The Weak Link – Martin Skrtel

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It’s a common theme these days for a Liverpool player to split the opinions of the fans.

Every single individual has their own template for when they’re judging a player. What’s good and what’s bad. Nobody is impartial. Very few are right but that’s the beauty of football isn’t it, everybody has an opinion.

Weakest Link - Martin Skrtel

Whether you’re defending Glen Johnson for being Glen Johnson, jumping to the defence of Lucas Leiva because he played well under Kenny about 5 years ago or simply throwing shit at the wall and hoping something sticks when looking for the positives in Dejan Lovren’s performances in Red. Some fans see it differently to you. Some fans don’t like to criticise the club or their players because it’s “not the Liverpool way”.

If you can back up your points then that’s all well and good but when you’re basing your entire argument on the fact this individual has played over 300 games for Liverpool so must be good your argument is kind of on thin ice, isn’t it? Playing over 300 times in a period Liverpool have won next to nothing and dramatically fallen away from the leading pack is hardly indicative of their talent.

The individual in question of course is Martin Skrtel.

The Slovakian uses last ditch lunges, over the top blocks and goals to hide his defensive frailties and some fans are blinded by this. You often hear fans who like him quoting his goal scoring figures whenever he’s criticised. When did it become a prerequisite for defenders to score goals? It’s no good scoring 3 goals as a defender if you’re at fault for 7/8 goals per season.

Honestly it’s fine, let Anthony Martial, a rookie in the Premier League, waltz walk past you to put the game to bed against our fiercest rivals because you know, you scored those two goals against Arsenal in 2013/14.

It’s as though any player with an affiliation with Rafa Benitez gets special treatment because they’re one of the few remaining links to our past glories. The likes of Lucas Leiva, Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel all get this extra allowance from certain sections of the fan base.

“Rafa picked them. He won us the Champions League so by default they’re good players” seems like the mentality at times.

Then you hear the argument “well Jurgen Klopp, Brendan Rodgers, Kenny Dalglish and Rafa Benitez can’t all be wrong.”

Sometimes people just do things that can’t be explained. Why do people touch a hot surface when there is a sign there that says ‘Hot Surface. Do not touch’? I’m sure we’ve all at some point inexplicably touched wet paint even though it was clearly marked as wet paint. People do inexplicable things and managers are no different.

In the past 5 seasons, starting with 2010/2011 to 2014/2015, Martin Skrtel has played 25 or more games in each of these seasons. Liverpool have conceded 225 league goals in this period and never conceded less than 40 in a season. During this time they’ve played different formations, had different goalkeepers, played many different left sided centre-backs and had 3 managers. The one constant in this has been Martin Skrtel.

This all can’t be pinned on Martin though. The aforementioned managers don’t help. Martin Skrtel has a peculiar skill set. He has the physique and the ability to be a good defender but has the mentality of the cowardly lion. At the first sign of danger he’s on his bike and he’s moonwalking back to the Liverpool area. It’s clear for fans of all football clubs to see. So it’s bizarre that managers have tried to play him in a high line. He’s the antithesis of a high line defender, he has none of the characteristics yet he gets games there. When I say he could be a good defender I mean in a low block, like a West Ham side.

Kenny, Hodgson and Rafa all played Skrtel in a low block and he looked functional. They all played defensively which afforded him some protection and he was able to sweep in his own 18 yard box and clear the danger that way. It’s what got him so many plaudits and why Manchester City were rumoured to want him for £20 million.

Brendan Rodgers took over at Liverpool and dropped the Liverpool number 37 because he was failing to impress in the high line he was trying to integrate and his passing wasn’t what was required.  He only really got back into the side because Jamie Carragher had a bad run of form and Skrtel took his place. We saw in 2013/14 how exposed he was when Liverpool played that attacking football and a high line and if truth be told he’s only looked comfortable in a Brendan Rodgers defence when he was at the centre of a back three and he was able to sweep and make those recovery tackles he’s famed for nowadays.

The majority of Liverpool fans are eager to see Jurgen Klopp set Liverpool up to press teams. They’ll never properly be able to press effectively with Martin Skrtel as their right sided centre-back as it’s his instinct to drop and him dropping creates space in what should be a compact back four. Against Spurs I took plenty of positives away but amongst the negatives was Martin Skrtel. A few times he had the likes of Harry Kane run at him and he backed off and got deeper and deeper, which in turn dragged the rest of the team back even though he had Sakho covering behind if he did put a foot in and miss.

I see the value in keeping Skrtel around as a squad player for those games we’re sat deep in, defending a lead and facing an aerial bombardment. He’s good in those situations but if Liverpool are to play this pressing football we’re all yearning for then Martin Skrtel has to be phased out so Jurgen Klopp can start to work on a functional back line.

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    Some one speak sense ..someone identify the obvious..someone point the finger to the right culprit…
    Thank you for a wonderful article..hoping that JK will read it & pay attention to rectify our ongoing problem in the heart of our defence…
    Thank you…

    • Still the same song around Anfield.
      Skrtel have convinced all the managers since Rafa left, so let Jurgen to decide what is the best for LFC. All the morons who shout for proven (read overrated british) CB can FOff.. Now these morons have wider group of CBs to choose from. It means someone mentioned above (Brit with wooden legs) or someone from BVB Dortmund.

    • I also have been keen for the past two seasons to see him sold. He is mopre than a weak link he is much too dangerous in his wild tackles that always end in dangerous free kicks to opposing side. When I heard months ago that he was not happy with any new contract I thought I would eventually get my wish but BR kept him on. I rather think that Klopp is well aware of the guy’s failings and cannot see him being held much longer. At least have his games seriously curtailed by benching.

    • Jason I agree with you to a certain point about giving free kicks around the box but what other defender doesn’t do it
      People only see his weakness he has saved Liverpool so many times
      But having said that we all have our own opinions

    • Yep. Not just a weak link. He is an absolute liability. Any, absolutely any game, if we are in an attacking game then it can be overlooked but the minute we are on the back foot, we can’t be doing with the trip, down tackle or anything that he does where a hole is in the defence. Couldn’t possibly use him as one of a dedicated back four – no, sorry a liability. Get rid before it is too late.

  2. Would be interesting to see if there are any stats regarding defensive errors, just to prove the Skrtel philes wrong. He has always been a calamity, even during that near title winning season. The Lovren-Skrtel combo is a disaster!

    Having said that, why take potshots at all Rafaphiles? I am one of em, and like every other manager, Rafa did get a lot of transfers wrong. Nothing credible or incredible about it. Time to start phasing out the CB personnel and get others in, at least one composed CB, both on and off the ball with good anticipation!

  3. All our CB have some sort of defensive weakness. Skrtel does like to drop off and then tackle but he won 2 out of 3 tackles on Kane Sakho won none.Sakho was praised highly by some sites but other sites picked up on his tendency to put others under pressure with lose and wayward passing he also struggles in aerial duels where Skrtel doesn’t.
    Couple of new Cb, a keeper and a new start should sort it out though.

    • He headed the ball away like 6 times against spurs. I don’t think he struggles that badly in arial duals. Also he had one bad riskey pass against spurs oh my, our best passer had one bad pass and brought the whole team in danger.

  4. Obviously a bunch of pillocks who have never played except on their playstation.

    Skirtel has been one of our BEST players in the last 23 seasons DESPITE brenda constantly changing who’s alongside him & from a back 4 to 3 then back to a back 4.

    Sakho has improved the last couple of games as he was shocking with the ball at his feet last season AND wouldn’t have got a game yet if the dud Loveran hadn’t got injured.

    Stick to the games on yer PC’s boys…..

  5. Loving the fact the comments exactly bear out what the article describe – vast differences in opinion about the same players. Got love it.

    My tuppence worth – Skrtel and Mignolet have to go if we’re to defend with a high line, stay compact and look to play with any degree of accuracy out of the back.

    Migs – great shot stopper, but more commanding in his box these days but sweeps up poorly and has very little awareness of what’s going on in front of him or ability to execute the right pass to launch quick counter attacks. Simply won’t work in a JK team

    Skrtel – a liability, always dropping off, positionally poor, can’t pass for toffee.

    It’s a no brainer…. Isn’t it?

  6. The weakest link is undoubtedly lucas leiva. At least Skrtel has won something with us, got us to two finals and almost won the league. leiva nothing, our best recent runs have been without him, 2012 two finals and a semi win against everton and runnng city close in 2014 where leiva came back at the end and helped us lose it. We need better than what leiva can offer. And why should we keep a player that despite us saying he can leave, on a number of occasions, nobody anywhere seriously wanted him enough to actually part with any money!?

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