By Chris Rowland.
We asked the Symposium panel this week whether the centre back pairing at Preston might be our first choice pairing this season. This is what they had to say:
Paul Grech: When it was announced that Kolo Toure was to join Liverpool, it is fair to say that many reacted with a fair degree of cynicism. Here was a player whose move to Manchester City had been fuelled by money (or, at least, that was the general perception) and who was now looking for his final big pay-day.
And that might well be the case but a desire to make money does not mean an absence of motivation or desire to win. If anything, in leaving Arsenal Toure had shown foresight in recognising that his former club was going down a path that would lead to little success whilst his decision to join Liverpool offered a chance to remain at a club with ambition to win.
Most certainly, he doesn’t look like a player happy to sit on the bench earning money for nothing. His speed, although it has diminished, marks him as a better option than Martin Skrtel to play in the high defensive line that Brendan Rodgers prefers.
He also has the ability to orchestrate defences that is otherwise limited amongst Liverpool’s defenders. With him it is unlikely that someone like Christian Benteke will simply walk through Liverpool’s back four.
Even though the rumours linking Liverpool to Schalke 04’s Kyriakos Papadopoulos have died down, the indications still are that Liverpool will look to buy another central defender this summer. That would change the whole make up of the back four but, in the absence of that signing, Toure seems to fit better into what Rodgers wants to achieve than Skrtel ever did.
Dave Cronin: While I’m not opposed to the idea of Agger and Toure becoming established as the first choice centre back pairing next season, I’d be pretty disappointed if that was the club’s ‘Plan A’. Both have proven to be highly capable in the past but both have big question marks hanging over them individually after last season and we won’t know how they click as a partnership until we try it.
Agger was a big disappointment last campaign, being out-muscled and out-jumped when defending set pieces and being left for dead by basic movement of opposing strikers – notably in games in Manchester. While Skrtel was widely scapegoated, I don’t think there was much between Skrtel and Agger in the first half of the season and ultimately Agger kept his place because of his superior ball playing skills.
Toure, meanwhile, struggled for games at City last season and his profile suggests he should be replacing Carragher as the experienced back up rather than being an automatic first choice.
After the way Coates and Skrtel were treated last season, it’s hard to envisage either offering competition for first team places so I hope to see us bring in at least one first team ready centre back before the start of the season.
Ultimately, I don’t mind who are the first choice centre backs as long as they are selected on merit ahead of credible challengers for their places and not because they represent the best of a fairly poor bunch.
Daniel Rhodes: If defenders are supposed to ripen with age, then replacing Carragher with Toure is a brilliant piece of business. Nevertheless, replacing Carragher with Toure in a team that had lost all its defensive confidence when our ex-vice captain was reintroduced into the first eleven, isn’t so clever.
We need a long term replacement not only for Carragher but also for Skrtel and Coates – neither of whom seem to impress Rodgers, and are likely to leave this summer. If they stay, then forcing the two younger players to compete with Toure could be a positive.
If the manager also believes we don’t need to sign a long-term replacement because Kelly and Wisdom (even if Coates goes) are the best options open to him, then again, Toure and Agger makes sense. But, all of this is in theory. Toure could be a disaster. Agger could get injured. Coates and Skrtel could be shipped out and we’d be left with two young (ish) kids with very little experience in the heart of the defence. Not good at all. All suspicions about Rodgers’ defensive fallibilities will resurface, and rightly so if the above sequence of events pans out.
So ideally, we invest a large chunk of cash in the best central defender that is available to us; a player with experience, but also the potential to improve and learn from Agger/Toure
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