Liverpool have completed some shrewd acquisitions to their squad during the summer transfer window, especially in defense. The Reds looked vulnerable in defense this pre-season with the loss of Jamie Carragher to retirement earlier in the summer, and with the recent news of Sebastian Coates suffering a season-ending injury while on international duty, it didn’t look all too bright in the back.
Liverpool looked short of center-backs with only Martin Skrtel, Martin Kelly, and Andre Wisdom able to partner Daniel Agger in central defense, but the addition of Kolo Toure on a free transfer from Manchester City has added quality and experience to their defensive line. Liverpool added another two defenders on the last day of the transfer window with the signings of Tiago Ilori from Sporting Lisbon and Mamadou Sakho from Paris Saint Germain. Ilori is only 20 years old but stands at 6′ 3″ and is very quick, while 23 year-old Sakho is a French international that has made 14 appearances for his country and has played 151 times for Paris Saint Germain. Tiago Ilori might not go straight into the team and be a certain prospect for the future, but Sakho could easily become a regular starter for Liverpool this season.
Sakho is still very young but is also very experienced. He plays primarily as a center-back but can also play as a left-back if necessary. He is renowned for his leadership and hard-working attitude as well as his great tackling abilities. Sakho is an intimidating sight – standing at 6′ 2″ – and almost always has an eccentric hair style. The French International made his debut for Paris Saint Germain in October of 2007 when manager Paul Le Guen gave the defender his first chance. On his league debut, he became the youngest ever player to captain a Ligue 1 club after wearing the armband in the club’s 0-0 draw with Valenciennes.
Sakho’s playing style is often compared to that of former French International Lilian Thuram. He has earned caps and captained France at every youth level before being capped at senior level. Sakho helped lead Paris Saint Germain to their 2008 Coupe de la Ligue victory after playing the full 90 minutes in a 2-1 win over Lens. The victory earned Sakho his first major trophy of his career, and he made a total of 16 appearances during the season.
The following season Sakho madea much-larger 34 appearances and helped Paris Saint Germain to second in the league. The defender has a wealth of experience for someone so young and Liverpool have targeted him as the ideal player for their defense by paying a sum of £16 million for his service. Liverpool are quite a small team in terms of height, which can leave them vulnerable at set-pieces, so Sakho’s physique and height will help Liverpool in these situations.
The leadership that Jamie Carragher gave to the team was so important as most of Liverpool’s defenders are quiet, so Sakho will be a great replacement for Carragher’s leadership skills, as he is very good at organizing the back line. Liverpool have struggled against big, powerful strikers during the last couple of seasons, so Mamadou Sakho’s arrival will help deal with that problem because he is a physical defender who is not scared to put his foot in.
Liverpool’s squad is looking stronger this season with the wonderful additions that Brendan Rodgers has made. There is a good mix of youth and experience in the squad and plenty of competition for places in every position. During the summer, it looked like Liverpool were going to be very short of defenders and strikers, although the midfield department looked strong. The Reds also looked like they were going to lose their star striker Luis Suarez, so keeping him has been massive achievement for the club as he tried to manufacture a move away for most of the summer. Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool’s owners dealt with Suarez superbly and it seems like he is now happy to stay and continue his career at Liverpool for at least another season.
Liverpool also signed Victor Moses from Chelsea on a season-long loan, which will help Liverpool’s attack and the development of youngsters like Sterling, Ibe and Morgan. But Liverpool’s defense suddenly also looks very strong, with Johnson, Kelly, Flanagan, and Wisdom competing for right-back position and Wisdom, Kelly, Ilori, Sakho, Agger, and Skrtel competing for the two positions in the center of defense. Liverpool also have options at left-back with Enrique and new signing Cissokho when he returns from injury, while there is also the option of switching Glen Johnson to left-back as well.
Liverpool don’t have the added fixtures this season that the inclusion in European competition creates, so that will help Liverpool concentrate on challenging for a top four place. In only Brendan Rodgers’ second season in charge, his team are now starting to take shape after moving players out who don’t suit his style of play and bringing players in that could take Liverpoool forward, and Mamadou Sakho will certainly play a major role in Liverpool’s success.
Written by Jamie McLaughlin