Max Morland investigates what has gone wrong for Martin Skrtel during an eight-year spell.
After a £5.5 million bid from Fenerbache was accepted by Liverpool, Martin Skrtel looks set to leave the Reds after an eight year spell at the club. As Liverpool’s current second longest serving player, Skrtel has built up a reputation, not always for being a fantastic defender, but for his sheer determination and loyalty to the cause.
On one hand, he is a tough tackling, loyal and brave servant of Liverpool, who never ceased to amaze Reds supporters with his power and passion. Although, on the other, his momentary lapses in concentration and poor positional sense often cause supporters to question his abilities.
When he arrived in Liverpool from Zenit St Petersburg in January 2008, many fans were right in thinking that Skrtel would form a solid partnership with Daniel Agger, who had already established himself in the team, and was a more graceful, elegant centre-back than the Slovakian.
During his first few years on Merseyside, Skrtel was at the peak of his career. He found a consistent defensive partner in Agger, and they complemented each other’s style of play perfectly. This was perhaps the best period of Skrtel’s Anfield career, and unfortunately for the Slovakian, his performances followed the trend set by the rest of the Liverpool team after 2010 – rapidly decreasing in quality.
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Perhaps as a result of these performances – which were complimented with tonnes of own goals – Skrtel was linked with a moved away from the Reds in the summer of 2014, but he fought for his place and once again established himself in the team, demonstrating his determination for success.
Despite this sudden increase in his quality of performances, things once again began to look bleak from Skrtel’s point of view, after he was criticized by fans for his “awful awareness and positioning”. After a long injury lay off at the start of last season, Skrtel never regained his previous form, and this has led to a likely transfer this summer.
But in the season of the unexpected, the defenders which by far stood out in the premier league were those of Tottenham and Leicester City. Both possessed centre-backs of immense physical strength, with Robert Huth and Wes Morgan -neither of them youthful, nor previously regarded as brilliant defenders – dominating even the league’s best strikers. So surely Skrtel, who has similar qualities to the Leicester pair, should have been equally successful?
One of the main reasons why this was not the case this season was because of a lack of a consistent partnership in defence, with Dejan Lovren, Mammadou Sakho, Kolo Toure and Skrtel himself all featuring numerous times this last season. As a result of this, no one in that area of the pitch was fully able to get to grips with each other. In comparison, Huth and Morgan played virtually every match together in Leicester’s title winning campaign.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that this was one of the main reasons for Leicester’s fairy-tale success. If you look at any successful Liverpool team in the past, there were always two central defenders, who played together regularly, and complemented each other well, prime examples being Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypiä.
Overall, a lack of game time with a consistent partner, as well as a failure to bounce back after poor performances may have contributed greatly to Martin Skrtel’s demise at Liverpool, and despite being a man with more passion, determination, and staples in his head than a stationary shop, Skrtel’s Anfield career seems to have ended negatively.
Therefore a combination of the fact that he suffers lapses in his concentration, an apparent lack of knowledge of how to hold a defensive line and Liverpool’s inability to form a consistent centre-back partnership which featured the Slovakian; seems to have cut his Anfield career short just two years before a decade’s service on Merseyside.