move to press since u can’t let Sakho run directly at u with a ball, Skrtel should have followed suit and made a challenge (easily). He didn’t fullfill his duty as a cover so that makes it his mistake as explained above in the Onyx’s video

          • Point still stands…he didn’t get his man did he? And that’s where Sakho got a chance to run past the defense…believe it or not, my purpose here isn’t to say Lovren is more responsible than Skrtel….it was a collective failure, but one player’s mistake does not absolve the other. I’ll have another look at the replay when I can, but judging from the last time I saw it, Skrtel didn’t really have that much time to react….yes it isn’t nice seeing him on the back-foot but we know that about him don’t we?

            What gets me is how we like to focus on these failures when they do happen…what about all the matches that it did work for us? Skrtel ain’t the ideal option by any stretch, but he isn’t the worst either…have a look at how much money we’ve spent on defenders since the 3 years Rodgers has come on and how bereft of quality options we still are in those positions.

          • He didn’t get his man since the ball RICHOCHETED off of Moreno! How could he have known that the ball will take an unforseen richochet? Christ, that’s the only reason Lovren didn’t get his man. Something he’d done in the three games prior to this one and with aplomb aswell. Rushing out and intercepting play when Lucas or Milner were out of position. He was probably asked to do so from Rodgers. As was Skrtel I suspect. It was his failure to produce cover for his fellow players since they tried to press and defend in unison and if one is out of sync as was the case with Skrtel, the whole team crumbles. And dont shift blame onto Rodgers- if Skrtel cannot deliver what is asked of him then he should verbalize that and let play other players who can deliver.

          • He makes those crazy lunges just about every game he plays and when it doesn’t pay off the defense is all over the place. Point being you need to pick and choose when you make those attacking lungesforward if your one of the centre backs or you expose too much space at the back

          • Keep readibg further down where it is explained the bloody ball took a richochet off of Moreno and thus tricked Lovren who was in a forward momentum

          • Yeah, they brought the video down 2 seconds after it, sadly.

            It’s part of the high pressure game mate. The only two messing up is Moreno and Skrtel. I can understand Moreno for a bit. I don’t think he noticed Lovren stepping in so he went for the man with the ball, he was positioned fine (as he went with Noble), he just should’ve stayed with noble. He could’ve defended the through ball on Noble or block Nobles cross. But he went for it, where he shouldn’t.

            Lovren does what we all decided to do, play high pressure. Lucas makes the exact same decisions, spot on to what we’ve been doing for four games: front foot defending with high pressure. Lovren got his man as he stayed with that midfielder, did absolutely nothing wrong there. Neither did Lucas (allthough one can argue that he could’ve stayed with the midfielder and put no pressure on the right wing back, I liked that he pressed for it).

            Again, the major error is Skrtel taking a giant step sideways to allow Sakho to receive, twist, turn and shoot. Horrible defending and he’s the only teammember to not press his man. Chain and weakest links.

          • yep, he could also just flatten Sakho and give up a free kick before he gets into the box (as could Moreno have done)…at that time of the match, West Ham probably would have just taken it short and tried to go to the corner (2-0 isn’t great, but you never know when goal difference will play a part). Also if Skrtel dives in on Sakho, it probably forces him to change direction and allows Moreno time to recover, by backing off, neither has the time.

          • This is nuts, You blame the Skirt for Lovren’s failed stepovers and dribbles? Beggers belief!

            I swear I will not argue with your logic here!

          • How can you blame Skytel for the 2nd goal when the ball was taken straight for Lovren dribbling in a bad position? Even Lovren would take the blame for this goal. Did you see the match at all or your comments are just based on 3rd party commentary of the match?

          • I’m giving a step by step breakdown of the third goal and you ask if I’ve seen the game?

            I’m not blaming Skrtel for the 2nd, I only said that IF Lovren is to blame for the third then so if Skrtel for the 2nd. Again: Skrtel didn’t do a lot wrong at the second goal really (allthough it would’ve been nice if he’d blocked the shot :) )

          • I don’t think anyone blamed Skrtel for the 2nd goal, I think they are talking about the 3rd

          • Key word here should be collective failure…but people are trying to focus on Skrtel’s limitations here.

        • I disagree about the 3rd goal not being skrtel’s fault. This article def tries to make him a scape-goat, but there is some truth to Skrtel’s being jus a slightly above avg defender. In all his years at lfc, it’s always annoyed me that he is a backfoot defender, conceding space and time to the attacker. I nearly fell off my seat screaming at the tube as skrtel backed off Sakho from the 18 yd line nearly into the 6. Where the f*£k did skrtel think he was going?? It was school boy defending, and I’ve seen similar instances from skrtel time and again. I’m not advocating dropping him, b/c I don’t think we have a RCB better, but skrtel is bang avg and shld have been replaced a season ago. We had Sakho, shld have got a replacement for Skrtel.

          Starting Lovren and Sakho won’t change anything, b/c Lovren is terrible and Skrtel has nothing to do w/ that.

          • Lovren/Sakho hasn’t been tried a lot but when we did, we played comfortable, high line and good football. As both can pick a pass and are comfortable playing the offside trap.

          • Lovren Sakho played the spurs game together last season and Lovren was excellent in that game. They played another game together against Villa where we conceded a set piece goal but other than that nothing much happened in that game. I don’t remember any other game when they were paired together. Lovren is a fromt foot defender who likes to go forward.

        • Yes, Lovren was partially responsible for #3 also, but Skrtel ALWAYS backs off and allows too much space to attackers, and always has done.

          • I’m not saying Skrtel is without fault for #3 or in general…the man his limitations surely…I was never a huge fan of Skrtel but oddly enough warmed up to him since 2013-14 season for keeping his place.

          • So if that’s the case that Skrtel backs off why on earth is Lovren charging forward leaving the space open behind him when he well knows that Skrtel ‘ always ‘ backs off. I’ll tell you why he has no footballing smarts just goes and attempts rash tackles . It’s schoolboy stuff he sees the ball and runs at it with a complete disregard of defensive stability

    • You hit it on the head, but picking your best centre back and tearing him apart in the hope or belief that a player that another player is better…. reminds me of the Sterling vs Ibe (just before Sterling left)

      After giving Ibe a run, now the reality shows, Ibe not quite at it yet!!!

      This could well be the case with Sakho vs Skirtel!

      So if Sakho turns out worse, we chop and insert Gomez,

      If Gomez makes a few errors then you chop again?????

      My point is, Sack the manager (By the way, we are lucky to have skirtel, he could have chosen another club!!!) if you feel things are not working properly, chopping defenders every few games and buying more defender after the money already spent????

      I believe LFC has good defenders, something is not right and I hope someone (Coach, Manager or FSG) will sort it out, sooner or later!!!

  5. One combination I’d like to see, as predicted by our manager on signing them, is Sakho and Ilori…Oh dear, we can’t ry that one because we just gave Ilori away !!! Sakho should be the first name at centre-back, preferably with Gomez but even trying Lovren at right centre-back.

  6. I think he should always wear a bandage on his head, seems to play better, and even scores goals(unfortunately sometimes for both teams)

  7. Skrtel had to make twice as many defensive clearances and movements then the Chelsea defence last season over 400! Our defence is overworked it doesn’t matter who comes in when the midfield isn’t cutting out the oppositions attacks. Like on Saturday for the first goal the cross needed stopping first, Skrtel cleared it with a poor header but no one had closed down Cresswell from midfield.

  8. And a Rafa Benitez signing of course….

    In 2011 Dalglish inherited a relegation squad 5 points off 20th, dumped out of the League cup at home to Northampton Town and playing the worst football ever witnessed. Creating 1 chance per game and getting beaten by Blackpool et al proved that replacing Benitez with Hodgson was one of the stupidest decisions in football.

    Dalglish came in and did what he always does, wins trophies and improves situations. He and multi trophy winning coach Steve Clarke made the defense much better. Martin Kelly looked awesome, Agger and Skrtel in their prime and Enrique with Reina in goal was looking good. What a great start for Rodgers to inherit. After 3 years and a £300 million war chest we have a horrible defense, midfield and attakc and like Redknapp said, one of the worst squads in years.

    Yet Rodgers keeps his job and there are some unambitious fans still backing him…..unbelieveable.

    • Many will refute it but getting rid of Benitez is proving to be the catalyst for LFC’s decline as a European force.
      And I have always suspected that Steven Gerrard played a massive part in his axing.

      • I have no idea if that is true or not but if it is then what does it say about Gerrard. Phenomenal player of course, legend but he has said some silly things over the years. Likening Joe Cole to Messi, every summer he would say things about us challenging for the title when we had a horrific team and bigged up Hodgson and Rodgers during their disastrous reign. One of those people who were great on the pitch but as a pundit, manager etc then no thanks.

        • Claiming Henderson should have taken that penalty instead of Mario…..Mischievous was the word he used concerning the way Balotelli grabbed the ball and smashed it into the net.

      • More Cara as he was starting to bench him, but Gerrard kept quiet and did not support Rafa at the crunch time when Purslow wanted the glory for himself.

        • Their relationship had clearly soured, Gerrard was showing a lot of disdain towards Benitez decision making and generally looked like he had enough of Benitez and Liverpool towards the end of the 09/10 season, there were also questions over his future at the club.
          Had Benitez stayed in the job I don’t think Gerrard would have stayed and I’m sure Gerrard made the club very aware of that.

    • Well said. The one constant with our abysmal defending is Rodgers. He has no clue. Every team he’s managed has leaked goals left right and centre.

  9. I’v no problem with criticism of Skrtel. But labelling him as bad as Lovren against West Ham is bordering on barbaric.

      • Are you for real??!! Lovren was only good for 5 months at Soton and you’re saying that Skrtel was ALWAYS bad??? My my!! What a skewed view of Skrtel you have. It’s true what they say: “you’re only as good as the last game you played”

        • Be that 5 months or more he was real good. On the other hand Skrtel was bad and mediocre at best from 2010 and onwards.
          Last ditch tackles and playing with a bandage looks good only on Youtube videos and football simulations.

          • Whatever! if you want to see it that way! However you should revisit past games and see what skrtel is good at. I’m not saying he is the best defender out there, but he is far far better than Lovren. He is an above average defender.

          • Sure he is-just disregard the above article and all the stats in it and just continue to live in your very own dream world- makes it easier to cope I guess…

          • They are skewed stats not real data plus he is data selective in trying to justify his arguments. Talking about being deluded….

          • Well actually he backed our assumptions with stats and this kind of article was a long time coming- Skrtel is a throwaway to defender of old but the game has evolved and Skrtel, sadly, hasn’t…

      • That’s not true mate. Skrtel has his faults but he did have some great seasons. I think 2011-12 season was it? He was voted out player of the year and had a solid season alongside Agger. He was solid under Rafa too. In my opinion the problem we have is not with skrtel but our foundation which is built from the back has never been good enough under Rodgers and always makes me thinks that even if we had signed a world class CB he would struggle playing for us under Rodgers

        • Well that year may very well be exception to the norm. Whatever the reason Benitez was always adept at setting up his sides defensively and Carra made him look good aswell. As I said in a post before- the game (and the tactic) has evolved, but Skrtel didn’t

    • I think it’s the pairing of Skrtel-Lovren is the problem. Lovren is a skrtel 2.0 without any of the good qualities. Maybe, Sakho-Lovren could be better or Sakho – Gomez.

      • Tbh, I can’t see Sakho being any improvement. After being dropped I’m not sure his head will be right… Although he can’t be much worse!

        • I see what you mean. Skrtel is a good defender but he has the composure of a wildebeest. Sakho is much more composed (and awkward), and he does provide a twisted sense of calm at the back. I think Skrtel needs to be slowly phased out and Illori to be integrated into the first team squad. I don’t see that happening under Rodgers though, but we can always hope.

          • Yeah I agree with you. Problem is that Ilori is at Villa now… Hope to see Gomez at CB in the Cup competitions…

  10. Sakho and Lovren both prefer to play on the left even tho Lovren is right footed. Gomez is 18 and Kolo is 78. Ilori was the one player who had any immediate promise stepping in for Skrtel. Maybe that’s why he had to go so desperately.

  11. Kudos to Henry and his objective and cerebral articles! The only writer on TIA whose opinion I respect!- Skrtel is a flawed, overrated defender who would prosper at Stoke et al. with their deep line, with no positional sense and his reading of the game is non-existent. He passes the ball to nearest player, always regresses into his keeper lap at first sign of trouble and executes last ditch tackles in his own 6-yard box. Clueless at playing a high line. Adept at masking his deficiencies and making the guy next to him look bad. He’s probably scored more own goals than any player in LFC history… Should have been upgraded on long time ago, but he’s like weeds- every time you think he’s a goner, his defensive partner makes a bigger fu## up, or gets injured and he claws himself back into contention- you just cannot get rid of him

    • The overall lack of respect and support shown here for one of our longest serving players in the current squad is pretty pathetic all things considered..

      • As I said once before- quality doesn’t necessarily mean consistency- and don’t patronize the rest of us for havibg a different opinion than yourself

        • Like I said, all things considered…it’s one thing to have a different opinion, what gets me is the lack of respect shown towards the player….it’s not that Liverpool is too good for Skrtel…it was actually the opposite last year.

          Put it this way, we’d be in complete shambles if Skrtel wasn’t available last season…Rodgers already f**cked it up big time letting Agger leave…he’d probably be playing Can alongside Sakho…remember all those clean sheets which actually got us to 6th place last season? We’d probably finish closer to 10th without them.

          • What are u talking about? Can would be a more accomplished CB than Skrtel- he would play what Mascherano plays for Barca- a converted DM playing ball playing CB.
            Last year success has little to do with Skrtel- Rodgers played to teams strength (on purpose or not I cannot tell) and we were very balanced in that tsctical setup (lucky Lucas inclusion)

          • Did you see the number of mistakes Can made in that position last season with the limited appearances? Ofcourse, it sounds so good on paper and in philosophy….just slot Can in there, he’ll be a Mascherano and everything will solve itself out…if only things were that simple.

            Not a knockdown on Can btw…I think he did very well for being asked to play in that position.

          • I think Can in a back four flanked by capable fullbacks against Can playing a right CB in a back three wins ut for me all day

          • Don’t bother mate arguing with Stipe is a waste of time. The fact that he sees no faults in Lovren noatter how bad he defends tells you something.

    • Seriously? The way you are on everybody’s case for calling lovren things “getting personal” or whatever. And for what? He hails from the same stretch of land as you? Agenda driven and overcompensation. That’s what this is. Defend lovren man. You don’t have to do it at the expense of anyone else. You lose all credibility. One day you called sakho overhyped and whose article was it that you commented on saying that he has a soft spot for sakho and its agenda driven?

      Then what the h*ll is this? Comparing a Liverpool player to weeds? And for what? So that lovren looks better in comparison. The level you defend him, lovren shouldn’t be needing RELATIVE comparisons. He’s the 20 mil defender not skrtel. He’s the modern defender ain’t he? Skrtel never was and never pretended to be. If you rate him so highly, lovren should be defended for who you think he is. If he’s that good, no matter the sh*t he is surrounded by, he’ll stand out to neutrals like me for all his promise talent and performance. Stevie g stood out despite the supposed dross he was surrounded by didn’t he? Different positions? Then what about other defenders in mediocre teams? Are there none? Who stand out? Defending generally is thankless and under the radar but great talent seldom stays hidden for long.

      Lovren is nowhere near showing anything that suggests he is Liverpool quality. And I’ve been wanting him to succeed since agger left just so we could say we sold someone like agger for a good reason. He’s shown glimpses but its been nowhere near consistent or something to beat home about.

      One season. He has this entire season to convince people like me. If he fails to.. Its not going to be because or skrtel or anyone else. It’s going to be because of him and him alone.

      • Its not about personal preference although he is my country man. I truly beleive he has the talent to make it, but despite reasons counted ad nauseum he’s unable to show it.
        I advocate Lovren- it’s very obvious. I rate Sakho too and hold him in almost the same esteem. Jack Lusby goes overboard, but hey if he can have favourites so can I- its only fair.
        What I don’t do is I don’t rate Skrtel. Far all the reasons above and he is one of the reasons (among others) that current set up, with him in the back will not work.
        I only hope Sakho/Lovren be given chance no matter the outcome- although I suspect they would oust Slovakian for good.
        You talk about other defenders in mediocre teams- Lovren proved his worth in Southampton and showed he can perform in big matches versus big players.
        Agreed this season will decide him, just wait and see. He was bad and made mistakes- but let’s not pretend everyone else can get a free pass on account of Lovren, especially Skrtel since he is so sinful

        • Not rating a player and comparing to weeds are 2 different things. And I don’t rate sakho. I never comment on a player’s ability. But you know what I do take into account? Service and performance. Skrtel has earned his place in the Liverpool team time and again and there are no question marks about whether he can cut it at this level or something like that.

          For both sakho and lovren, all I keep hearing about is promise and potential and blah blah blah. I don’t care if its messi playing for us. Means zilch if he cant BE messi playing for us. Sakho is yet to establish himself in the team as well. So no, I don’t rate him. I don’t agree with all the overhyping of him either. What do i agree with is that sakho earned a starting place ahead of lovren due to last season and should have started the first game.

          As for lovren, how many seasons did he prove himself in soton? And I think we can all agree that soton’s defence hinged to a fair degree on having wanyama and schneiderlin protecting we are finding out now. So he’s proved himself in one set up. Has he proved himself for Liverpool? No he hasn’t. When he does, and same for sakho, I believe they will also get a longer rope and some leeway as skrtel’s flaws are given.

          My logic is simple, I will give leeway and more chances of redemption to players who have proven themselves for us for at least an entire season. Hendo fall in that category, so does skrtel. Sakho for me doesn’t. Lovren doesn’t. And even couts doesn’t ( although that is likely to change this season given how he has started). So I’ll “rate” the latter, when I believe they have established themselves in the team and contributed for an entire season.

  12. If Lovren is to be considered at all at this point for the 1st 11 then he should be competing with Skrtel for the right sided CB role. I think some gloss over Skrtel’s shortcomings because they want him to be that die-hard CB that all fans desire but he just isn’t that. He has his moments and his lapses and this will never change. The manager/club haven’t upgraded on him so the standard lowers.

  13. Its a team game and we were appalling all over the pitch against West Ham, Lovren was the only Liverpool player to get a shot on target so that should tell all that needs to be told in terms of where this team is at right now.

    I do get the frustration though, Skrtel delivered a really brilliant performance against Arsenal and followed it up with a performance in which he didn’t make one single tackle! Skrtel being considered our best centre back by Rodgers is worrying.

  14. lovren sucks, enrique sucks, now skrtel also is not so good, and lets face it sakho is not the most bulletproof defender either.. prone to the occasional misplaced pass or two.. coates , illori all loaned out.. maybe the problem is not with the player anymore… if clyne starts sucking in the coming months, that just proves it to me that its not the player, its the club ;P

    • Just to help filter your comments a little more, it is the managers fault – he runs the show and has 100% responsibility for the failings of the team.

  15. I have a simple way of gauging whether our CB’s or defenders are GOOD enough for us as an aspiring Top 4 team.

    If they were in the Chelsea team that won last year would Jose Mourinho play them? Could they make any of the title winning teams defensive 4?

    The simple answer is only ONE player IMO meets that criteria – Sahko. He could play for Jose and he could have played for City alongside Kompany – like Mangala is doing now.

    Skrtel is usually a consistent 6/10 defender but he needs a leader at the back to tell him what to do and to tackle. His horrible habit of standing off is coming back again.

    Lovren is a disaster on wheels.

    Kolo was incredible… 10 years ago.

    Joe Gomez is interesting because he has the composure and as John Stones has shown age doesn’t matter if you are good enough but he needs to be a part of a stable back 4.

    I know we got Joe Gomez this summer but another CB like Nkolu from Marseille would be perfect. 2 French speaking CB and Migs speaks French too.

    • Well Lovren at least proved he can play decently as he did for Southampton and Sakho did for a brief spell with PSG. Skrtel never proved he can play with consistency in all his time with LFC. You are deprecating our CB’s- had Lovren transferred from Soton to Chelsea or Sakho from PSG , Mou would have salivated. Ever wonder what would Terry and Cahill had looked in our tactical setup for the last three years? Not very flattering Id say…

      • He played decently with Fonte covering him and Wanyamba in front of him AND Schniederlin .

        Schniederlin leaving has left that very solid saints defence somewhat exposed – shows you what an influence he had.

        But I do agree with you on the fact that if Mou had either they would be world class and each ones value would be over 40M.

        Problem for me comes down to in 3 years BR has done no work on the defence except buying new defenders yet the same problesm exist. Now it seems to have improved slightly – POD seems to be the reason but WHY not go and get an EPL PL Proven Defensive coach?!

        Google – Liverpool defensive coach:


        Rodgers has been outspoken in his beliefs that Liverpool do not need a defensive coach, but it has surely been proven now that the Northern Irishman must change his opinion on the matter. Much was said about the Reds’ leaky back-line in 2013/14, when goals were conceded too easily and at an alarming rate.May 28, 2015

        ARROGANCE will be his downfall.

        • True about Rodgers and his arrogance and if he continues to neglect defensive coaching it would be the fall of him…and Lovren…and Sakho…players who would have prospered under Pulis- I’d put my house on it. I just hope he didn’t wreck their confidence to the level they can’t recover

  16. You said it right Henry! “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” Except you should have directed this comment to LFC and FSG managerial staff and echelons, whoever they maybe. It’s a shame we haven’t won a single PL in 25 years, with constantly bad decisions in player transfers and certain selection of managers. We only competed for the PL 3 times during this quarter of a century. Absolutely shameful for such a club! And now we are enduring the pain that is Brendan!

  17. Such a ridiculous argument this, Henry. Skrtel has his faults, sure, but he is still the most reliable central defender we have on the books.

    Yes, we’ve seen some dross during his period at the club (and he’s produced some dross himself at times), but he’s also been a mainstay in two title challenges five years apart. How bad can he really be?

    Blaming him just because he’s been here longer than any of our other defenders is ridiculous. It’s got less substance than saying Sakho conceded 10 goals in two games at the Britannia and the Emirates, yet this season we’ve conceded 0 at those grounds without him. Also a reasonably silly argument; but at least there’s a direct comparison to make.

    • Agree! Thinking all of this articles are sheer bull**. Made just to increase the site’s visitors and clickstuff

      • Nope, they’re a good bunch of lads at TIA. This is Henry’s honest opinion, and you can’t knock him for that. But I do think he’s got a serious agenda when it comes to Skrtel/Sakho that reflects in his match ratings. If Skrtel behaved as Sakho has off the pitch – not to mention make the errors he makes on it – there would be cries for his head on a stake from a section of LFC fans.

        Skrtel is not the constant in our leaky defence. The constant is Rodgers. (And that’s not me saying Rodgers out.)

  18. Really? Is this really what Skrtel deserves after all this years? He’s one of the top PL defenders (Terry, Vidic) who will stick his head in front someones foot! Skrtel is an average/solid defender with some moment of sheer brilliance/disaster, but he’s nowhere bad as you make him out to be!

  19. The one constant in Liverpool’s failing defense in Brendan Rodgers. Skrtel always did his job and the club had a sound defensive record until he came along.

      • 43 under hodgson is worse than rodgers first season, 40 under kenny is about par, but 50 and 48 for the las two seasons is way worse. People also forget Skertl was player of the season a few years ago.

  20. i will tell you now if skrtel had not played the last two seasons we would have conceded 70 goals a year
    i also wish to see sakho and lovren together then it mite shut the skrtel is the problem brigade up once and for all

  21. well read all the comments and i see the rodgers brigade are now trying to make skrtel the scapegoat ,any body but rodgers who buy the way as spent nearly £50 million on centerbacks ,yes £50 million and they are worse than the ones he took over with

  22. I have already said this somewhere, but I need to say this again!!!

    Picking your best centre back and tearing him apart in the hope or belief that another player is better…. reminds me of the Sterling vs Ibe (just before Sterling left)

    After giving Ibe a run, now the reality shows, Ibe not quite at it yet!!!

    This could well be the case with Sakho vs Skirtel!

    So if Sakho turns out worse, we chop and insert Gomez,

    If Gomez makes a few errors then you chop again?????

    My point is, Sack the manager (By the way, we are lucky to have skirtel, he could have chosen another club!!!) if you feel things are not working properly.

    Chopping and changing defenders every few games and buying more defender after the money already spent????

    I believe LFC has good defenders, something is not right and I hope someone (Coach, Manager or FSG) will sort it out, sooner or later!!!

    I the mean time I hope whatever the manager chooses as a pairing is the best considering he spends a bit more time with them players than me!!!

  23. In this article, Henry Jackson wrote that “Those last-ditch slide tackles and brave headers may look heroic, but they are invariably called for because of a positional mistake in the first place.”
    Surely if this claim is true then it would be right to describe John Terry as having a bad positional sense as well. Terry too has made many similar last ditch heroics or interceptions for Chelsea over the last few years! Will Henry say the same of John Terry? I believe that a strong defence is built from the middle field that offers a great protection. It was no coincidence that when we had Mascherano and Alonso, our defence was much more solid.

  24. Wow, it’s almost like TIA read my comments from the other day and decided to do an article on it. I was saying the exact same thing about Lovren getting all the stick (most of it justifiably), while Skrtel seems immune to criticism. Our defense was shaky long before Lovren got here, and the only constant factor there is Skrtel.

  25. Our defensive signings in the last few years have been truly dreadful. I still wake up in a cold sweat every now again with visions of Glen Johnson and Manquillo in the same team.

  26. And now for something completely different.

    If a farmer has to plough his fields, but only has pigs, pugs and parrots to pull his plough, he’s probably going to choose the pigs to do it. It’s not because pigs are the best plough pullers, they’re just the best he’s got. They’ll get the job done, and he’ll appreciate the effort they’ve put in, but in reality, that farmer needs to buy some damned oxen if he ever wants expertly-ploughed fields.

    We have too many pigs, not enough oxen

  27. an ordinary defender like skrtel explains how much Liverpool need to invest on its defense. I would prefer a run out for Lovren + Sakho: Spurs 0 3 Liverpool. August 31st 2014.

  28. Skrtel has well known weaknesses. However, it’s not hard to work out why he’s a regular in the team though, because our other center back options are comically bad (Lovren, Toure) or injury prone (Sakho).

    Skrtel can be prone to errors, but has also had periods of very good form. Playing alongside a complete disaster like Lovren can’t be helping him much.

    If there is one real criticism of Skrtel I would make is that he’s probably not any better than when he first came to club. He hasn’t seemed to develop as well as could be expected.

    In any case, considering how much money Rodgers has wasted on center backs, replacing Skrtel seems highly unrealistic and I don’t think he’s one of the bigger problems we have at the moment.

    I will say none of our center backs have been helped by Rodgers’ long standing reluctance to sign a mobile DM. We’ve needed one for several seasons and still don’t have one, which IMO shows incredibly bad judgment on Rodgers’ behalf. We’ve also had pretty bad full backs for a number of years too which has hardly helped the defensive cause.

  29. Have waited for this article for two years, yes yes yes yes yes and again yes. Thank you Mr Jackson, truth be told finally.

  30. I would like to say just 1 think… no matter how many goals we get its about how many goals we score so even if we conceded only 1 goal against West ham it wouldnt change A thing cuz we didnt score at all… same at arsenal excelent defense no goal score again…
    so where is the problém?
    we need better attack power at first place … solid midfield and then get some defenders
    so blam for loose strike for not scoring

  31. I’ve said it before, and I’ve mentioned it in other posts, he is the reason for our shaky defense. I would much rather see Sakho and Lovren together or even try out Gomez or IIllori (who was inexplicably loaned out with an option to sell….we’re surely going to regret this)

    As rightly mentioned, the British Isles have historically loved the “tough tackling” “blood and thunder” types of players rather than the finesse types, so Skrtel appeals to that side of the footballing culture in the UK. We are almost brainwashed into thinking there has to be at least a 1+1 concept to defending (Big rough bully destroyer + Cultured tactical footballer) Vidic + Ferdinand, Terry + Carvalho, Skrtel + Agger. Real Madrid go for 2+0 Pepe + Ramos. Why can’t we have 2 tactical thinkers?

    I still think Lovren was bought to play with Sakho rather than Skrtel. I think skrtel is only playing due to the inflexibility of Lovren and Illori, who whilst both being right footed, prefer to play on the left. You can just about see Gomez doing a Stones and taking Skrtels place into next season.

    Another BIG reason for that porous defense is the lack of protection from the allocated defensive midfielder. Once Masch left in 2010, we only had Lucas who then got injured, and since then it’s been SG, Allen and recently Can. None of those are specialists in the monster Masch model.

    Thirdly, there’s the tactical changes that have taken place since Rafa left and the zonal system was almost wiped out overnight. Confusion and adaptation problems have created a jittery defense. Also When BR comes over and sends the CB’s out wide and leaves a Demba Ba sized hole in the centre of defense….surely you cannot expect a different result. If you look at Moreno’s starting position in matches last season, you’d be a daft opponent if you didn’t target that inside left channel, hence Lovren struggled.

    Many reasons for the poor defense, and among them Skrtels contributions have gone unnoticed, agreed

  32. Good article. As a liverpool fan I’ve been demanding Skrtel’s omission since ages! He’s a mid table defender. Everything written in this article is so true. I don’t know we’ve changed 3 or 4 managers in last 5 yrs but none of them have seem to deal with the problem. Our half of the problem can be solved if we can just don’t give this guy a start, that’s for sure..let’s create a campaign “no more Skrtel”

  33. Results show that Sakho and Lovren have paired the best. Lovren has played RCB more then once last season and in those games we looked the most comfortable.

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