The plaudits may have gone to the likes of Luis Suarez and Jordan Henderson in the aftermath of Liverpool’s crushing 5-0 win over Premier League rivals Tottenham, but Martin Skrtel‘s renaissance continued with another fine defensive display.
Brendan Rodgers will have been pleasantly surprised by the Slovakian’s timely return to form this season as they push for a place in next year’s Champions League, forcing club vice-captain Daniel Agger out of the starting line-up.
The centre-back has formed a steely defensive partnership with summer signing Mamadou Sakho, adding an uncompromising outlook to the Liverpool defence which leaked one too many goals in the early stages of the season.
But the Reds’ defence has improved with the introduction of the Skrtel-Sakho partnership, and are currently the joint fourth best in the league in terms of goals conceded, on par with fellow high-flyers Manchester City and Chelsea with 18.
Only Arsenal, Everton and Southampton have done better, thanks to Skrtel’s robust displays in recent games.
The Slovakia international still carries an element of risk to his game, though, having conceded two own-goals in the last four games, but his overall defensive showings outweigh the negatives.
He continues to impose himself on opposing defenders in aerial duels with a 68 percent success, a strong aspect of his game and one that Liverpool will continue to rely on in the second half of the season.
Skrtel’s sense of timing in the tackle could be better with just a 54 per cent success rate, but he has improved his all-round game immensely with a 91 per cent pass completion rate.
It was assumed by many observers that the centre-back was not a natural fit for Rodgers’ style of football, and the writing was on the wall for club fans after the summer spending spree on new centre-backs Sakho, Kolo Toure and Tiago Ilori.
But Skrtel knuckled down and fought his way back into the team ahead of his more illustrious peers and cemented a place as one of the first names on the team sheet for Liverpool.
In fact, his revival has prompted a debate amongst the Reds supporters over the possibility of off-loading the injury-prone Agger in the January transfer window.
The fact that Liverpool are seemingly prepared to enter life without Agger, for so long considered the club’s finest centre-back, is the biggest compliment anyone could pay to Skrtel.