With Jamie Carragher's form fading gradually over the past few seasons, last year we finally saw a first-choice central defensive pairing that didn't involve the Scouse academy graduate--Daniel Agger was able to maintain a season-long run of fitness, cementing he and Martin Skrtel as the two names in Kenny Dalglish's starting eleven. Carragher remained third-choice and, somewhat frustratingly, kept Sebastian Coates from getting a consistent run of matches, but it was refreshing to see a new partnership emerging, and one that was boosted by Martin Skrtel's best season in a Liverpool shirt.
And now, with both committing their futures to the club longer term, there's the promise of that partnership continuing indefinitely. Both Skrtel and Agger were linked with moves away from Anfield this season; talk of Agger's exit seemed more likely, but in the end the summer window passed with Skrtel having already signed on for four more years and Agger having engineered the stay on Merseyside that he'd wanted, which led to him getting an extension of his own two weeks ago today.
It's a big boost for Skrtel, who's looked more effective with Agger around than without, and he spoke of his delight at the fact that both will be around the club for years to come:
"He has got everything - he is strong, quick, good in the air, great with the ball and has a great shot. He has everything needed to be a top player, and he has shown that.
"I really do enjoy playing with him. It's easy to play with him because he's a top player. The understanding between us is good. I hope we can continue it, improve our partnership and be stronger at the back."
Nothing Skrtel delivers here is a surprise to anyone paying attention, and, at least from the way the early season has gone, we're left hoping that the Slovakian is able to elevate his performances to the level we saw during the last campaign. He's far better with Agger alongside him, which we were able to witness last year and have been reminded whenever Skrtel plays without him. Agger's not perfect by any stretch, but his confidence and composure on the ball seemingly has a calming effect for his partner, who's not necessarily a natural in possession and has been prone to a handful of panicky mistakes thus far this season.
It's undoubtedly good news that both are and will continue to be Liverpool players, although there's going to be a point in the future--possibly the very near future--that we start to have a discussion about Sebastian Coates consistently challenging for a spot in the starting eleven. Maybe too early for that conversation right now, and he's certainly got some growing to do, but his strengths are in the areas that Skrtel struggles, and if he continues to perform when given the opportunities in the cups it's going to be hard to argue that he and Daniel Agger wouldn't be Liverpool's best option in central defense.