21 Jan 2015

Carra insists: £18m LFC star has a major 'problem' to overcome at Liverpool. Under threat from Lovren?

After a long settling-in period, Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho is - for now - a regular fixture in Liverpool's first team, and with a series of assured performances, the France international is clearly an integral part of an increasingly solid defensive unit. Is Sakho - who cost LFC £18m - the long-term solution, though? Who knows, but Reds legend Jamie Carragher has praised Sakho's contribution since reclaiming a place in the team.

In September, Carra slated Sakho, and claimed that the defender 'doesn't fill you with confidence', but after watching him put in another solid performance against Chelsea, he tweeted:

"Sakho's problem is he looks awkward but his passing and defending have been very good since he came back in the team".

As regular readers will know, I strongly advocated Sakho's signing last summer, but I didn't anticipate that he'd struggle to this extent with the pace of the Premier League. He seems to have adapted now, though, and Liverpool's stats this season with Sakho starting are impressive:

* P12 W7 (58%) D4 (33%) L1 (8%)
* Goals Conceded: 12 (1 per game)
* Clean Sheets: 4 (33%)
* Prem Only: 2.1 points per game.

As Carra states, Sakho's passing is excellent (89% for the season) but if he looks 'awkward' it's because he is (sometimes) awkward on the ball. Whether his defenders choose to accept it or not, Sakho can be edgy/uncertain on the ball, and when pressured, he occasionally panics. He is also (IMO) the king of the hospital pass, but he seems to have improved on that in recent weeks.

Sakho is benefitting from the change in formation to 343, but what happens if/when Rodgers inevitably reverts to a flat back four? Right now, Sakho and Skrtel are in pole-position for the two central defensive spots, but Dejan Lovren surely has to come into the reckoning at some point?

Rodgers can't permanently keep a £20m player on the bench, and given the fact he's a left-sided centre-half, the Lovren is clearly the biggest threat to Sakho's (long-term) first-team chances. Furthermore, if Lovren gets his act together, I have no doubt that Rodgers will choose the Croatian over Sakho.

It's admittedly pleasing to see Sakho playing well, but I'm not convinced, yet. Sakho has started only 8 Premier League games so far this season, and the mark of a top defender is consistency over a significant period of time. As such, there's no point judging Sakho one way or the other until the end of the season.

If, at that point, he's maintained the stats above, and remained defensively consistent, then it'll be time to consider him as a possible long-term solution.

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33 comments:

  1. I don't remember Skrtel ever playing as well as Sakho is playing now.

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  2. I think the problems you have highlighted for Sakho could also be said for Lovren. Sakho is much quicker and stronger than Lovren in my opinion. Sakho just moves awkwardly. Some players are naturally like that and cant ever be changed, thats not his fault. I think he is the answer going forward but as you said if he needs to cut the hospital passes out.

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  3. Hendo runs awkwardly too. Nothing to it...

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  4. Then you have an extremely short memory.

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  5. Nope. I love Skrtel and the way he plays(ED). But this is another level for me..

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  6. Müller look awkward too

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  7. And Ribery is ugly. Terrible players, all of them...

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  8. And Ribery is not pretty. Terrible players, all of them

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  9. we could make a list of player looking awkward on the ball but being world class

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  10. Everything looks good when you have a proper DM in your team. I have been saying this since ages. BR is thick...but better late than never i guess.

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  11. Am still waiting for the app Jaimie.

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  12. I agree with this.

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  13. Sakho's passing last season was 92%. His passing accuracy in the opposition half was around 12-15% higher than Skrtel's. This shows this aspect has not changed much. It has improved but has has always been good in this regard. He also makes more passes per game than the other CBs which clearly shows he is the player trusted the most with the outfall of defence. His defensive statistics were only second to Skrtel's last year and he has improved on that also. He shows better positional awareness than Skrtel on many occasions. He makes less error than his CB colleagues and none leading to a goal last year or this year which his partners can't say. He probably our best centre back right now but benefits from his current role as mu b as Skrtel does for his. Sakho has the last ditch player who is better in the air and Skrtel loves being that player and having to pass far less. Lovren unfortunately is even less comfortable on the ball than Skrtel and goes to peices far more than anyone when pressed. Sakho probably deals with being pressed more than anyone. Can being very good at it too.
    The penalty was quite soft and I have seen Liverpool players criticised for that kind of diving.

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  14. like sakho alot. i believe he is a champion hes just shaky. if we bring the young talent like Rossiter, Canos, Marsh, Wilson and Ibe, we can grow into a team of champions. Sterling will definately be a part of the champions but we need to have faith in our academy and we will see more world class goals like yesterday. Canos and Ibe are definately ready, but we need to get them all in the picture and make them champions. theirs great chemistry and potential there. they play the lfc way to perfection. even Guardiola said Lfc academy the only 1 on par with barcelona la masia academy. he said players bread by lfc are champion, like stevie, owen, carra, soon sterling, and soon ibe, canos, marsh and rossiter. we dont need to sign. only Moussa Sissokho and maybe a striker

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  15. So they can play hoof ball to Raheem Sterling?

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  16. Are you seriously that clueless? I clearly stated the defensive discipline as the reasoning. Nothing of the attacking nature in pulis side.

    Defensive discipline is what we tend to lack and pulls has show time and again he can get any team to shape up and prevent goals. He has never had the attacking talents that we have so there is no room to say he can't coach an attacking side. He has saved every team from relegation by preventing goals from going in. Maybe you forgot but we could have really used that last year and the start of this season.

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  17. Name one defender he has coached that went on to a big club ?
    Shawcross,Huth ,Wilkinson, etc still at stoke
    It is easy to defend when you have two backs of 4 and no attacking responsibility

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  18. And by the way he doesn't really insist that any more, he tweeted he got better...

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  19. It is not easy to have that discipline when your constantly being bombarded by teams with world class attacking threats coming at you for 90mins. That fact that he was able to get that out of players that are not world class and don't play for top clubs, is even more impressive.

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  20. I think the pressing is the reason why our defence is improving. As is the saying, attack is the best form of defence. Because we are able to stifle our opposition in their half, we trouble them. Even when they have an opening, they act hastily because of the pressure. Sakho is a player that revels if not under pressure and plays really well. Also, as people said, the advent of a proper DM has also helped.

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  21. Unfortunately I fear Rodgers may have been making a point to the transfer committee/owners by persisting with Balotelli in that formation. I'd like to think I'm wrong but I think that may have played a part

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  22. Problem is we like our defenders to be able to pass out from the back. Wisdom won't get that practice with Pulis.

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  23. The defensive structure of a Pulis team is different though. He may learn some food skills in positioning etc but without the rest of the set up a lot of what he learns will not be transferable.

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  24. He has the midfielders helping though too. The defensive structure is a team structure.

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  25. The argument that all the defenders have been helped by the system change and personel. There are more options on the ball for defenders that doesn't include the keeper. The keeper isn't being asked to pass it as much.vthe is proper protection from an actual DM but also two players there screening and offering as pass. The pressure on the opposition is more intense and when out of possession we quickly revert to two banks of four. Having actual footballing CBs like Sakho and Can is a great help as they dither less and are more courageous in their passing than either Lovren or Skrtel. Skrtel's form improving as he has to do far less of that side of the game is also no coincidence.
    Essentially Rodgers deserves credit for finding these solutions to the problems. It's just a pity it took so long.

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  26. I partially agree. Some he can not translate. Defensive discipline come from communication and positioning which pulis clearly knows how to drill. The passing will be easier to pick up considering we have better attacking talent and the team is possession orientated. All midfielders have defensive responsibilities, it's not from the back and we lose track of runs. Hopefully this is what Wisdom will learn is to communicate with the people in front to keep it organized.

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  27. Love Sakho he's a real beast of a player, yeah he can look ungainly but as the stats have shown his passing is great so he's better under pressure than he looks.
    His main issue, and one he shares with Skrtel is that he can be too impetuous.
    The player I would like to see back to play with them would be pylori who would add real pace to the back three.

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  28. I can agree with that judgment

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  29. Sakho has his moments of madness. He is after all a Liverpool defender, going through multiple games without making any mistakes is a pre-Rodgers era thing. Maybe it happened under Rafa. I honestly don't remember.

    Sakho's only real shortcoming is that he will continue to try clever football and play his way out of pressure when Carragher would have long ago just hoofed it up the field. I recall he was similarly criticised at his last club. It's certainly not ideal in a team that can have bouts of low confidence and hopefully he can improve in that area. Still, his passing stats show that he's pretty damn reliable and I'm not sure if any other Liverpool defender can claim perfection. They all look poor under good pressing and Carragher could certainly not claim to have been any better.

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