Martin Skrtel was at fault for Basel’s winning goal on Wednesday evening, showing erratic marking from a corner yet again. His Liverpool career continues to be one of frustration, writes Henry Jackson.
Martin Skrtel’s Liverpool career has always had a feel of ‘one step forward, two steps back’ about it, and Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to FC Basel in the Champions League summed the Slovakian up perfectly.
Having returned to the side for last weekend’s Merseyside derby with Everton, performing well in the process, many felt the Reds’ leaky defence had a better feel to it with the 29-year-back in the team instead of Mamadou Sakho.
After a relatively solid first-half performance against Basel, in which he looked to be forming a decent partnership with the slowly improving Dejan Lovren, Skrtel was completely at fault for the only goal of the game.
He allowed himself to become too interested in grappling with his man rather than watching the ball, before inadvertently heading it in Simon Mignolet‘s direction. Although the Belgian kept it out superbly, Marco Streller was on-hand to fire home the winner.
Brendan Rodgers’ side deserved nothing from the game in truth, but had Skrtel just done his job they would have probably walked away with a gritty 0-0 draw.
Another individual, defensive mistake has cost us. Unsure how Skrtel is so comfortably our number one CB. Huge job for BR to tighten us up.
— Joe Musker (@JosephMusker) October 1, 2014
This is a part of Skrtel’s game that has been an issue ever since he arrived at Anfield in January 2008. The number of times replays have shown him pulling his opponents’ shirt, risking giving a penalty away in the process, is endless.
Reds legend Jamie Carragher was particularly scathing of his former teammate after the game, telling Sky Sports that it’s an area of his game that has always been an issue.
He is dominant and physical enough that, were he to just defend properly from set-pieces, he would win most aerial battles week in, week out.
Skrtel should be a verb. usage: The defender really Skrtel-ed his opponent at that set piece.
— Dan Kennett (@DanKennett) October 1, 2014
There are not many Liverpool players who divide opinion as much as Skrtel. Some feel he is far and away the best centre-back at the club- he was excellent in general last season, in fairness- while others feel Lovren and Sakho should be Rodgers’ undisputed first-choice pairing.
The word that probably best describes the Slovakia captain is ‘erratic’. He can quite easily have 89 very good minutes, before committing a reckless foul or gifting possession to the opposition, costing his side dearly. You never quite feel totally at ease with him.
He has scored numerous own goals down the years- his four last season were a Premier League record by a player in a single campaign- and his natural decision to drop deep does not cater towards playing a high line.
The table below compares Skrtel with Lovren and Sakho this season (all stats via Squawka and WhoScored).
[table id=77 /]
These statistics perfectly sum Skrtel up in a nutshell in many ways. Most of his figures are as impressive as both Lovren and Sakho, if not more so- it is surely a surprise that his passing accuracy is the best of the three- but, ultimately, he has made more errors leading directly to goals than his two teammates.
As mentioned above, he can look like a world-beater a lot of the time, but invariably he lets himself down with a piece of stupidity. He lacks the consistency to be considered top-class.
Skrtel has been a fine servant to Liverpool in his six and a half years at the club- 249 appearances for the Reds is not to be underestimated- but as long as he remains a regular member of the defence there is a nagging feeling their woes at the back will never be fully eradicated.
Wednesday night was yet another two steps back for the 29-year-old, in what continues to be a frustrating Liverpool career to watch.
What are your thoughts on Martin Skrtel? Let us know in the comments section below.