What did Liverpool's centre-backs do differently against Southampton compared to Swansea?

Agger And Skrtel

Liverpool were criticised in their 4-3 win against Swansea, yet looked fairly solid in a 3-0 win over Southampton. What do the stats say?

Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel came in for a lot of criticism after Liverpool’s 4-3 win over Swansea City recently. It was a game that was not exactly high in terms of quality defending.

Agger was hauled off after an hour, while Skrtel put through his own net and conceded a penalty, meaning neither of them covered themselves in glory.

However, their performance in the 3-0 away win against Southampton was much more assured. Though the home side had chances, they failed to finish, and a lot of the chances created were more down to the home side's play rather than poor defending from Liverpool’s centre-back duo.

So what did both Skrtel and Agger do differently at St Mary’s this weekend compared to the game against Swansea City last week?

NameMatchMatchdayTeamPosPoss Lost AllMins
Martin Skrtel Southampton vs Liverpool 28 Liverpool DF 10 90
Martin Skrtel Liverpool vs Swansea 27 Liverpool DF 9 90
Daniel Agger Liverpool vs Swansea 27 Liverpool DF 7 63
Daniel Agger Southampton vs Liverpool 28 Liverpool DF 2 90

Both of the players had seven passes that went astray against Swansea, a total of seven passes from each of them getting dispossessed. Skrtel isn't a ball-playing centre half, and with less possession against Southampton he still managed to misplace the same amount as the previous weekend.

One thing that may surprise fans is that Skrtel lost possession more against Southampton than Swansea, but that may be because he isn't - as stated - the 'ball playing' defender that Daniel Agger is. Agger's display was much improved in possession against the Saints, having only conceded possession twice in entire 90 minutes compared to the seven in the 63 minutes when he was on the field against Swansea.

NameMatchMatchdayTeamPosDuel WonMins
Martin Skrtel Southampton vs Liverpool 28 Liverpool DF 6 90
Daniel Agger Southampton vs Liverpool 28 Liverpool DF 3 90
Daniel Agger Liverpool vs Swansea 27 Liverpool DF 3 63
Martin Skrtel Liverpool vs Swansea 27 Liverpool DF 2 90

Skrtel was back to his more aggressive self against the Saints. While Wilfried Bony seemed to give the Slovakian a lot of trouble for Swansea, Skrtel seemed to relish the duels with the Southampton forwards that rotated throughout the game. Southampton's forwards did at times drop deep in between the lines to receive the ball, but Skrtel seemed to excel when up against the likes of Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert.

Another factor in the more solid defensive display was the amount of clearances made.

Liverpool knew that Southampton were going to play fairly high up the field in order to combat their style of playing out from the back, in order for them to win the ball high up the field. Though Southampton enjoyed some good possession - in the first half especially - Skrtel's attitude was certainly a more direct one of getting the ball to the other end of the field for Liverpool to try to press or to clear any immediate danger.

NameMatchMatchdayTeamPosTotal ClearanceMins
Martin Skrtel Southampton vs Liverpool 28 Liverpool DF 15 90
Martin Skrtel Liverpool vs Swansea 27 Liverpool DF 6 90
Daniel Agger Southampton vs Liverpool 28 Liverpool DF 5 90
Daniel Agger Liverpool vs Swansea 27 Liverpool DF 4 63

It may have been a simple change of game-plan combined with some decent man management from Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers that led to a more solid defensive performance from Skrtel and Agger. Whether they can keep it up remains to be seen.

image: © jbj

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