Liverpool news

Rodgers still seeking defensive formula

December 4, 2013
By Mike Whalley

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits he has not yet found the right defensive formula following Jamie Carragher’s retirement.

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Carragher, who was the club’s vice-captain, ended a 16-year first-team career at Anfield when he retired in May.

The centre-back’s vocal presence and organisational skills, along with his defensive abilities, were instrumental in tightening up Liverpool at the back after he was restored to the team on a regular basis in January.

Rodgers signed three central defenders in the summer in a bid to fill the gap left by Carragher’s departure -- former Manchester City man Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho from Paris Saint-Germain and Tiago Ilori from Sporting Lisbon.

With Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel already at the club, Rodgers has had a number of options at the back, but has yet to settle on a line-up.

And ahead of Wednesday night’s Premier League home game against Norwich, the manager acknowledges it is a puzzle he must solve.

Liverpool have conceded only three league goals at Anfield this season, but have shipped six in their last two away games, drawing 3-3 at Everton on Nov. 23 before losing 3-1 at Hull on Sunday.

The manager told the Liverpool Echo: “It’s probably the first job I have been in where there have been lots of areas I have been happy and settled in but central defence is an important area.

“It’s something I need to look at in order to get that consistency. There has been lots of change -- and some of that has been down to me -- knowing every game is an absolute cup final for us. If I feel I have need to change it going into a game to get a result, then I will do.

“But of course, I also need to look at it from the coaching perspective as well, that a little run in the team might breed the consistency even though we have had to change a number of positions.”

Rodgers started the season with Toure and Agger as his two centre-backs. But Martin Skrtel came in and played a part in a 1-0 win over Manchester United when Toure picked up a knock.

Sakho then came in alongside Skrtel when Denmark international Agger picked up a rib injury ahead of the 2-2 draw at Swansea on Sept. 16.

The Dane was rushed back for the 1-0 home defeat against Southampton on Sept. 21, but was still struggling for fitness and had to be substituted.

In late September, Rodgers switched to a three-man central defence of Toure, Sakho and Skrtel, a move designed to get the most out of the attacking threat of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.

But the manager reverted to a flat back four for the 4-0 home win over Fulham on Nov. 9 in a bid to cut the number of goals conceded, with Agger and Skrtel selected.

Agger was dropped to the bench following the draw at Everton, with Toure and Skrtel paired in a back four for the first time at Hull, with little success.

Explaining the change against Hull, Rodgers said: “I just felt we have struggled at times against big physical opponents. Toure has obviously coped well with that type of player. So that was the idea, putting him in, and obviously Skrtel has been excellent since coming in. It was simply tactical.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool have distanced themselves from a January move for Burnley striker Danny Ings.

Newspaper reports suggested that the England under-21 international, who has scored 15 goals for the Championship side this season, was on manager Brendan Rodgers’ shopping list.

But sources have told ESPN that is not the case. Liverpool have refused to comment.


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