Of all the players making up Liverpool's incredible depth at defense, Martin Skrtel has emerged as the man most likely to be named first to Brendan Rodgers' team sheet on the back line. Coming off a solid season where he was Liverpool's most consistently played centre back, the twenty-nine year-old is well aware of the criticisms leveled at him and his colleagues over Liverpool's impressive concession of 51 goals last season. Those criticisms are not entirely fair, though, according to the defender.
"Because we conceded 51 goals," Skrtel explained, "some people are blaming the back four, but it isn’t just about the back line, it is about defending as a team and that’s the big thing that we need to improve. If we do that we will stop people from talking about the defence. If we can do that and also cut out some of the individual mistakes it will make a big difference."
In Defence of Liverpool's Defence
After a disappointing result it's tempting to seek an easy scapegoat. In this case, it's the defence. Yet they're only a symptom of an underlying cause; the result of a gamble that has mostly paid off.
Insert your own "own goal" joke here. Jokes aside, Skrtel's point runs counter to the general media narrative that Liverpool losing the title to Manchester City was strictly about a porous defense. Liverpool were the second best attacking side in the league in 2013/14 in terms of goals scored, and sometimes that results in needing to make some defensive sacrifices in order to secure those heart attacking-inducing 5-3 wins.
"We are a team that likes to attack," Skrtel continued, "and a lot of players like to get forward so that is maybe something that we need to work on because not everyone can go forward, sometimes you have to defend too.
"We’ll see anyway, we will work on it and try to improve it. As players we are not happy with that record but we know the direction we were going in as a team last season and we will try to improve on that in the new one."
The aggressively attacking style implemented by Brendan Rodgers is never going to be one that racks up match after match of cagey 1-0 wins. The purchase of Emre Can has gone a long way to restore faith that Liverpool's midfield might do something defensive once in a while, and a greater sensitivity to the necessity of supporting the centre backs when the fullbacks get forward should both shave at least a few goals off the total conceded last season. With any luck, Brendan Rodgers will be able to find a balance that was often missing last year, without also sacrificing any the entertaining quality of his team's performances.