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How Rodgers can turn Mamadou Sakho’s Anfield walkout into a positive

Andrew Cussen thinks Mamadou Sakho’s walkout can be turned into a positive, if managed well by Brendan Rodgers.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 23, 2014: Liverpool's Mamadou Sakho in action against Middlesbrough during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Much has been made of Mamadou Sakho’s walkout on Saturday before the Merseyside derby at Anfield, and his subsequent non-selection in the Champions League squad to face FC Basel in midweek. But the protest has presented Brendan Rodgers with an opportunity to capitalise on the French international’s clear desire to play.

Sakho’s actions demonstrate his frustrations and how much he wants to play. After all, he joined Liverpool seeking more game time as he was third choice at his hometown Paris Saint-Germain. This is a man who left his family and friends behind in search of regular football, and the reality of his experiences so far at Anfield has perhaps not matched his expectations.

Sometimes we forget that footballers are human beings, that they can do nonsensical things. Not for a second am I saying that Sakho was right to walk out or that his actions deserve to be ignored. The punishment for Sakho – being left out of Liverpool’s match against Basel – is a justifiable one, nobody is disputing that.

Now comes an important time in his Liverpool career and a situation that must be dealt with effectively by Rodgers. Is Rodgers going to play headmaster or is he going to harness Sakho’s passion for the game and channel that desire into positive performances? Let’s hope it’s the latter.

[pull_quote_right]”I wanted to try and protect the present and the future of the club. Centre-halves are so hard to find. You look at some teams and they have ageing centre-halves because it’s a struggle to get a really good one.

“He is an experienced player. He has senior international caps for France and looks an absolute monster in training. He’s one who is ready for now and that’s what we want.”

— Rodgers on signing Sakho last September[/pull_quote_right]There are a number of upcoming games where players will need to be rotated and this presents Rodgers with the chance to insert Sakho into the lineup, telling the 24 year old Frenchman to show just why he should be playing more often. The Legaue Cup tie against Swansea seems like the obvious match, but there are others before then. If West Bromwich Albion at the weekend is too soon, how about Sakho plays against QPR or Hull after the next international break?

Rodgers has made his message very clear, he is the boss and the decisions are his to make. But now he and Sakho must bury the hatchet for the good of the club, because Sakho’s talent has never been in doubt. Look at his form for France, where he is first choice for Didier Deschamp’s national side.

With a Liverpool defence that in recent times has inspired panic and fear more than confidence and calm, Rodgers must do everything he can to improve the standard of the back four. If that means using Sakho’s ambition to play as many minutes as possible, then so be it.

Sakho left Anfield because he was frustrated at not playing. It was an irrational and frankly dumb thing to do, but he did it for the right reasons. Reasons that mean Liverpool can have, hopefully, one more highly motivated player on the pitch, and that can’t be a bad thing. I, for one, would much prefer a player who walks out when not selected over one who willingly accepts his place in stands.

Liverpool doesn’t need shrinking violets who are happy to play once a month. Liverpool needs players who have a burning desire to be on the pitch and giving their all for the cause. Mamadou Sakho may have expressed it in the wrong way, but he clearly has this ambition, and it can help Liverpool greatly if harnessed effectively.

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