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Mamadou Sakho Cements His Place

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After missing out on each of Liverpool's previous four matches, Mamadou Sakho was finally given another chance against West Ham, producing a confident and commanding display that should lead to a regular spot at the heart of Liverpool's defense.

Clive Brunskill

Watching Liverpool's central defensive merry-go-round has been an interesting experience. The year started solidly enough, with Kolo Toure and Daniel Agger keeping two clean sheets before Toure's injury brought a newly confident Martin Skrtel in against Manchester United. Skrtel and Agger did well in the 1-0 victory, which was played at Anfield in front of Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori, the former of whom would go on to cameo as a fullback before settling into a three-man back line and, in the shadow of his qualification heroics with France, drop out of the side completely.

That led to plenty of hand-wringing about his status at the club, with some quick to place him in the same category as the ill-fated Nuri Sahin, while others incorrectly attributed his lack of starts to being "one for the future" despite his manager clearly stating otherwise, and other still noting that he's dealing with young children at home and simply hasn't been fit to start.

Whatever the case, he made his return on Saturday afternoon against West Ham, with Rodgers opting for yet another change as Daniel Agger was ruled out through an illness that's frequently been placed in quotations by those quick to stir the pot further. Unfortunate for the Dane, but Sakho's inclusion was one that we'd all been waiting for, and the commanding defender didn't disappoint.

It would be hard to highlight any one area in which he underwhelmed; he was strong in the tackle, willing to challenge in the air, smart in his reading of the match, and comfortable with the ball at his feet. He put only one pass wrong on the day and got forward well, adding to Liverpool's dominance and pressure higher up the pitch during their most successful spells. And with the home side needing to add to their lead he bundled one in off his knee, ending up in the right place at the right time, just as he did for France in their qualification-sealing second-leg victory over Ukraine.

And, if we're looking objectively at Liverpool's reality in central defense, this should all add up to a spot in the starting eleven until fitness or form suggest otherwise. He's the best in the squad at the current time, and that's something Liverpool need Brendan Rodgers to recognize. Who joins him is another discussion, though Rodgers seems fond enough of Martin Skrtel that he's first-choice for the foreseeable future. Yesterday's performance should see Mamadou Sakho afforded similar status.