Daniel Agger arrived at Liverpool in 2006 from Brondby for a fee of 6 million Pounds. His growth at Liverpool has been apparent and many consider him to be one of, if not the best central defender in the Premier League. However, his career in Merseyside has been plagued with injuries that have left him on the sidelines for much of the time he has been there. Liverpool supporters have been patient though; as they were with Torres and are with Steven Gerrard for example. The reason? Because, bar the injuries, most Liverpool supporters would agree he makes it into their top 10 lists of central defenders currently playing around the world.
Life can be unfortunate sometimes though. We can only dream about what the papers and media would say had Daniel remained injury free all these years. I personally believe he would’ve been labeled a world class talent. But step away from the written plaudits for a moment and try to imagine the difference he could’ve made for Liverpool FC on the pitch these past 5 years. He has always made the most of the limited playing time he has had and stunned the supporters with strong and consistent performances. Within the last 5 years however, Liverpool have often let leads slip, given up early goals, etc. that have seen them slowly slip down the league table. I believe consistent appearances from Daniel would certainly have changed the course of LFC seasons to some degree. The amount is debatable obviously.
We start this analysis with a quick look at Daniel’s appearances for Liverpool. It is quite the roller coaster to say the least. The numbers jump one season only for them to fall down in the following season. This won’t come as a surprise to most Liverpool supporters though. Daniel Agger has been one of the most injury prone players for Liverpool. It hurts a lot more when one considers how well he plays when he does start.
So this brings us to his performances. For those who watch the games, his talent is very apparent. But do the stats back up what a number of us Liverpool fans think? This section will cover that. The following table lists Dan’s defensive stats as well as stats from other central defenders in the league as comparison.
In comparison to other central defenders in the league, Agger has featured for about half the number of minutes as others. There was a stat flying around sometime last season about how Liverpool often had clean sheets whenever he played. This season, Liverpool has had 3 clean sheets when he has been on the pitch. That is, 3 clean sheets in 7 starts which account to a clean sheet every 2.33 games. The only other defenders with a record better than this are Vermaelen and Vidic. However, Vermaelen only has 3 starts in the EPL (fewer for Vidic) so far and that number doesn’t necessarily calculate to an accurate average. Similarly, the number of goals conceded when Agger has been on the pitch measures at 0.57/game. Vidic measured in at 0.33/game though he has played for fewer minutes than even Vermaelen.
So in terms of the overall defensive duties then, Agger performs very well in comparison to his compatriots in the league. That is, when he is on the pitch, the team’s defensive record is stellar. There are a couple of points to be noted here. Arsenal took an 8 goal beating from United earlier in the season which does result in some higher numbers. The same can be said for the likes of Terry and Ferdinand.
There is no surprise then that Agger helps Liverpool perform better defensively. His team mate Carragher in comparison, lies behind both him and Skrtel as far as these stats go.
We move on to some of the more individual statistics.
The above graph illustrates certain individual defensive statistics for the players. Considering the comparisons involve a number of very good defenders in the league, it’s no surprise that a lot of the scores are high. However, when placing all three stats on a single graph, it does serve to provide some information regarding deficiencies certain players may have. Consistency is the key here. The ability to perform at a certain level through various facets of the game is a huge positive.
Agger stands out the most for me in this illustration. He isn’t the best in any of the categories, but he maintains a consistent score across the three measures. While Terry has similar consistency, it’s at a much lower score. Agger’s team mate Skrtel scores decently as well. He is the only defender to score above 80% in two categories.
Summarizing what we have till this point, it is clear Agger is a vital part for Liverpool’s success in defensive duties. He is consistent at various aspects of defending and the team’s defensive record is the best when he plays.
We look at positioning next. I believe the interception statistics give a good idea of a defender’s ability to read the game and subsequently position himself well to move into spaces and make interceptions. Agger barely stands out amongst the others in this category. Part of the reason comes down to how a team plays and the dynamic of matches. Koscielny and Vermaelen’s stats however stand out. At over 4 interceptions per game, they eclipse the other defenders in this metric. Agger has made 1.74 interceptions per game for Liverpool in the EPL this season. While a lot lower than the Arsenal boys’ scores, he is the highest scorer in this category amongst the Liverpool defenders; and it isn’t a surprise.
The Liverpool Comparison
Looking at the stats, it’s clear as day who is Liverpool’s best central defender. Not only is Agger the best in the squad, he also measures up well against other top defenders in the league. Having played over 300 fewer minutes than his team mates Carragher and Skrtel, he still managed more ground 50-50s, aerial 50-50s and interceptions. Furthermore, he was generally equal in terms of total tackles, dribbled past more players and lost possession fewer times than his compatriots in fewer games.
As I stated at the beginning of this piece; He has always made the most of the limited playing time he has had and stunned the supporters with strong and consistent performances. The biggest thing to take away from that line and the stats accompanying this piece is that despite all the injuries, he comes back with great performances. In addition, his stats don’t necessarily show any deficiencies caused by a lack of match fitness.
Passing and Attacking Play
Looking at the above table, the most impressive passing and chance stats belong to John Terry. He has the most number of passes, the highest pass completion, the most forward passes and most importantly, has scored 3 goals. A defender that adds towards a team’s attacking play is a great asset. So how does Agger compare to the rest?
At 85% for pass completion, Agger is only better than 4 of the others. 2 of them belong to Liverpool. While Terry leads the group in terms of forward passes, Agger is next in line with 69% of his passes being in the forward direction. Agger has often been described by many as a ‘ball playing’ defender. What that means is that he usually dribbles or makes passes on the ground as opposed to always playing the long ball. As evidenced in the stats, he leads the pack in terms of successful dribbles. He hasn’t created any chances, but he does take shots at goal. At a total of 6 shots, he is tied with Koscielny in this respect.
The above isn’t surprising though. Agger often makes forward drives. He has always seemed comfortable with the ball at his feet and when in possession. Conversely, Skrtel and Carra have often looked a little suspect on the ball and tend to lose possession or make errors when under pressure. Once again, Agger shines over his two team mates.
While there are other passing statistics one can look at, most Liverpool supporters would be very interested in the ones relating to long balls. It will surprise no one that Carra leads the entire list in the total number of long balls. It is a criticism often thrown his way by the fans. Furthermore, his accuracy, while over 50%, barely justifies the frequency with which he does it.
Agger on the other hand has the lowest number of long balls among the Liverpool central defenders. His accuracy on long balls is not terrible either. Even more surprising is Skrtel’s accuracy. He leads the accuracy list along with Ferdinand.
The stats analyzed add to what most Liverpool fans already know. Daniel Agger is Liverpool ‘s best central defender. He also ranks high on the list of central defenders currently playing in the English Premier League.
His injury prone career at Liverpool has definitely prevented him from being labeled as one of the best in the world. However, most Liverpool supporters understand the contribution he makes to the team. Most of us just wish he could get past all the injury issues that have plagued him since his arrival to Anfield.
Agger’s defensive abilities rank up there with the best currently playing. His passing and attacking game isn’t the best in comparison to others in the league, but it isn’t average either. He hasn’t yet provided a goal or created chances that others have this season. It’s not terrible though. It isn’t his duty to do that. Terry for example is probably the best in terms of passing and his attacking abilities; however his defensive abilities haven’t been as good as Agger’s. Agger also possesses a certain consistency that amazes me. He can come back from injury and play at the same level he is known to play at regardless of his ‘match fitness’.
As far as his place at Liverpool, he is a definite starter without a doubt. Interestingly, the stats would suggest Carra should make way for him. When looking at the stats as a whole, it is clear Carra is getting to the point of ‘past it’. Skrtel can be careless, but his stats definitely put him in a position to be the preferred option over Carra.
Finally, it must be said that Agger fits in very well with Kenny’s pass and move strategy. It is a strategy that requires decent passing ability, a good work rate and positional sense. This piece proves that he has those capabilities. Furthermore, I believe it may very well bring out the best in him.
As a Liverpool supporter I truly believe we have one of the best in the world in our squad. Taking his injury record into account, I still wouldn’t sell him despite a lot of the discussions I’ve come across in the last couple of years.
– John Terry’s passing and attacking stats are rather impressive.
– Koscielny has surprised me the most in terms of stats. Seems to be a solid player.
– Kompany has been talked about a lot this season. His stats are decent, but at no point do the stats put him at levels well above others.
– Liverpool’s rumored transfer target Coloccini looks decent. A little inconsistent, but a slight step up from Carra’s current form.