Russ Wareing discusses the varying opinions of Liverpool’s French Centre-Back, Mamadou Sakho.
Despite being ungainly and looking awkward at times, is Sakho really as haphazard as some perceive him to be?
I have noticed some varying opinions on Sakho which was strange and it got me thinking where the wide range of views could have originated from. Some people do not rate him but me? I love him.
Mamadou Sakho was a bit of an unknown to some, not many knew what to expect. How would someone with so much hype cope with the move to Liverpool and a new league? Less time on the ball, new partnerships, new city…
His debut against Swansea got a mixed reception, largely because we did not win a frustrating game. He only misplaced two passes, lost one tackle and lost one headed duel but made 15 clearances. I remember many feeling that his timing was off; a bit too eager maybe?
The problem is that we are not used to his type of play and defending in this country. Where we may be used to defenders tackling attackers, muscling the ball away from them, the frightening Frenchman would rather not let the attacker get the ball… at all. Don’t get me wrong, he does not always attempt to stop the ball into feet, but when the time is right, Sakho is big and strong enough and also quick enough to get in front of his man and take the ball away. When these attempts do go right, fantastic, you can take attackers out the game, but if it goes wrong then you remember it, as often Sakho will end up out of position and the attacker will be in behind him. You remember the one he missed as it could lead to a good opportunity. On the other hand, the stand-off defender may not end up out of position, despite perhaps giving players the opportunity to create something with the ball at their feet. Sakho is very much accustomed to the pace of the league now and is misjudging less and less of those tackles.
The other thing that Sakho does which the league is not used to is pass the ball. We have seen Agger do it, but usually, man mountain defenders who are 6’2”, 80kg of muscle usually don’t pass the ball with precision, rather they make contact with it and aim it in a general direction. Not Mamadou Sakho. Sakho can pass, seriously pass. Left foot, right foot, one touch, two touch, long, short. He currently leads the Liverpool team, 5th in the PL overall (10 games or more), with 92% passing accuracy. The ball usually arrives on time with pace. It looks a little ungainly at times I admit, purely because we aren’t used to it, and it looks even stranger on a left footer. This perception, plus the obsession of English commentators to label any defender who may give the ball away or comes under pressure from a pressing attacker as “panicking” can create strange opinions around said player.
I believe that Sakho is our best defender, with potential of being centre-back and defensive leader for the next 7-8 years. The mixture of opinions merely comes from his unconventional style for his monstrous build and the hysteria that commentators love.