One of the great early season mysteries was the sudden and dramatic disappearance of Mamadou Sakho from the line-up, coinciding with the reemergence of Dejan Lovren. The mystery deepened when the Reds produced three clean sheets on the trot. Seeking to avoid a panic to call Mulder and Scully, Brendan Rodgers spoke out about the newly discovered defensive steel and the two would-be left central defenders.
On Lovren, Rodgers stuck with the tried and true excuse of a difficult adjustment period, but notes he is playing with much more confidence. He's also well aware of the role our more defensively-minded fullbacks have played in creating the stability and cover that both Lovren and Skrtel so desperately needed last campaign:
"Like a lot of players, it was difficult in the first year coming in. There was a lack of stability in the overall group. It was a case of reassuring him that he's still a top-quality player.
"What has really helped him has been the full-backs on either side - how quickly they close the game when we lose the ball, that transition, either to get the ball back or close the space.
"You saw examples from the other night. When the pitch was open we tried to play and when the game breaks down, how quickly it's closed."
Rodgers claims Lovren earned his spot with strong displays during the preseason, and built upon previous comments about wanting a stable back line:
"For him, he's much more patient in his game. He has got the stability of playing. He is now in the team and he's in the team because he had a good pre-season."
The most heartening thing for Rodgers is the defender's commitment on the training ground and toward continual improvement:
"There's no doubt your confidence can be affected but what he has continued to do is to work very hard. He listens and learns. He still knows he needs to improve elements of his game."
As for Sakho?
"Mama is an important part of our squad.
"At the moment he's not in the team but he's working hard in training and hopefully looking to do everything he possibly can so when the opportunity does come - because invariably it does come somewhere in the season - that you're ready to take the opportunity."
Many fans may be clamoring to see #17 instead of #6 occupying the left side of the central defense, but it's hard to argue with the results so far. Seven of nine with three consecutive clean sheets is an impressive feat, one that if offered to us before the Stoke game, we would have taken in a heartbeat.
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