Mamadou Sakho’s Encouraging Start To Life Under Jurgen Klopp
Posted on 28th October 2015
At the start of October, Liverpool’s imposing central defender, Mamadou Sakho, vented his frustration towards Brendan Rodgers, who refused to hand the Frenchman a start in Liverpool’s opening five matches of the season.
“Let’s say that during the short period when I was not playing, I was like a little caged lion who has not fed for a while,” he told L’Equipe.
“(Like a caged lion) when you open the door, he charges.”
Although it’s never pleasant to see a manager lose his job, Sakho would’ve quietly been thinking the sacking of Rodgers should provide the perfect platform for him to nail down a starting berth with the Reds.
If the early indications of the Jurgen Klopp era are anything to go by, he looks every chance to cement his spot in the heart of the Reds defence.
Against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, in Klopp’s first game in charge of the Merseyside outfit, Sakho, from his left sided central defensive station, repaid the German tactician’s faith to start him by putting in an outstanding shift that was full of upside.
Sakho, a much derided figure in recent times, undertook his duties with a palpable sense of authority, conviction and command, in a game where Liverpool crucially kept a clean sheet.
Charged with marking Spurs’ superbly talented centre forward, Harry Kane, Sakho performed his duty wondrously well. Whenever the pair were engaged in 1v1 situations, the physicality and sheer strength of the former PSG man shone through, as he hardly allowed Kane any joy.
In aerial duels, Sakho used his power and hulking frame to out-jump and outmuscle the lanky Kane, who struggled to find answers to the robust manner in which Sakho defends.
Even in scenarios where Kane would drop deep searching to link midfield and attack, Sakho would track him vigorously and heap pressure on his adversary to ensure that whenever Kane received the ball he never had an easy touch. This worked very nicely indeed, for Sakho’s relentless harrying impeded Kane’s time and freedom to make good, clear decisions once in possession, which he so often does in such instances.
In addition, the 25-year-old defender used his blistering covering speed to get across and support his teammates effectively. Being able to rapidly jet across the turf and cut out potentially dangerous attacks acted as something of a safety blanket for his team and provided another reason why his athleticism is so valuable to Liverpool. Alberto Moreno and Martin Skrtel were the predominant beneficiaries of this, and while they’ll be hoping to limit the occasions when Sakho is required to do this, they’d surely be comforted by the fact that, if they’re beaten, Sakho will more often than not mop up behind them.
In a positional sense, Sakho was nigh on flawless, hardly putting a foot wrong throughout. He showed a high level of discipline and concentration, which ensured he was never caught out by the multifaceted Tottenham attack. Such diligence in his duties saw him, when he wasn’t monitoring Kane, astutely pick up Spurs wingers Erik Lamela and Clinton N’Jie, when they drifted inside, plus he assisted in marking the intelligent Christian Eriksen when he looked to occupy zones in front of the Liverpool defence.
Another aspect of the Frenchman’s strong body of work that deserved mention came by way of his peristent communication with his colleagues. Showing his great leadership qualities, Sakho intently shouted and gestured to his midfielders and fellow defenders on where to best position themselves to deal with Tottenham’s attacking forays.
Sakho, who calls himself a “Liverpool soldier”, certainly lived up to his own billing, for his imposing and influential performance underlined what a vital component of Klopp’s side he should be.
The former Borussia Dortmund manager was straight onto the pitch after the final whistle to congratulate his lynchpin on a fine afternoon’s work, demonstrating his clear appreciation of Sakho’s display.
By the numbers, Sakho stacked up beautifully too, successfully completing nine of nine clearances, one tackle, three interceptions and bravely blocking two shots, as per StatsZone.
All things considered, after Sakho’s extremely accomplished effort, it’s somewhat baffling to reflect back and ponder why Rodgers under utilised his colossal stopper.
After all, upon analysing Liverpool’s central defenders, he’s quite possibly the best man in his position, with only Skrtel near him. With Dejan Lovren now playing like a shadow of his former self, Joe Gomez unfortunately out injured, Emre Can featuring in Klopp’s midfield and Kolo Toure an adequate backup, there’s absolutely no reason why Sakho shouldn’t be a mainstay at the back.
Another big challenge awaits Sakho this weekend in the form of Southampton’s burly, in-form forward, Graziano Pelle. The Italian international, while not as athletic as Kane, will pose a stronger physical obstacle for Sakho, who’ll surely relish this battle and see the clash as another opportunity to impress his new manager.
When recently speaking to Liverpool’s official website, Sakho touched upon the new found sense of positivity that’s surrounded the club with the Klopp appointment, saying: “It’s very good. All of the team feel the same. It’s a new manager, a new mentality, new training – everything is new.
“We have to adapt and we are ready to listen to what he says. He is here to help the team and to help every player and he wants to give 100 per cent for the club.”
Having put in another solid performance against Rubin Kazan in the Europa League, it’s great to see the stars aligning once again for Sakho.
It’ll be fascinating to see how things pan out for him under Klopp from now on, and the Southampton game will be another stern examination.
If he can keep up his promising form then Liverpool should have themselves a wildly gifted defender who should lead the club for many years to come.
Only time will tell if this will, in fact, be the case, but one thing’s for sure, and that’s that Sakho will be given every chance to earn his stripes under the expert tutelage of Jurgen Klopp. And for the man who possesses just about all the ingredients necessary to be a high quality defender, there’s no reason why he can’t do just that.
About the author – Edward Stratmann
Edward Stratmann writes regularly about the on-field aspects of the game, with a particular focus on tactics and analysis. In addition to featuring on These Football Times, Inside Spanish Football, Anfield Index, Just Football, The Eagles Beak, Think Football Ideas and JuveFC, you can also find Edward’s work at Licence to Roam, a football blog he started with his brother in 2013.