With Jamie Carragher set to retire and only Daniel Agger amongst Liverpool's current senior centre backs seeming certain to remain beyond the summer, manager Brendan Rodgers today admitted that strengthening the defence with an eye towards character and organisational ability will be a priority when the transfer window opens.
"We're going to be light in that area," said the manager ahead of Sunday's match against Aston Villa and the final eight games of the Premier League campaign. "We have to assess it between now and the end of the season. That's the one area of the field where we haven't brought anyone in. We've brought midfield players and front players into the group, but as of yet there has been no one in that area.
"We're going to lose Jamie, which is a big loss. There is no player that is irreplaceable but he's a big loss. You see his experience and how he leads the line, and when you're playing as a defender you need someone who is vocal in there who can organise the line. He does that remarkably well. But I've also got really good players here. Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel—we've got some really, really good players.
"We know we need to strengthen the group and that's something we'll look at doing. If it's not something we've got in the group we may need that kind of character who can organise and lead. That's something we'll have a look at."
Suggesting that his existing options beyond Carragher may not offer enough "character" or the ability to marshall the defence certainly seems to only add weight to rumours that Swansea centre back Ashley Williams is at or near the top of the manager's shopping list.
It also has to lead to further doubts about the future of Martin Skrtel in particular. While Rodgers sought to praise him as a "really good player," his admission that he might still have to look elsewhere for attributes that will be missing once Carragher retires does suggest Skrtel would remain no better than third choice should he remain at the club next season.
"I will miss him," added Rodgers, moving from the more theoretical issue of what will have to be done to rebuild the defence as Liverpool move towards a future without Jamie Carragher to talk about the man himself. "He's a good man and a lover of football. He puts everything into his training every day. He's a real role model for all the players—young and senior players.
"He's got eight games left and let's not write him off yet. He's still fit and strong. We missed his leadership qualities at Southampton and he'll come back into the squad for the weekend."
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