Sakho and Ilori will help Liverpool play Rodgers’ favoured pressing game…
On the final day of the transfer window, Liverpool have made quite a statement, bringing in centre-back duo Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori for a combined fee of around £25m, from PSG and Sporting Lisbon respectively.
We analyse what the signings bring to Liverpool, and why Brendan Rodgers has spent a large portion of his transfer funds on the pair.
— AnfieldKick (@AnfieldKick) September 2, 2013
Unlike the retired Jamie Carragher, and the powerful Martin Skrtel, Sakho and Ilori have pace to burn. Ilori has the fastest ever 30-metre sprint time ever recorded at Sporting Lisbon – a club where Cristiano Ronaldo trained! This means that Brendan Rodgers will be able to play the high defensive line he wants to this season. Because of Carragher and Skrtel’s complete lack of pace, they were scared of balls in behind, so often dropped very deep to protect themselves. What this actually did though, was make the transition between defence and midfield difficult when Liverpool wanted to play the ball out from the back. Now with Sakho as a first choice partner for Daniel Agger, the Liverpool defence will trust their recovery speed, and can play the high line, and the pressing game Rodgers wants to implement.
The ability to play from the back:
Just like with the free transfer signing of Kolo Toure – Sakho and Ilori are as much footballers as they are defenders. Both are comfortable with the ball at their feet, and will look to feed a deep lying midfielder instead of playing a long diagonal. Rodgers is desperate for his side to retain possession as much as possible, and technically gifted centre-backs makes this far easier. The reason Rodgers sees Skrtel as surplus to requirements is not because of his defensive attributes, but because he can’t pass the ball well.
Rodgers wants options in his Liverpool squad – and with these new signings, he’s got them. Sakho is a left-footer, and although his natural positing is at centre-back, he can play left-back too. With Jose Enrique and loan signing Aly Cissokho injury prone, the Reds are more than covered in that position now. Ilori has played in defensive midfield for Sporting’s youth sides, too. A little like David Luiz did at Chelsea under Rafa Benitez, Ilori can add extra cover for the anchorman position in midfield – if Lucas picks up another injury.
Liverpool have all of a sudden gone from being short at the back, to being overloaded with centre-back options. Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori will compete for two spots, with promising youngster Andre Wisdom also capable of playing centre-half. Long-term injury victim Sebastian Coates is surplus to requirements, but with forgotten man Skrtel enjoying a brilliant performance in Liverpool’s win against Manchester United, and Toure starting life at Anfield fantastically – Sakho and Ilori may have to wait before they get the chance to partner Agger at the back. As long as Liverpool carry on winning – this doesn’t matter.
Sakho is just 23-years-old, and Ilori is just 20-years-old, which is young for any footballer, but especially for centre-backs who typically don’t peak until their late twenties. While Sakho will soon be demanding the first-team football his talent certainly deserves, Ilori will be content to develop his skills at the training ground, moulding himself into a Liverpool player during League Cup and FA Cup matches. Agger has entered his peak, and is Liverpool’s leader at the back. With his mentoring alongside either Sakho or Ilori, the new signings will hopefully develop into as good a player as the Dane has at Anfield.