On Sunday, Martin Skrtel won 100% of his challenges on the ground, 100% of his challenges in the air, 100% of his tackles, added a pair of interceptions, and managed to be one of the very few players nobody seemed to think was to blame for Chelsea's goal. John Terry and Frank Lampard won all their aerial challenges; Craig Bellamy and Didier Drogba won all their attempted tackles in attack; and Florent Malouda won all his aerials and tackles. Meanwhile, Skrtel also led both sides in total defensive clearances.
Until recently, most watching remained focused on the shaky season and a half Skrtel had experienced following a strong showing in Liverpool's 2008-09 squad that made it to second in the league. He seemed to have rediscovered at least a portion of his earlier form with the arrival of Kenny Dalglish—and perhaps more importantly the arrival of defensive guru Steve Clarke along with him—yet still did have his share of nervy moments, enough that most weren't entirely willing to forget the preceding stretch. In Liverpool's last three games, though—all of which, perhaps significantly, saw Skrtel paired with Daniel Agger—he's hit a rich vein of form and handed in perhaps his best string of performances in a Liverpool shirt.
After months of fans holding their breath any time Skrtel stuck his leg out to make a challenge in the penalty area, all of a sudden he seems a calm, assured, and confident presence. Now when he stretches to make a last ditch tackle he appears in control, and that he will come away with the ball on his toe seems nearly a foregone conclusion. Before the Chelsea match, 49.5% of Liverpool Offside readers voted in favour of the club moving forward with the pairing of Skrtel and Agger at the back—a crushing plurality more than 25 points ahead of any competitor. If that vote was held again today, the winning margin would be even larger.
Whether his current form can last is anybody's guess, but for the time being it seems safe to say that in recent years Liverpool hasn't looked anywhere near as certain at the back as they do now with Agger and Skrtel starting. Certainly it would seem as though the players, both individually and as a pair, have more than earned an extended run as Liverpool's top defensive duo. And just as certainly, at least as much of that is down to Martin Skrtel as it is to Daniel Agger.
Video by the Red Nigerian