Martin Kelly’s return to the back four of Liverpool coincided with the team’s first clean sheet in seven matches. In fact, since Kelly injured his hamstring against Bolton Wanderers, Liverpool have failed to keep a clean sheet.
Since announcing himself on the scene under Rafa Benitez, Kelly has come on leaps and bounds and has often forced Glen Johnson – a £17m purchase no less – into an unfamiliar role a left back.
With Johnson currently injured, Kenny Dalglish has used a variety of players to try and plug the hole at right back, including Jon Flanagan, Jamie Carragher and even Martin Skrtel. While Flanagan shows a lot of promise, he still has a long way to go to become a regular starter for Liverpool. Jamie Carragher’s best position is undoubtedly at the heart of defence, while Martin Skrtel’s limitations at right back were horribly exposed by the brilliant Gareth Bale in the 4-0 loss at White Hart Lane.
Liverpool were undoubtedly unhinged by the two red cards received in the Tottenham Hotspurs match, but Gareth Bale must have been rubbing his hands with glee when he saw that he was up against Martin Skrtel. Lo and behold, Bale terrorised the Slovakian defender for over an hour before the inevitable happened and Skrtel was spared any more embarrassment as he was given his marching orders.
Fast forward two weeks and the Liverpool back four looked far more assured against Everton than they had in recent weeks, even with the outstanding Daniel Agger banished to the sidelines through yet another injury. Kelly’s athleticism, stamina and comfort on the ball spread a sense of ease throughout the back four which has not been seen of late. Even with the impressive Leighton Baines bombing forward from left back, Everton rarely posed a threat as Kelly comfortably snuffed out any danger.
With a number of crucial matches upcoming, let’s hope Kelly can avoid any further injuries throughout this season, as the sprightly 21 year old already looks like a natural in a red shirt.