As Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”, and it is with this classic line that he could have so easily have been talking about Liverpool’s Slovakian defender, Martin Skrtel. On his day, he is a Colossus, and at one point a few seasons ago, was arguably the best defender in the league, but more recently we have seen a side of him that makes you wonder how he ever reached the heights that made him Liverpool’s player of the season in 2011/12.
What A Difference A Season Makes
Skrtel had been at Liverpool for a number of years before his excellent season in 2011/12. During this campaign, he was as reliable as you could hope for, making only one error that led to a shot, and none that led to a goal. He was solid, brave and could even pop up with the odd goal. Compare this to last season, when he made three errors that led to shots, of which two led to goals. The error against Manchester City cost Liverpool 2 points that day, which would have been enough to see them finish above local rivals Everton. It wasn’t just his obvious errors that led to goals though, but often he would be found wanting when facing an aggressive attacking threat. Christian Benteke’s second goal in Aston Villa’s 3-1 win at Anfield was a prime example of this. With Benteke bearing down on goal, Skrtel backed off and backed off until Benteke simply ran around him and put the ball in the net.
Whether this drop in form was down to the man himself, or due to a lack of understanding with Daniel Agger after Skrtel had played many games with the defensive leader Jamie Carragher, is something nobody really knows for sure, but having gone from Liverpool’s player of the season to third choice centre back in the space of 12 months is not something that anybody expected.
What next for Martin Skrtel?
Even after the retirement of Jamie Carragher, things were still not looking great for the Slovakian. The arrival and instant impact of Kolo Toure again left Skrtel as third choice centre back, and with other defenders on Brendan Rodgers’ radar, it seemed his days at the club were numbered, especially when ex Reds boss Rafael Benitez was reportedly interested in taking him to Napoli.
But then a spanner was thrown into the works. Toure’s injury against Notts County meant that Skrtel, not long returning from an injury of his own, was thrust into the first team against none other than Manchester United. It’s fair to say that many Liverpool fans were worried about the outcome, but one clean sheet and man of the match performance later, it seemed the old Martin Skrtel was back. 100% of all ground and aerial duels won only goes so far in explaining just how solid his performance can be. With Brendan Rodgers now having plethora of defensive talent at his disposal it’s safe to say that new arrivals Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori, as well as new cult hero Toure, will have a fight on their hands to break into Liverpool’s next starting eleven, and it is because of one man. His name’s Martin, Martin Skrtel, and that’s all I have to say about that.