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New-look Reds rearguard deserves credit

Credit where credit is due, Martin Laurence believes Liverpool's new-look defence is well deserving of some praise.

Last Updated: 16/10/13 at 15:55 Post Comment

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Level on points with Arsenal at the top of the Premier League, Brendan Rodgers will be very pleased with how Liverpool's season has panned out thus far, with many of the plaudits heaped on the Reds' top scorer Daniel Sturridge. With Luis Suarez returning from suspension to partner the Englishman, it's fair to say that the efforts of Liverpool's defence have been a little overlooked.

The manager has all but admitted that a recent move to a 3-5-2 formation was devised almost entirely as a means to having his two star strikers starting in their favoured positions. Such a dramatic tactical switch puts strain on the defensive pack far more than it would the newly coined 'SAS', but as of yet a new-look Liverpool defence have stood up to the task.

Although Iago Aspas and Victor Moses were brought in to supplement the attacking department, Rodgers signed no fewer than four defenders this summer, while Martin Skrtel, who looked destined to leave the club, was given a second chance. It's an opportunity that the Slovakian has grasped with both hands, starting 5 of Liverpool's league games and accruing a WhoScored.com rating of 7.31.

Skrtel's is merely displaying the sort of commitment that the manager will have demanded after a surprising omission from action in the second half of the previous campaign. Having started just four league games since the turn of the year the Slovakian is back to his best, with only Steven Caulker (12) and Danny Gabbidon (10) blocking more shots and just three players have completed more clearances per game (10.6).

Of Liverpool's defensive unit this season it is perhaps Kolo Toure that has received the most praise, tasked with replacing the retiring Jamie Carragher. The pressure on the Ivorian was alleviated somewhat having signed on a free transfer, but the experienced centre-back is proving that he is still capable of performing at the very top level.

Indeed, the 32-year old's WhoScored.com rating only falls marginally behind Skrtel's (7.23), having made the most tackles per game (2) of centre-backs at the club. When comparing Toure's current figures to those of predecessor Carragher, the loss has been relatively seamless. Carragher averaged just 0.8 tackles and 0.4 interceptions per game in his final season, with Toure winning more than twice as many aerial duels per match in his first 6 appearances (2.2 to 0.8).

Of the current back three that leaves Mamadou Sakho, whose arrival from PSG was perhaps the most eye-catching of Liverpool's new defensive recruits. The 23-year old has adapted to the English game well and possesses the passing ability that Rodgers insists on from his players, a 91% accuracy enough to rank as the best for the club this season. Another team high of 2.8 aerial duels won per game will have appeased the fans, while for a relatively young player his reading of the game has also shone through, averaging an impressive 2.8 interceptions per match.

Those kind of figures have helped the young Frenchman to an encouraging WhoScored.com rating of 7.18 and ensure that all three of the defensive trio rank among the top 10 centre-backs in the Premier League. Indeed, their form leaves Daniel Agger, seen as Liverpool's first choice defender last season, sitting on the sidelines having recovered from a rib injury.

A rating of 6.69 thus far has fallen way short of the standards expected of the Dane. Meanwhile, if the Reds continue to occupy the top positions in the table than it may be a while before the 28-year old gets a chance to stake his claim for the shirt that few would have predicted he'd lose.

Martin Laurence - follow him on Twitter here

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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