Less than a week remains for Liverpool to make improvements to their already performing squad, with Brendan Rodgers looking to be in the market for an additional central defensive option. Kolo Toure has proved to be an inspired signing in the opening matches of the Premier League season, but the Merseyside club have been heavily linked with two relatively young centre-halves, and both of which are open to summer transfers. Mamadou Sakho, 23-year-old product of the PSGs youth system seems to be in the process of being forced out of the star-studded Ligue 1 project, according to The Daily Mail. Toby Alderweireld, another of the golden Belgian generation, has been open to the idea of leaving Ajax during the entire transfer window, the Daily Mirror report that the Reds are monitoring him.
Rodgers would certainly be picking up two very different styles of defender, but which would benefit Liverpool most in what their boss is trying to achieve?
Toby Alderweireld is a talented ball-playing defender, schooled in the technique and execution of passing from his nine years at Ajax. Throughout the reigning Dutch champions’ first four matches of the Eredivisie season, the Belgian has posted pass completion of 91% – which isn’t all that impressive. Mamadou Sakho, in the entirety of last season, managed to complete 92% of his passes, but the real difference in the frequency in which Alderweireld sees and distributes the ball. Over the course of PSG’s title-winning season, Sakho made just over 1000 successful passes in 27 appearances and had a forward pass accuracy of 90%, which is better than any Ligue 1 player who attempted over 1000 passes. While Alderweireld has managed just shy of 300 in merely four games. Immensely comfortable on the ball, whether he is positioned centrally or at right-back, the 24-year-old would slot excellently into Liverpool’s defensive options. Rodgers’ passing philosophy might be considered a tad slow and boring at times, but Alderweireld certainly has the right skill set to retain possession, and the willingness to always make himself an option.
With an average of nine Defensive Actions per game last season, Sakho is more of a raw, physical leader of the back four, rather than a cultured ball-playing centre half. Possessing pace and strength, and also the height to be quite successful aerially, the 23-year-old would be a more defensively minded and limited defender, and wouldn’t be as readily involved in build-up play as Alderweireld would likely be. Making 44 interceptions in 27 games, however, Sakho would aid Liverpool in terms of winning possession back to fuel their monopolising of the ball, and with 169 clearances due to his reasonable reading of play, he could be a long-term dependable Anfield stalwart. After all, he was named as PSG’s youngest ever captain, and these leadership qualities would be inevitably useful if he made the switch to the Premier League.
For the price, either centre-half would be a great addition to Liverpool’s squad as they embark on their exploits to achieve European football. With both available for under £10m, neither player is a huge outlay, with Sakho supposedly keen to leave due to being entirely left out of PSG’s first-team squads for the beginning of the season. While, Alderweireld has already turned down a move to Norwich City this summer, but the Premier League looks to be the preferred destination for the Belgium international, so there is definite room for Liverpool to turn the player’s head. Both defenders would offer something entirely different to Liverpool, yet neither player would be a bad signing.
Sakho would bring pace and power, as well as impressive leadership qualities for a young man. Add to this his presumable desire to prove PSG wrong for letting him go, and the Frenchman is a very interesting signing that could look to have an impact in his first season at Anfield. His physical attributes would stand him in good stead, while his ability to read play should result in a good number of interceptions to supply Rodgers’ passing philosophy with plenty of the ball. Toby Alderweireld is arguably one of the best ball-playing defenders in the world, and should slot effortlessly into Liverpool’s style of keep-ball. Receiving plenty of the ball and re-distributing it with frightening accuracy. Furthermore, throw in the fact the Belgian is comfortable at right-back, not merely centre-half, and Alderweireld would be useful in a crowded club calendar should Liverpool get back into Europe for next season.
Either would be great, but Toby Alderweireld looks to be the player that would make most sense for Liverpool. A ball-playing defender of his stature looks to be the perfect fit for Rodgers’ football. Following Sebastian Coates’ injury, Liverpool need an extra face in the centre of defence to ensure that the Merseyside club are well stocked for the season, and the Ajax man would be the best man to fill that very gap.