£18 million defender should be first choice for Liverpool - Here's why

With Mamadou Sakho finally fully fit, the stats show he should be Liverpool's first-choice centre-back.

The Frenchman, who joined Liverpool from Paris Saint-Germain for a reported fee of £18 million in the summer, is now available for selection after recovering from a leg injury he sustained in December.

Sakho was on the bench for the Reds during their 3-0 win over Manchester United but did not come on to play any part in the victory. Now, though, the 24-year-old is ready for battle as Liverpool look to secure Champions League football for next season - and possibly win their first league title since 1990.

The defender is unlikely to slot straight back into a team that has kept back-to-back clean sheets away from home, with Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel forming a strong partnership at present.

But, according to Opta stats, Sakho has not only had a better season than Agger in a number of key areas - but Skrtel, as well. Should the Frenchman, then, be considered Brendan Rodgers' first-choice centre-back once he gets back into the team?

NameWon Tackle / appsEffective Clearance / appsInterception Won / appsError Lead To GoalAerial Won / appsApps
Mamadou Sakho 1.67 8.08 2.08 0 2.75 12
Kolo Touré 1.47 7.47 0.79 2 2.26 19
Martin Skrtel 1.00 11.48 1.70 1 3.44 27
Daniel Agger 0.93 5.33 0.93 0 2.40 15

As the statistics show, Sakho - having played less games than his rivals for a first-team spot - wins more tackles per game on average and more interceptions than any other Liverpool centre-back.

And when it comes to aerial duels won per game and effective clearances, the 24-year-old is second only to Skrtel. He is also yet to commit a direct error that leads to a goal.

Statistically, then, Sakho's place in the Liverpool starting XI should be virtually guaranteed.

There are, however, a number of other factors to consider. Statistics alone should never be the basis of an important decision and, initially, the partnership of the 29-year-old Skrtel and Denmark defender Agger is a well-rehearsed one.

Both centre-backs are used to playing with each other, especially having played alongside one another in the Reds' most recent wins. On top of that, though, the duo have years of experience in the Liverpool back line.

And then there are the aspects of Sakho's game that the stats don't quite show. Indeed, the Frenchman has often looked too keen in possession and subsequently taken a bad touch here or there that has, often, cost his side.

While he is yet to make a blatant mistake that leads to a goal, meanwhile, Sakho has often been too afraid to make a challenge and trailed too far back, simply allowing his runner to go at him unopposed.

Overall, however, the man that set Liverpool back £18 million has come good in his first season. And the stats don't lie.

If Agger isn't at his absolute best, it could be a natural transition for Sakho to reclaim his first-team spot at Anfield - and not let it go.

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