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Mamadou Sakho "Failing to Impress", Joins List of Players with Uncertain Futures

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With the transfer window just over a week away, lists are being drawn up as managers and their transfer committees determine who gets to stay and who might move on. At Liverpool, the club's entire back line and two keepers are under scrutiny.

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Liverpool's defense has been questionable for three seasons now, to varying degrees of magnitude and with varying degrees of effect on the club's ultimate place in the table. It's something that's needed sorting every year during Brendan Rodgers' tenure, and now the Telegraph are reporting that upwards of twelve defensive players have uncertain futures on Merseyside.

Not unlike when it was reported last May that fifteen players could be leaving an incredibly thin Liverpool side, it's unlikely all twelve (or even half that number) will move on in January. Some are merely out of contract in the near-ish future, while others haven't yet impressed Brendan Rodgers.

  • Out of contract, summer 2015: Kolo Touré, Glen Johnson, Jon Flanagan, Brad Jones
  • Out of contract, summer 2016: Martin Skrtel
  • Failing to impress: Simon Mignolet, Mamadou Sakho, Jose Enrique
  • Out on loan: Sebastian Coates (Sunderland), Andre Wisdom (West Brom), Tiago Ilori (Bordeaux)
  • On loan at Anfield: Javier Manquillo

Players out on season-long loans aren't likely to do much moving during the January transfer window, unless there is an emergency recall. Javier Manquillo seems to have found himself on the bench more often than not lately, but the odd nature of his two-year loan suggests that sending him home after six months would mean something had gone terribly, horribly wrong with his development, which doesn't yet look to be the case.

Glen Johnson's departure is almost certain, but with Jon Flanagan available as depth in either fullback position, it's not exactly a crisis situation. Flanagan himself was rumoured earlier this fall as to having signed a contract extension, and while that hasn't yet been the case, there haven't been any indications that the club won't be offering him one nor that the player would refuse to sign one. Jose Enrique may have failed to impress thus far, although it's hard to see how he could have one way or the other given his lengthy injury layoff.

Kolo Touré was brought in as free elderly depth last season and was never meant as a long-term solution at centre back. That he's often acquitted himself well this season might help him earn a one-year extension, but if not he wasn't a player purchased with a view to the club's future in the first place. Martin Skrtel has been one of the first names on the team sheet for Brendan Rodgers for the past two seasons, and it's hard to see that changing any time soon.

The two names that stand out as legitimately concerning are of course Simon Mignolet and Mamadou Sakho, both "failing to impress" evidently. Much has been made of Mignolet's unceremonious and indefinite benching in favour of back-up 'keeper Brad Jones. Liverpool could certainly improve on the Belgian's talents in January, but it won't be clear whether his "time away from the spotlight" will have had the desired effect on his performances until Brendan Rodgers chooses to put him back into the lineup for a run of matches.

Sakho has cut a divisive figure amongst Liverpool fans, with some rating him as the club's top defender with just as many others not understanding what all the fuss is about. Sakho's Liverpool career to this date has been mired by injury and unfortunate stays on the bench, with the player potentially suffering due to being a transfer committee buy rather than someone Rodgers had his eye on (or so the theory goes). But with a strong World Cup behind him and a strong return to the squad in the wake of Dejan Lovren's groin injury, it's tough to see how Sakho has failed to impress, not least of all because he hasn't had all that many opportunities.

The one name notably missing from Liverpool's list of defenders with unclear futures is, of course, Dejan Lovren. Lovren has had a notably poor start to his Liverpool career and whether that's due to not having a strong enough defensive midfielder in front of him, his own tendency to maraud around the pitch wherever he pleases, or other odd defensive choices, it's clear he remains a Brendan Rodgers favourite. It's rare that a player gets sold after only being with a club for six months, of course, but in a season that already saw Daniel Agger shunted aside to make way for the Croatian, it would be a hard pill to swallow if Mamadou Sakho was the next to give way in his favour as well.

The ins and outs of the transfer window are dramatic and make for good news, but the one thing rarely considered in the midst of all this discussion about bolstering the defense is that Liverpool's back line has been varying degrees of poor for Rodgers' entire tenure. The club has spent tens of millions of pounds bringing in some major reinforcements, but little has changed and it's very possible that no amount of personnel changes will make much of a difference. Perhaps it's not a case of buying yet another defender, but of finding a way to actually make that defense work better as a unit.