Another Liverpool player was added to the injury list last weekend as Croatian central defender Dejan Lovren suffered a nasty knee injury against West Brom.
Lovren returned to the line up for Liverpool after French defender Mamadou Sakho was out for a number of weeks with a knee injury and impressed enough to be nominated for the November Player of the Month award, which ultimately went to record breaker Jamie Vardy.
Many Liverpool fans were worried when they heard that Lovren would be out for a month with this new injury, as the only other fit central defenders were Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure. However, that all changed in mid-week when Sakho returned to full training for the Reds and declared himself fit for their game against Watford at the weekend, by tweeting:
Back to the group training since several days!! Thanks for all your messages pic.twitter.com/bf5h23RX1t
— Mamadou Sakho (@mamadousakho3) December 16, 2015
Sakho has often been criticised by pundits and some football fans for looking awkward and slow when in possession, but he is actually Liverpool’s most consistent defender as well as one of the most reliable central defenders in the Premier League. There are two key areas where Sakho makes an impact for Liverpool – defence and possession. The 25-year-old is great at winning back possession for Liverpool and keeping it while he brings strength and reliability to the Liverpool defence, which is needed at the moment.
One stand out game from this season which shows Sakho’s impact in games for Liverpool came against Rubin Kazan in October. The French defender won 100% of his tackles, had 85% passing accuracy, made three clearances and three interceptions while he also created one chance for his team.
Liverpool are a team that love to play the ball out of defence and enjoy creating chances by making quick passes and smart runs in behind the opposition’s defence. People may pinpoint players like Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge as being key to this kind of play but their defence also has a role to play in gaining possession and moving the ball forward.
Sakho is very reliable when it comes to winning back possession, as he has made an average of 1.7 interception per game in his 580 minutes in the Premier League this season. The French defender also has an impressive passing accuracy of 91%.
It doesn’t take a genius to realise that Sakho’s strength and physicality makes him a nightmare to come up against. He easily pushes opposing players off the ball and wins the majority of his duels.
The Frenchman also works incredibly hard to keep the opposition out, which can be proven by the fact that out of the nine games in all competitions in which he has played all 90 minutes this season, Liverpool haven’t lost one.
Sakho makes an average of seven defensive actions in every game and has won 66% of his duels this term. The Liverpool defender has also made five blocks, 33 clearances and has won an average of 2.9 aerial duels per game. However, there is even more defensive statistics to add to his records this season – he has made 4.7 clearances and 1.4 tackles per game.
This not only proves that Sakho is crucial to Liverpool’s game but also that he should be made Liverpool’s number one choice centre-back above Skrtel. The 31-year-old has been impressive in some performances this season, such as Liverpool’s 4-1 win away against City, but he has been inconsistent at times.
Skrtel made a howler against Newcastle United two weeks ago when he scored an own goal, which was his seventh in his Premier League career and put him behind only Richard Dunne for the most own goals in the top flight.
The Slovakian has been a great servant for Liverpool but he is always guaranteed to make unnecessary mistakes and Liverpool really need to put a lot of work into improving their defence. Jurgen Klopp should consider bringing in a top class defender either in January or next summer to partner Sakho long-term.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena