Defenders Of Our Faith

A first for Basstunedtored – a guest column! Andrew Fanko (who you can follow on Twitter here) takes a look at the defensive records of Liverpool’s current back-four combinations, and wonders if a previously untried pairing should get a run out…

Liverpool have already conceded 20 goals in their 13 competitive games so far this season, which is an average of 1.54 per game. You have to go back to the dark days of Graeme Souness and the 1992/93 season to find such a porous start to a campaign. We shipped 27 goals in the first 13 games of that season, including four at home to Chesterfield!

In the 19 interim seasons, the Reds have conceded an average of 11.6 goals in their first 13 games, which in itself is a per-game average of just 0.89 goals. So we’re conceding 0.65 more goals per game than we’ve been used to over the last two decades.

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Daniel Agger – The Interceptor

As rumours continue to circulate that Daniel Agger will be the subject of a £22m (or thereabouts) bid from Manchester City, the new Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is faced with his first truly difficult decision regarding the Reds’ first team squad.

Does he try to convince the club’s finest defender to stay on Merseyside? Does he cash in whilst Agger is at his maximum value in order to fund team rebuilding? Or would Rodgers be selling an injury prone player whose fitness can’t be relied upon? As with most things in football, there are currently more questions than answers.

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Liverpool Need Agger Back, And Fast.

I wrote a piece about Daniel Agger at the end of last season, highlighting that he was on a personal run of not conceding a goal in his last 624 minutes in all competitions for Liverpool.

Whilst his record this season hasn’t been quite that impressive, it is true that the Reds have only conceded a league goal every 129.7 minutes whilst he has been on the pitch, but that figure drops alarmingly to once every 58.9 minutes when he has been absent. More than twice as regularly.

Factoring his appearances in the domestic cup competitions this season makes a total of 19 goals conceded in his previous 2885 minutes (which is essentially 32 full games) on the pitch, stretching back to Kenny Dalglish’s first league game of his second spell (a 2-1 defeat to Blackpool).

This impressive defensive work won’t be entirely down to the Dane of course, but the statistics certainly suggest he has been making a difference. Time for the medical staff at Melwood to make him bionic, I think.

Statistics sourced from EPLIndex. Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.You can follow me on Twitter here.

Daniel Agger: Retain The Dane

Daniel Agger joined Liverpool in January 2006 for £6m, a bargain price for a top quality centre-back. Over the years since, he has been linked with moves away to clubs such as AC Milan, Juventus and Barcelona (assuming you believe what you read).

In view of his injury record, should Liverpool cash in on him this summer and bring in someone new? In my opinion, no.

Whilst his injury record is a concern, in some cases he has just been unlucky. He only made 5 league starts in 2007/08, but that was down to a metatarsal injury sustained in September of that season, and that could happen to any player.

He has played 1 more league game than Rio Ferdinand in the last 3 seasons, and whilst the England international also faces accusations of being constantly beset by injuries, you don’t hear too many people saying United should ditch him.

He also understands what it means to play for Liverpool, and at very few clubs is it so important to the fans that the players are in tune with them.

Following Fernando Torres’ move to Chelsea in January, Agger told Ekstra Bladet (a Danish newspaper):

“It is unacceptable to play for one of Liverpool’s arch rivals. For a Dane, it’s about having respect for the club you play at. I am proud to be able to pull on my Liverpool jersey and will never go to another club in England. I would never go to Manchester United or Everton, for example. It’s about a form of respect for the club”.

On a personal level, Daniel Agger is on a spectacular run of form. Check out his last nine appearances (LFC score listed first):

West Bromwich Albion (A) 1-2 (Subbed off injured after 24 mins)

Sunderland (A) 2-0 (played 90 mins)

Sparta Prague (H) 1-0 (subbed off after 84 mins)

Chelsea (A) 1-0 (played 90 mins)

Stoke City (H) 2-0 (played 90 mins)

Fulham (H) 1-0 (played 90 mins)

Wolverhampton Wanderers (A) 3-0 (played 90 mins)

Everton (H) 2-2 (subbed off at half time)

Blackpool (A) 1-2 (played 90 mins)

The second goal in the Blackpool game was after 69 minutes, both Everton goals were in the second half, and West Brom’s first goal was in the 62nd minute.

Therefore, Daniel Agger is on a personal run of 624 minutes without conceding a goal in all competitions. This won’t have been all down to him of course, but it’s an impressive run, no question.

I think he makes a very good pairing with Jamie Carragher. It’s an obvious analogy, but it really does seem like he is the Scandinavian ice to Carragher’s Scouse fire. In that respect at least, he has taken on Sami Hyypia’s role.

The Dane could also prove invaluable from a tactical point of view. Dalglish showed a willingness to play with three central defenders at times last season, and this formation is ideal for Agger, as the one ball playing centre back that Liverpool currently possess.

It’s also a benefit to have his type of player for home games with lesser opposition, where the visitors defend deeply to deny Liverpool space. By stepping up into the midfield, he pushes the whole team forward, and can thread a good pass to the forward thinking players whilst he’s there for good measure.

Ultimately, his injury record does warrant discussion about whether he should be retained by Liverpool or not. But ask yourself this – with a threadbare squad already in need of a large overhaul, how much would it cost to replace a defender of Daniel Agger’s stature and quality?

A darn sight more than £6m.

 

This piece from 1st April 2012 has updated Agger stats. 

Please check out my other articles, a list of which can be found here.You can follow me on Twitter here.