Mamadou Sakho vs Daniel Agger: Is Brendan Rodgers right to leave out Liverpool’s Dane?
Liverpool have a defensive problem on their hands. They conceded 50 goals in the Premier League last season and it cost them in the title race as Manchester City lifted their second league title in three years.
Constant errors in defence cost them dearly and their front men, who scored 101 goals to become only the third side in Premier League history, saved them.
Brendan Rodgers knows where the problems lie in his squad and it certainly is at the back. He cannot afford to concede as many goals next season. If Liverpool are as fierce going forward next season as they were this, and concede 20 fewer goals, they will win the Premier League.
Big decisions must be made by Rodgers then and one he’s had to make often this season is who to start next to Martin Skrtel. He seems to have lost faith in Kolo Toure after an odd couple of weeks where he gave Victor Anichebe the ball on Liverpool’s own 18-yard line to score and level the game at 1-1, and his performance at Craven Cottage where he had a nightmare and scored an own goal.
It has come down to Mamadou Sakho – the club’s marquee summer signing last year – and Daniel Agger, the vice-captain.
The Frenchman played 18 times for the Reds in the league, just two fewer games than Agger. However, he did play 57 more minutes of football overall. Rodgers substituted Agger a couple of times making people question his belief that the Dane was the right fit for the current set up.
Sakho has often been preferred to Agger when fit. The French central defender has suffered a lot from injuries this season but has outshone his Danish teammate when played.
The former Paris Saint-German defender won 25 tackles in the league – five more than Agger. He also lost fewer tackles; 10 to Agger’s 16. Sakho is a supreme tackler. He may look awkward from time to time, but overall, he’s a silky and solid defender who has a fantastic tackling technique.
Sakho also won more headed duels than Agger, having won 46 – one more than his positional rival. That is a narrow margin, to be fair to Agger, but a victory for Sakho is still a victory. He’s won more headed duels than the Dane and that’s probably a big reason why he’s selected to play in such a physical league. However, Agger does win a higher percentage of his duels: 64% to 55% to be precise, but Sakho is still strong aerially.
The Frenchman reads the game so well, too, and often steps out of defence to prevent attackers receiving the ball and turning towards goal. He made 27 interceptions in his 18 appearances, six more than Agger. So far, Sakho is winning everything, making it no surprise who Rodgers picks.
There is a very statistical edge to everything Liverpool do nowadays and I’m sure Brendan Rodgers has looked at the figures of his defenders and helped base his selection from them.
In terms of blocks, Agger finally comes out on top, having made eight to Sakho’s seven. A slim difference, yes, but just like the headed duels, the player who has a higher number wins so Agger just pips his teammate here.
However, moving onto the next department of clearances, Sakho easily moves back into first place having made 137 clearances to Agger’s 118.
It is clear from these statistics why Sakho starts ahead of Agger due to his overall ability and dominance of his teammate. The Dane is a good defender and has served Liverpool well. The choice to make him vice captain last summer was a good one from Rodgers as he clearly loves the club and has an effect on his teammates. However, there is no place for sentimentality in football and if Sakho is the better defender, he has to start.