Why Liverpool must keep Daniel Agger

By on January 4, 2011 - 45 views

Our resident Liverpool correspondent – Editor of live4liverpool.com – tells us why Roy simply must keep hold of his Danish centre-half…

Worry has been my overriding feeling about Liverpool’s Daniel Agger this season. Not because of his injury problems but fundamentally because of the rumours about his departure from the club. Our most gifted centre back had been sidelined since September with injury before he started against Bolton Wanderers and on Saturday he looked as if he hadn’t ever been away. Still though, rumours persist that he is been offered around Europe’s top clubs and the Corriere Dello Sport even states today that Juventus will bid for the Dane during this transfer window. On Friday, it was good to hear from manager Roy Hodgson that there were no plans to sell Agger:

“Daniel Agger has not been ‘offered’ to anybody. Daniel Agger is a Liverpool player and there’s a good chance he’ll be in the Liverpool team on Saturday (against Bolton). So if ever you hear Daniel Agger is being ‘offered’, it’s not by Liverpool Football Club – it’s by unscrupulous people who are second guessing and looking at players who have not been in the team in the last couple of weeks and suggesting they might be available. But anytime you read that, it is untrue.”

There was certainly a great deal of irritation in Roy’s statement here. Perhaps the player had been touted around European clubs by his agent, after Liverpool’s poor start to the season and the Dane’s subsequent sidelining through injury. After being absent from the side for nearly 3 months, speculation is always going to grow, especially when Agger had apparently criticised Hodgson in the Danish press, although the quotes were apparently taken out of context.

His return against Bolton then was then welcomed by me and the vast majority of Liverpool fans. The Reds defence has been decidedly shaky for most of this season and both Martin Skrtel and Sotirios Kyrgiakos could be seen to be at fault for the goal they conceded against Wolves on Wednesday night. Skrtel and Soto certainly don’t fill Reds fans with the greatest deal of confidence when going into matches. While both quite commanding in the air, neither is the quickest and their ability to deal with pacey strikers is questionable. Their lack of pace compounds the problems Roy Hodgson’s team already possesses. The quite negative tactics employed by Roy tend to see Liverpool stand off players, sitting back to cover space rather than pressing the opposition. With two slow centre backs, this lack of pressing is compounded by the two moving deeper and deeper, as they are afraid to keep too high a line just in case they get caught in behind.

This also leads to another problem regarding possession. If a team such a Wolves presses high up the pitch and man marks outlets in midfield for the goalkeeper and the defenders to pass to, there is little choice but to hoof the ball down field. The many aimless balls by Pepe Reina against Wolves is testament not so much to a deliberate policy to go long but due to the lack of pressing and high line to get the ball moving forward. This problem was addressed in part with the introduction of Daniel Agger and Fabio Aurelio into the team against Bolton on Saturday.

Agger brings two essential elements to the Reds backline, extra mobility and the ability to pass the ball. Agger’s extra mobility helped the Reds keep a higher line against Bolton on Saturday while they were helped by the Trotters not pressing anywhere near as much as Wolves. On the ball, Agger, like Aurelio, passed short into space in midfield as well as making some trademark raids into the opposition half, something Soto and Skrtel are incapable of doing. On top of this, Agger is competent in the air as well as the best tackler out of the three available centre-backs. Although Kevin Davies scored from a set-piece, Agger had the forward’s number in open play for most of the afternoon. His mobility and anticipation made it difficult for Davies to just outmuscle him when the ball was in the air, and combined with his capabilities on the ball, Roy must see the great benefits the Dane brings to the team. The Reds boss did say after the match:

“He played well and I’m sure he’s more than satisfied with his own performance. It was a good day all round for him.”

Agger’s display will hopefully persuade the manager to continue with him as first choice for upcoming matches. He may return to Soto and Skrtel against Blackburn due to Rovers physical prowess but that would be a very unwise move in my opinion.

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