Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers continued to strengthen his defence on Monday with the acquisition of Mamadou Sakho from Paris Saint-Germain. Having signed a long-term contract, the 23-year-old arrives for a reported £15m fee in what is a real statement of intent from the Merseyside outfit as they look to kick on from their 100% start to the season.
One of eight summer signings for the Reds, Sakho reckons that, despite the significant outlay for his services, he’ll have to battle to nail down a regular role:
“In a large club, having competition is something you expect. To get the best out of any player, you need to have competition. Competition doesn’t give me any worries. Competition makes the team grow and makes the club grow because that’s the objective and the goal of everyone here. I’ve been at Melwood for a day and it’s very good. The training areas are impressive and everything is in place for the players to keep in top condition. I’m delighted to be here. I’d like to thank everyone for the welcome. I came here because the project that is in place at Liverpool interests me. I’m really looking forward to playing my first game.”
A produce of the PSG youth academy, Sakho’s career at the Ligue 1 club kicked off back in 2007. Having made 12 appearances in his first season, the six foot two defender cemented a role as a first-team regular the following term and over the course of his six years in the French capital, played a total of 151 league games, scoring seven times and supplying a pair of assists.
Sakho – who can also fill in at left-back – was voted the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year in 2010/11 and was a crucial part of the side that won the French title under Carlo Ancelotti in the season gone by. He has also represented his country at youth level a total of 11 times and has turned out for the French senior side on 14 occasions.
Despite Kolo Toure’s impressive couple of opening displays and Martin Skrtel’s resilient showing against United last weekend, it seems almost inevitable that both will fall behind Sakho in the pecking order. The Ivorian’s current groin problem has already cast doubts over his ability to remain injury-free and it may well be that Rodgers sees him as experienced back-up option for Sakho or Agger over domestic cup matches, while Skrtel now looks fourth-choice, having been benched for Toure over the pre-season programme.
In a telling interview with the club’s official website, Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre revealed the characteristics that persuaded Rodgers to pursue the 23-year-old:
“Sakho is a top, top centre-half and that adds to the great centre-back pairings that we have already and it will give that depth. He’s an important marquee signing for us. One of the things that Brendan said was that he wanted to add real depth and strength and Sakho is a Champions League player of great pedigree and experience. I think it’s difficult to imagine anyone filling Jamie Carragher’s shoes, but what the arrival will do is bring huge strength and experience to the squad. I think importantly, when you see him on the pitch, you see that he’s a leader and he’s very strong. The manager wanted to bring leaders and people who could dig in when needed. I think when our fans get to see Sakho in action, they’ll see he’s definitely got all of those characteristics.”
Strong in the air and on the ground, with a superb distribution rate, Sakho seems the ideal fit for Rodgers’ possession-based tactics. The only downside is both he and Agger are predominantly left-footed, making them less of a natural partnership than Toure and the Dane – nevertheless, for £15m the Frenchman hasn’t come to warm the bench ahead of a World Cup year. There’s also perhaps the possibility of an occasional switch to a three-man backline – a tactic Rodgers trialled on one or two occasions last term, with a 3-4-3 system also tested during a few of his final matches in charge at Swansea.
Coming in at 5.5 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL), 6.6 in the Sky Sports game and 3.5 in the Sun Dream Team, Sakho looks bound to earn plenty owners before the domestic program resumes. With Agger, Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique all priced at 6.0 in FPL, the Frenchman is set to hand us a cheap route into the Reds’ back-four (albeit one that is still more costly than Toure’s 5.0), though Johnson’s current ankle complaint is one to monitor, with Andre Wisdom or Martin Kelly (both 4.4 in FPL) set to benefit if the right-back is ruled out for any length of time. The new Bonus Points System ruling also seems tailor-made for the likes of Sakho’s style of play, with his presence at the back likely to Liverpool’s chances of surpassing the 16 clean sheets harvested in Rodgers’ first season at the helm.
Ahead of an eye-catching run of fixtures (swa, SOT, sun, CPL, new, WBA ) investment in a defence that has already kept Christian Benteke and Robin Van Persie at bay in back-to-back matches looks a wise move, with many even tempted to double up, such has been the Reds’ resilience. With Rodgers’ side devoid of European duties this term, the focus is fully on nailing down a top four finish – a lack of rest and rotation could also benefit Liverpool’s main Fantasy assets and will likely bring Sakho onto the radar for wildcard-wielding Fantasy managers over the current international break.