“Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel have been two of our best players. I’ve got to wait my turn, just as other players had to wait their turn when I’d been playing for so long.” – Jamie Carragher

It is clearly indicative of how times have changed at Merseyside over the past few years. Owners, managers and players have come and left Anfield and each incumbent has had an impact in his own capacity during this time.Ai??Few have failed to live up to expectations while some have surpassed them by leaps and bounds.

In this melee of highs and lows at Liverpool Football Club, one player probably deserves praise to the maximum at the present ai??i?? Martin Skrtel. After all, you do not get to kindly oust Jamie Carragher from his rightful place and leave him waiting on the bench everyday.

Pre-Liverpool Days

Looks, tattoos and defensive abilities have grown day-by-day for Martin Skrtel, ever since his arrival from Zenit Saint Petersburg in the winter of 2008. Looking back into the pages of history a little bit, Skrtelai??i??s carrier kicked off at native club FK AS Trencin where he notched up 45 games as he grew from being 17 to 20 years old.

Soon after, he was picked up by scouts from Zenit Saint Petersburg as a ai???future starai??i??. It was here that Skrtelai??i??s game took mould and his name was making its way through the corridors of football. The Slovakian completed about 113 appearances for the Russian side when England & Spain came knocking.

A Lot Has Changed

Tottenham, Valencia, Newcastle United and Everton expressed interest in signing Martin Skrtel but Rafa Benitez wasted little time in making a move for the defender. And with that, the most expensive defender to have donned the Liverpool shirt was signed on for a mere 6.5 million pounds.

Skrtel came with quite a reputation at Anfield. He won the Russian Premier League in 2007, along with the ai???Slovak Player of the Yearai??i?? award in the same year and in 2008. He was also listed third in the list of 33 best players in the Russian Premier League following the 2006 season and won the Peter Dubovsky prize in 2005 for the best U-21 footballer. However, with the burden of reputation at a new club, Skrtel wasn’t off to the best of starts on Merseyside.

Early Days & the Havant & Waterlooville Scar

Skrtel was handed his Liverpool debut in the second half against Aston Villa on the 21st of January, 2008 in a fairly decent performance. However, the day the Slovak was handed his first start in the FA Cup encounter against Havant & Waterlooville will be a game to forget for ai???Skrtoai??i??.

Martin Skrtel’s error in a disappointing individual performance gave a team that was 123 places below Liverpool a sniff at victory, before the Reds completed an uneasy win.

ai???On the pitch I didnai??i??t start well either. After the Havant game I went back to my hotel and I knew it was not my best performance. I knew the people were talking about me, saying that I wasnai??i??t good enough for Liverpool and that the club had paid a lot of money for me.ai??? ai??i?? Skrtel

The key takeaway from this incident is that the player immediately admitted his under-par performance. This is vital for any footballer who seeks to improve and earn a good name on the bigger stage. He moved on from the H&W game and concentrated on improving himself right from the beginning.

But the challenges were laid out like a buffet for the Slovak. He arrived in England without any knowledge of the English language, which made it even harder for him to communicate and work on the training ground as well as the pitch. Overcoming that obstacle took quite some time and under the tutelage of Rafa, he also found his defensive game slowly improving.

Injury Spells

Skrtel finished his first season (rather, half of it) with 18 games under his belt and was quick to shadow the unfortunate start to his Liverpool career. However, things were about to take a turn for the worse as Liverpool travelled to Eastlands on October 5th, 2008. Liverpoolai??i??s No.37 suffered a knee injury that ruled him out of action for the next three months.

Patience was the key here as Skrtel’s mental fitness was at test till his physical side improved. Martin took his time to recover from injury while Liverpool were slowly climbing up the ladder and were looking increasingly close to clinching the Premier League title. His return to the first squad was a boost for Rafa as his inventory was once again filled to the brim; something which was a very important precursor for the Spaniard because of his rotation policy. Liverpool failed to win the League that year but everyone knew Martin Skrtel a little better.

After watching Liverpool come second the previous season, many thought the 2009/10 season would be the one that would see a League trophy lifted by the Reds. Well, it wasnai??i??t going to be that way. Liverpool went on a downward spiral instead and were looking increasingly antithetic to the team that sparkled the previous year. Part of this downward spiral was Skrtelai??i??s second injury.

By the time, Liverpool were half way through the 2009/10 season, Skrtel had developed quite a reputation for himself. He came across as an aggressive, direct and fearless defender with good body strength to muscle off strikers and a decent aerial ability against the comparatively taller attackers. His composure in the box still needed some polishing but there was no doubt that he was getting better. But once again, a metatarsal injury in the game against Unirea Urziceni in Romania presented itself as a barrier in the Slovakai??i??s Liverpoolai??i??s career.

This was a big blow for Liverpool as Sami Hyypia was no longer present and Daniel Agger was battling injuries every now and then. With Skrtel and Carragher the only regular defensive pair left at Rafaai??i??s perusal, the absence of the most expensive defender in Liverpoolai??i??s history really hurt the club as they finished the season in a disappointing seventh spot.

The only silver lining for Martin that year was that for the first time, Slovakia had qualified for the World Cup which gave him a chance to get back to the game before he started thinking about switching over to his second favourite sport ai??i?? ice hockey.

2010/11 ai??i?? A Season to Forget, a Season to Remember

Little did one know that Roy Hodgsonai??i??s arrival was the harbinger of one of the most disappointing seasons for Liverpool Football Club. His good work at Fulham was never enough to turn around fortunes at Anfield and it didnai??i??t take long for the Liverpool folklore to take notice of this fact.

In the brief time that he spent at the club, Hodgson employed a more traditional, British-style of football with a deep defensive line. Defenders were more prominent in this style as Hodgson was a believer of creating plays from the deep.

It wasnai??i??t a tactic that worked to Skrtelai??i??s advantage (or to anyone’s, for that matter) since he hadnai??i??t had enough time to get used to Benitezai??i?? style due to his injuries and now had to start over again under Hodgson. His passing game was tested to the limit as he, along with Jamie Carragher, had to be the source of Liverpoolai??i??s attacks.

Although Skrtel started all League matches for Liverpool, he wasn’t yet up to the mark. However, this laid the foundation to what Martin Skrtel means to Liverpool football club today.

Skrtel & Agger ai??i?? Forming a Strong Base

Several great defensive duos have graced the fields of Anfield in the past. The likes of Emlyn Hughes & Phil Thompson, Alan Hansen & Mark Lawrenson and till recently, Sami Hyypia & Jamie Carragher have embellished many famous nights for Liverpool and have served endlessly to the clubai??i??s quest for success. As with any successful football club, each passing era of greats gives way to another. Few would argue that Skrtel and Agger are two names that would fail to join this list of elite partnerships.

Two of the Best

The strength in the partnership between Skrtel and Agger comes from the style of play of these players. Composure and maturity are two attributes you can clearly apply to the duo but Skrtel’s presence on the pitch is largely restricted to the zone he is supposed to be in.

You rarely see him venture out of his centre-back position in an attempt to build an attack. On the other hand, Daniel Agger likes a bit of forward movement in his game and places much faith in the power of his left-foot when he moves ahead on the pitch. This kind of mentality works well for the entire team if they are to press the opposition and maintain a consistency in their pace of attack.

The absence of Jamie Carragher due to injury and the arrival of Steve Clark to improvise Liverpoolai??i??s defense have aided the duo in forging one of the best defensive partnerships in England. Had it not been for Skrtelai??i??s red card against Tottenham early on this season, chances are, Liverpool would be higher up on the table with the best defensive record (Skrtel was employed as a right-back in the game while he actually has a better left-foot).

Skrtel & Agger have worked hard to give Liverpool the second best defence in the League as it stands (behind Manchester City). Going by the past, one still shows fears over Aggerai??i??s fitness, given his susceptibility to injuries. However, the Danish international has done well to feature regularly in Kenny Dalglishai??i??s team albeit fingers will always be crossed when he is on the pitch.

Liverpool is unbeaten at home in all competitions so far this season and is en route to what could be a domestic success after six years. If you are thanking the likes of Lucas, Suarez, Gerrard and Kenny for this, be sure not to forget one Martin Skrtel.

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One Response to “Liverpool’s Corner: Martin Skrtel – Beyond Tattoos, Rise Of A Top Defender”

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  1. dinesh says:

    Well said, one the best CB’s in the premier league and also scores goals from corners…. Long may it continue… Excellent article as well. Have been following this site for a long time.. Cheers :)