The second Martin Skrtel stayed on the turf I knew that he was seriously injured. His demeanor, work rate, and passion for the game that is so evident week in and week out meant there was no chance of him pulling anything with the score and match the way they were.
After that initial thought, I was hit by a second thought:
“perhaps this is just what we need”
Getting Daniel Agger worked into the side is one of the more important issues I felt faced our club at this early stage of the season. He is clearly, in my opinion, one of our center backs for the next 5-10 years easily. Not only his defending but his threat going forward, his sweet left foot, and his ability to exert physicality through all of it leaves him a package that most rear guard defenders can only dream of.
Skrtel, too, possesses much of the same pedigree, save only perhaps in his going forward. But even he is not scared to bring the ball past the midfield stripe and force someone to stop him, freeing up a teammate in the process.
The qualities of these two players, along with Carra’s no nonsense defending led me this offseason to write about a proposed three center half system. This was something that I felt we may see more of as our fullbacks looked set to provide us with more of an offenseive option. Unfortunately, Degen hasn’t gotten himself off the trainer’s table long enough to make any sort of impact, nor has Dossena set the world alight. For the most part we are left with Arbeloa and Aurelio yet again, fairly steady defenders but neither of whom ever have the slightest inclination to take a defender head on.
In the later stages of last season, I truly started to believe that Fabio was transoforming himself into a world class left back. He has pace, he has skill, he has all the tools as far as I can see. He just lacks that little bit of confidence needed to go past those defenders. That look in the eyes that says you and I both know I’m going past you and there is very little you can do about it. That look had started to show itself more and more frequently as he started leaving various defenders squabbling in his wake.
Flash forward to this season and that look has been completely extinguished. His never ending injury woes and the fear that Dossena is going to be taking his place has led him to be more conservative than ever. With this being the case on our flanks, and our preferred route going straight up the gut that leaves us more than ever needing some inspiration from our center halves.
Now before I go any further, I want to make something absolutely clear:
I love Jamie Carragher. He exudes what it is to be a Liverpool player. We are very lucky to have him in the squad at all times.
With that said, I think facts need facing on some fronts. When we find ourselves faced with a Stoke situation, where the bus is not only parked but being dug into the very ground itself in an attempt to keep us from putting one in the back of the net we need every man woman and child on the pitch who has even the slightest ability to go forward. In these situations Agger and Skrtel both need to be on the pitch. Does that mean the 3 back system? Does that mean giving Carra a blow now and then? I’m not sure I know what the answer is down to dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, but I think it certainly is worth taking a closer look at.
In the past season or two , Jamie seems in my eyes to not really be losing a step so much as losing his focus or perhaps his best form at individual moments throughout a match. Whether it be Tevez making him look foolish repeatedly earlier this year against the Scum, or so many of his last ditch wonder tackles that leave the crowd screaming for more, the reality is that those moments are not so much Jamie producing something brilliant as it is covering his own ass after making a blunder.
As he himself said earlier today, we can’t always expect heroics. We need to be practical, and we need to be on top form from minute one in every match. We’ve heard Rafa mention time and again about rotations and keeping players fresh, etc etc etc. How many matches has Carragher missed in the past few years? The answer, quite simply, is not enough. Agger made the comment the other day that is is not fair to only consider he and Skrtel to be competing for one spot. I agree wholeheartedly. Not only would it be good for Jamie to know he is not set in stone in our backline, it would also allow his aging legs a rest now and again. He’s approaching 30 years old, and is no spring chick. If you love Carra as I do, I think it best to save him now and keep him for an extra year or two at the end of his career in a Hyypia type role. That is at the very least a few years away yet, but let’s not hasten the end of something great by excessively trotting him out there.
We are lucky enough to have perhaps the greatest stable of talent in our back line in the world. Let’s make sure we get it all out there. Start forming that Skrtel and Agger partnershp now as it will be one that we will rely on for the better part of a decade most likely. Get Jamie some well deserved rest in his legs. I think we will all agree that he will argue he doesn’t need it, but of course he does. Everyone does time and again, and there is simply no reason not to do so in matches that will not call for that last ditch defending.
In my personal opinion I would love to see all three on the pitch with Big Sami backing them up. Also, you may be asking yourself what does any of this matter at the moment with Skrtel out? Well the answer is this, with Agger now getting his chance to put his stamp on a permanent place (which I think he will do easily), we need to look ahead to the busy log of fixtures coming up at the end of the year. So many sides go into that program with hopes and title aspirations, but not nearly so many come out with those same beliefs.
We need to integrate and utilize our defenders skills in the ways most advantageous to the team as a whole. So again, I love Carra, but perhaps it is time he started to take a rotation spot the same as everyone else. If for no other reason that I hope to enjoy him for years to come, and every second lost will be a sadness to me.
He is a special player, let’s take care of him.