The recent run of form from our club has been nothing short of spectacular having only lost one game in the past seventeen, and I must say, the confidence of the players certainly provides the explanation for this success. The praise (with good reason, mind you) finds its way to the front half of Brendan Rodgers’ 3-4-3, while I believe the credit starts at the back. Simon Mignolet and his corps of defenders may have sputtered early on in the season, but have done a proverbial 180° to help the Belgian keeper gain his 9th clean sheet in the Premier League with the 2-0 victory at Southampton. Liverpool have not conceded a league goal away from home since December. Mignolet citing his fiancée’s advice as the words of wisdom to kick start this turnaround when she asked, “Simon, are you sometimes over-thinking stuff?” Since the Boxing Day inquisition, the 26 year old keeper has helped his defensive mates to keep five clean sheets over the last nine matches.
There are two strapping young lads that have stood guard in front of Mignolet by the names of Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel. The duo have been as strong a force as any since the formation change and Sakho’s return from a thigh injury. Mamadou has given the Liverpool defense a bit of an edge on the left side of the back line with his creative footwork in possession as well as his unorthodox left-footed passes. That type of play may leave some supporters a bit unnerved, but some believe that his creativity as a defenseman permeates the formation as we build from the back. He has completed 89% of his passes with over 55 successful attempts per game and over 1,000 on the season in Premier League play. The only Liverpool the defender with a better completion rate would be none other than our very own Martin Skrtel.
The 30 year old Czechoslovakian center back has played his quick, aggressive style of football that landed him in Anfield since his arrival in 2008. Skrtel’s run of form in recent weeks is making strikers around the league think twice before making their way to the middle of the pitch. He plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder and that sort of controlled aggression is exactly what helps make keeper’s lives much easier. With 28 blocked shots and over 200 clearances in Barclays Premier League play this season, Martin Skrtel has been a defensive rock at the back. No player in the top 7 of the Premier League averages more clearances per 90 minutes than Martin Skrtel. His method of operation throughout his career came to the aid in a match against Arsenal in which he suffered a head wound and scored a thunderous header off a corner in the 96th minute. His relentless will is a staple of Anfield and in many ways a microcosm of what it means to be a Liverpool footballer. While the headlines hopefully remained stained with ink of “Sturridge” and “Balotelli” and other offensive driving players let us not forget who is watching their backs. The defense of this team is as much a part of the success as the goals going in on the other end of the pitch.