We all have our dead horses to beat when it comes to football. Some follow lesser European leagues in hopes of being the first to recognize an obscure transfer target. Some insist Liverpool should kinda sorta maybe sign a quality left back at some point in their history. Some are convinced Lucas is an attacking midfielder.
Some people just want to watch the world burn.
My dead horse will be of little surprise to anyone who has spent more than five minutes interacting with me: Daniel Agger myth busting. I have no expectation that everyone will love my favourite Liverpool player as much as I do — it pains me, let's be clear, but I understand — but I do have the expectation that criticisms or complaints be ground in reality rather than unsound narrative.
And that's where we find ourselves with the great Dane at the end of the season. By the player's own admission, he had a frustrating year: injuries and a semi-permanent stay on the bench led to significantly decreased playing time as compared to last year, when he made a career high number of appearances for the club.
Agger's injuries over the years have made an indelible mark on the fan subconscious and time and time again, as the transfer rumour mill begins to turn, assertions that Agger missed half the season due to injury have popped up as one of the contributing factors as to why he should be sold sooner rather than later. (And for the right price.) There might be a whole host of reasonable reasons one might be inclined to sell Agger, but missing half the season due to injury is not one of them.
Because, friends, it's simply untrue.
Below is a list of all of Liverpool's competitive matches this season, with Agger's status for each match marked accordingly. Mamadou Sakho's status for each match is also indicated, as the two lefties klaxon was a contributing factor to Agger's reduced playing time this year.
(Apologies to anyone with red/green colourblindness.)
|2013-08-17 - Liverpool v Stoke City (EPL)||CB||N/A|
|2013-08-24 - Aston Villa v Liverpool (EPL)||CB||N/A|
|2013-08-27 - Liverpool v Notts (League Cup)||CB||N/A|
|2013-09-01 - Liverpool v Man Utd (EPL)||CB||N/A|
|2013-09-16 - Swansea v Liverpool (EPL)||not in lineup||CB|
|2013-09-21 - Liverpool v Southampton (EPL)||CB||LB|
|2013-09-25 - Man Utd v Liverpool (League Cup)||not in lineup||CB|
|2013-09-29 - Sunderland v Liverpool (EPL)||unused sub||CB|
|2013-10-05 - Liverpool v Crystal Palace (EPL)||subbed on at 67'||CB|
|2013-10-19 - Newcastle v Liverpool (EPL)||unused sub||CB|
|2013-10-26 - Liverpool v West Brom (EPL)||unused sub||CB|
|2013-11-02 - Arsenal v Liverpool (EPL)||unused sub||CB|
|2013-11-09 - Liverpool v Fulham (EPL)||CB||unused sub|
|2013-11-23 - Everton v Liverpool (EPL)||CB||unused sub|
|2013-12-01 - Hull v Liverpool (EPL)||unused sub||unused sub|
|2013-12-04 - Liverpool v Norwich (EPL)||CB||unused sub|
|2013-12-07 - Liverpool v West Ham (EPL)||not in lineup||CB|
|2013-12-15 - Tottenham v Liverpool (EPL)||unused sub||CB|
|2013-12-21 - Liverpool v Cardiff (EPL)||subbed on at 83'||CB|
|2013-12-26 - Man City v Liverpool (EPL)||unused sub||CB|
|2013-12-29 - Chelsea v Liverpool (EPL)||LB||CB|
|2014-01-01 - Liverpool v Hull (EPL)||CB||injured|
|2014-01-05 - Liverpool v Oldham (FA Cup)||CB||injured|
|2014-01-12 - Stoke City v Liverpool (EPL)||injured||injured|
|2014-01-18 - Liverpool v Aston Villa (EPL)||injured||injured|
|2014-01-25 - Bournemouth v Liverpool (FA Cup)||injured||injured|
|2014-01-28 - Liverpool v Everton (EPL)||injured||injured|
|2014-02-02 - West Brom v Liverpool (EPL)||injured||injured|
|2014-02-08 - Liverpool v Arsenal (EPL)||injured||injured|
|2014-02-12 - Fulham v Liverpool (EPL)||CB||injured|
|2014-02-16 - Arsenal v Liverpool (FA Cup)||CB||injured|
|2014-02-23 - Liverpool v Swansea (EPL)||CB||injured|
|2014-03-01 - Southampton v Liverpool (EPL)||CB||not in lineup|
|2014-03-16 - Man Utd v Liverpool (EPL)||CB||unused sub|
|2014-03-22 - Cardiff v Liverpool (EPL)||CB||subbed on at 92'|
|2014-03-26 - Liverpool v Sunderland (EPL)||CB||unused sub|
|2014-03-30 - Liverpool v Tottenham (EPL)||CB||unused sub|
|2014-04-06 - West Ham v Liverpool (EPL)||not in lineup||CB|
|2014-04-13 - Liverpool v Man City (EPL)||unused sub||CB|
|2014-04-20 - Norwich v Liverpool (EPL)||subbed on at 81'||CB|
|2014-04-27 - Liverpool v Chelsea (EPL)||unused sub||CB|
|2014-05-05 - Crystal Palace v Liverpool (EPL)||unused sub||CB|
|2014-05-11 - Liverpool v Newcastle (EPL)||CB||unused sub|
(Stats via Transfermarkt.)
For the sake of simplicity, I've combined a couple of the above categories. Substitute appearances have been folded in with bench appearances owing to how late in the game they tend to occur; not being in the line-up has been folded in with injuries since regardless of the reason for not being available, the player was nonetheless unavailable for duty.
|CB / LB||46.51%||46.15%|
|Unused Sub / Subbed On||30.23%||22.84%|
|Not In Lineup / Injured||23.26%||30.77%|
Agger spent less than 25% of the season injured. He spent more time watching from the bench than he did being absent, and had only one spell where he was injured for more than a single match. Ideally, you prefer that your players are healthy, but the main culprit behind Agger's reduced playing time was not his major injury in January/February but the series of little knocks he took over the course of the season.
Agger missed four non-consecutive matches over the course of the season, and each time he was out of the lineup, on average he spent the next 3.25 games on the bench upon his return to fitness. With both Mamadou Sakho and the team doing well, Brendan Rodgers' alleged policy of continuing with whatever team was getting the job done seems to be true in at least Agger's case. Cut out the knocks and weird weight room injuries, and you don't fall out of the lineup.
A few of other things of note:
- Sakho's first match was a game that Agger missed. The next match, vs Southampton, saw Rodgers try his ALL THE CENTRE BACKS approach with Agger at CB and Sakho at LB. Before Rodgers was forced into deciding which of the two would start at CB vs Man United in the League Cup, Agger re-aggravated the injury that caused him to miss the Swansea match and made Rodgers' decision for him.
- Agger missed the Man United match and then was an unused sub for the next five matches. After the 2-0 loss to Arsenal, Rodgers benched Sakho and started Agger. With the exception of the final match of the season, this marks the only time he's made such a switch without being prompted by injury.
- Agger and Sakho were both on the bench in December vs Hull because reasons.
- Agger was selected as the starting CB against Norwich after the loss to Hull, but illness caused him to miss the next match and he didn't get off the bench again until Rodgers started both Agger (LB) and Sakho (CB) against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Sakho was then injured, preventing Rodgers from having to make a choice as to who would continue as CB.
- There was a run of six games where Skrtel/Touré was the CB pairing. I have zero recollection of this.
- When Sakho returned from his own lengthy injury, Agger was in the midst of his longest stretch of consecutive games this season. (Coincidentally, this was also in the middle of Liverpool's impressive win streak in the league. I digress.) Sakho did not return to the line-up until Agger's knock that prevented him from playing against West Ham.
What's interesting is that Sakho spent a not incomparable amount of time on the bench and injured this season, and just as Agger experienced Sakho's success as a hindrance to his playing time, the reverse also happened at several points in the season. For those who were hoping for competition on the back line, this is what it looks like. In previous seasons, Liverpool's lack of quality depth at CB would have meant Agger waltzed right back into the starting line-up after missing a single match. This year, that wasn't the case. This is a good problem to have, and it's one that will be alleviated by Champions League matches next season when both players will get more chances to play.