I don’t know if you’ve read some of my past work on The Boot Room but I have on occasion kind of maybe sort of shown that my heart lays at Anfield. I’m proud of that and I will admit it to anyone. It also means that I am hopelessly positive about the quality of Liverpool players and anyone we sign. I thought Andy Carroll did OK and would have been a success if he’d actually got a real chance. I think Fabio Borini is not the worst (we’ve been through the dark days of N’Gog). I also will speak up when someone wants to take aim at the players that are actually of a high standard. I’ve done it with Coutinho (under the guise of statistics) and I will now do it with Mamadou Sakho.
I often smile at the constant criticism of Sakho. I will admit that he is not a conventional defender at times and he always looks like a mass of flailing limbs but that is where it stops for most people. They will look at how Sakho moves and pick up on his errors and dismiss him but when he has a stormer these same people are nowhere to be seen. In many ways, it is similar to two other top Premier League defenders – one past and one present.
Vincent Kompany is often saddled with the “overrated” tag especially when he makes a mistake but there is a clear reason that City have stuck with him for so long. He is a defender of immense quality, one of the elite and yet he will have his bad days. That so many choose to write him off because of it is laughable.
We’ve all seen the hilarious videos of William Gallas stumbling and miskicking his way through a handful of games in the Australian A-League and the temper tantrum he threw in that game at Birmingham but what many will conveniently forget is his numerous outstanding performances across the backlines of London’s three best teams. He, like Sakho, had an air of calamity that many could never get past when rating him but Gallas was often excellent, a physical defender more than capable of playing some nice stuff.
This is where the problem lies with Sakho. He is never conventional so people write him off. If they took a minute to watch Liverpool when he plays, you see a different kind of defence. Sakho is a leader of the backline, a commanding presence. It’s often ignored that he was captaining PSG just eight months after his 17th birthday (making him Ligue 1’s youngest ever captain as well) and full club captain barely into his twenties. He’s been mooted as a possible candidate to replace Jordan Henderson as vice-captain despite not even playing half of Liverpool’s league games in his two seasons at the club.
The lack of playtime is mostly down to injuries but also down to Brendan Rodgers’ love affair for scaring us by playing karate fanatic Martin Skrtel and the underperforming Dejan Lovren last season. It’s hardly surprising the mid-season surge of last season happened to coincide with the return of Sakho to the side. Five clean sheets in his first eight games back gives you the idea of how important Sakho really is.
There is also some strange belief that Sakho is “clumsy in possession”. Sadly for everyone that doesn’t rate Sakho, that isn’t true. Sakho is a wonderful ball-playing defender, the perfect man for the style Rodgers has implemented at Anfield. He is reminiscent of Daniel Agger, who like Sakho was confident when bringing the ball out from the back and was superb at it. I’ve lost count of the number of strikers that have tried to press Sakho only to be left standing as the defender plays his way past them.
Don’t believe all the things I’m saying? I thought you might not so I decided to really drive home my point by going to my footballing nemesis – statistics. According to WhoScored (who I’ve heard are decent at this stats stuff), Sakho made 1.9 tackles a game and 5.9 clearances a game – more tackles than Skrtel and more clearances that Can. Squakwa also show that he made just two defensive errors last season, fewer than any other Liverpool defender that played more than 15 games and the same number as the supposedly superior Branislav Ivanovic, Laurent Koscielny, Eliaquim Mangala and Jan Vertonghen. His pass accuracy sat nearly 90% last season and was over that mark in the first season according to WhoScored. So, if you judge your players on stats, then there is your opinion changed.
For normal people with eyes, they will struggle with admitting Sakho is a quality defender. He’s a supremely talented footballer that can read the game superbly and has the confidence and ability to play the ball like a quality midfielder can. He’s a physical specimen that can just as easily keep up with a pacey forward as he can muscle them off the ball. He’s a leader of the defence both vocally and performance-wise. He’s disciplined (1 yellow last season) and clever. He’s the perfect defender for Liverpool and the Premier League.
And yet nobody will ever admit to it.[separator type=”thin”]
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