The season started off so well for Daniel Agger. The retirement of previous vice-captain Jamie Carragher left a vacancy, which Rodgers entrusted the ‘loyal’ and ‘brilliant’ Dane to occupy. He impressed on the pitch as well, keeping three clean sheets in the first three games of the season along with Kolo Toure. Against Manchester United, his flicked header provided the assist for Sturridge’s fourth minute goal, which turned out to be the winner. However, the talk after the match was about Martin Skrtel, the man who had been left in the cold following a poor display against Oldham. The Slovak had been widely expected to leave, and Rodgers was already on the verge of signing Sakho and Ilori as replacements. Yet Skrtel’s man of the match performance against United left Rodgers with a real defensive dilemma. While in his first season, it at times felt there was little depth in the centre back position, he ended the window having four centre backs in his squad who arguably deserved to start in that position.
An injury to Agger meant Sakho and Skrtel started the game against Swansea, where Liverpool conceded their first two goals of the season. Sakho’s debut was reasonably unimpressive; he was at fault for the first goal, and arguably was out of position for the second. He did however make 15 successful clearances, hold a 95% passing record and dominate aerially, something the defence,who were torn apart by the likes of Benteke and Lukaku, lacked last season. All four centre backs started the game at Anfield against Southampton, pushing Sakho out to left back and Toure to right back. Agger suffered a difficult match, giving away the ball to Lallana to force Mignolet into action, and being outmuscled too easily by Dejan Lovren, who scored the winner for the Saints. Since Rodgers made the change to 3-5-2, Agger has made just one appearance in four Premier League games, a 20 minute cameo against Crystal Palace. With clubs like Barcelona potentially still interested in Agger, it remains to be seen whether Agger will fight his way back into the team, or whether he could be on his way out of Liverpool in the near future.
One of the main problems for Agger is that Sakho plays in his preferred position as left centre-back. Neither have ever really played at right centre-back, and with players like Skrtel and Toure who are comfortable in that position, it seems unlikely that they would risk one of the two playing in an unfamiliar role. The change to 3-5-2 could have seen a way back for Agger, but Skrtel and Toure have continued to impress, while it is unlikely the £15 million signing will be dropped unless he suffers a remarkable dip in form. With no cup games until January, Rodgers doesn’t have as much time to experiment with different pairings, so as long as he is getting results with one combination, it will be difficult for Agger to get back in the first team.
It’s not impossible however, it takes just one suspension or injury to the central defence, and Agger will be the certain choice to replace that player. Skrtel was granted a reprieve when he came in for Toure in the United game, and he hasn’t missed a game since, while Henderson and Downing manged to become first team regulars last season when it seemed inevitable both were on their way out (although the latter has now left). We are also heading towards the busiest part of the season, and rotation will be needed to keep players fresh. Some good performances when Agger gets his chance could force Rodgers to re-introduce him to the first team. Liverpool have yet to keep a clean sheet in any of Sakho’s games for the club, yet Agger has kept three clean sheets in his four starts this season. If this statistic continues, Agger may be introduced to see whether that brings any improvement.
For now, Agger must continue to impress in training, and grab every chance that comes his way. A player as good as Agger will never be out of the first team for too long, and he must continued to remember the lyrics of the song sang by the home supporters at every Anfield game. If Agger does decide to leave, then I personally wish him good luck, as he has been a loyal player who would give anything for the team since arriving from Brondby in 2006. As long as Liverpool have needed them, he’s always been there, despite interest from clubs who offered him the chance to play in the Champions League such as Barcelona and Manchester City. Agger is a fighter however, he’s fought his way back into the first team before and he can do it again. I’d be surprised if Agger left so soon after gaining the vice-captaincy, especially in a season where Liverpool look like they have an outside chance of reaching the top four by the end of the season.