35 goals conceded in 27 games, if Liverpool fall short in the quest of lifting their first league title in 24 years, there will be lots of fingers pointed towards the defence – especially the centre backs.
There have been several combinations so far this season. In the opening 21 games of the season, Liverpool changed their back line on 14 different occasions – that includes switching between systems of three and four at the back.
The centre-halves were under the microscope yesterday. Martin Skrtel put in possibly his worst performance of the season, whilst Daniel Agger’s shortcoming were yet again exposed as he was hauled off to be replaced by Kolo Toure at the heart of the defence.
But is there an answer for Liverpool to fix their leaky defence? Several people will point to Mamadou Sakho – who has been sidelined since the end of the December with a hamstring injury, others will point to Simon Mignolet saying he needs to take command of his area, and come for the ball a lot more.
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It shows one of the reasons why Martin Skrtel has been in the side for such a long period this season in that he is prepared to get stuck in - but also that Sakho relishes the encounter with his opponents, and is the most successful out of all the defenders on average.
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The interesting one here is that Skrtel is at the bottom of the pile, that may be distorted a little by the fact he has made significantly more appearances - but he is rarely one to get stuck into the tackle. The man currently on the treatment table is. He gets through a lot of work at the heart of the defence.
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There are other qualities that statistics don't say for Mamadou Sakho. He's vocal, an organiser, and positionally sound - showing the qualities that made him the captain of Paris Saint Germain at the age of 17 - even if it was an eye-opening move in France.
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This is probably one area you would expect Daniel Agger to excel in more than most because the nature of his defending. Interceptions is usually a good indicator about the positioning of the players and Agger is intercepting less than you'd perhaps expect. Toure you could put down to his age but again the two defenders that seem most inclined to get in the faces of the opponents forwards are leading the way. Sakho's loss is quite telling.
The role of Simon Mignolet will be examined soon...
Is Sakho's absence one of the big reasons for Liverpool's leaky defence?
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