by Daniel Giraldo
Liverpool’s recent capitulation to Southampton was a bitter pill to swallow having been 2-0 up and in control at half time. Martin Skrtel’s performance, after his introduction as a second half substitute for Dejan Lovren, is an obvious catalyst for this implosion. The long serving centre back, who joined from Zenit Saint Petersburg in 2008, gave away a penalty after only a few minutes and was part of the defence which surrendered a comfortable lead. Many have pointed the finger at Klopp and while the German manager did make a mistake with the change, Skrtel’s display should be indicative of his future Anfield career. Barring the odd solid game for Liverpool, Skrtel has not been good enough for a number of years now and the time is nigh to replace the ageing Slovakian.
More than a blip
Liverpool’s defence has been cast as the team’s greatest weakness and Skrtel has been the one constant player in this backline. This was the case in preceding seasons as the defence cost Liverpool the title in 2013/14, the three goal collapse against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in May 2014 displayed this point most evidently. However, the backline did not improve in 2014/15 as 48 goals were conceded, although the main attention was focused upon the deficiencies of our strikers and the impact of selling Luis Suarez.
This season Simon Mignolet is the scapegoat as Skrtel escapes the criticism that consumes our goalkeeper. Mignolet can be improved upon and that is evident, however he is not helped by a lack of leadership at the centre back. The argument of keeping Skrtel would revolve heavily around the concept of the experience and know-how he offers. Yet, how much of this is actually true? Jamie Carragher described the partnership of Sakho and Skrtel as lacking communication and leadership after the aforementioned 3-3 draw with Palace. This would be qualities that Skrtel should possess in abundance after a long career, yet almost two years on and nothing seems to have changed. Alarmingly, it appears that Skrtel and Sakho are no more cohesive as a pair than in May 2014. In a choice between the two players, a younger Sakho in his prime is far more valuable than an ageing Skrtel.
A future without Skrtel
Since Skrtel’s last showing against Watford in a hapless 3-0 defeat, Liverpool have gone on to keep 10 clean sheets in 19 games, including solid performances against Manchester City in the league and only conceding a penalty during two games with Manchester United in the Europa. Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge has stated that a Sakho- Lovren combination is his preferred option, describing it as ‘obvious.’ It has been demonstrated by results in recent games that the two have worked well in tandem. In contrast, there has been six games this season in which Liverpool have conceded three or more goals, Skrtel has played in four of those.
To sell or to keep
Without question Skrtel has been a great servant to Liverpool, but there is growing evidence that Skrtel should not be a regular starter. The arrival of Joel Matip and the return to fitness of promising youngster Joe Gomez should push Skrtel further down the pecking order at the start of next season. The idea of keeping him as back up is not a terrible one but this might hinder the progress of Gomez, who up until his unfortunate injury showcased great potential. Therefore, it is in the best interests of both parties to go their separate ways. This would allow Liverpool to form a more consistent defence and give Skrtel the chance to play regularly elsewhere. There is no enjoyment in criticising a long serving player, but he is now unable to justify his place. Therefore, sentiment must be cast aside and I believe that Liverpool are a stronger team without Skrtel.