Is it purely coincidence the fact that Liverpool have conceded only three goals in the last three matches and in those three matches Jamie Carragher has been absent? I hate to say it, but clearly not.
You know what I’m going to say. Every Liverpool supporter with some knowledge of the game knows it. In fact I’d go so far as to say we all know it but don’t really want to say. Jamie Carragher, at 33 is past being an automatic starter in the reds’ first team. It’s a difficult one to face because “Carra” has been one of the most consistent and dependable players to don the red shirt in the last 20 years. He has virtually been an ever-present since starting at full back in the 1996-97 season and moving in to his famed central defence position under Gerrard Houllier.
Thus, as with all things good and great, there comes a time when they are no longer that. The sprinter who’s speed out of the blocks is now a memory. The boxer who’s ability to absorb and dodge the fastest of blows seems to have deserted him. Or the Goalie who’s lightening reflexes are now somewhat blunted. Age has caught up with Carragher.
In the last three games, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger have shown the beginnings of a formidable partnership at the heart of the Liverpool defence. The two clean sheets up until Sunday is something Liverpool have not managed since May of this year. The goal conceded against Chelsea away at Stamford Bridge is no shame against a team who on their day can match the best. With all due respect, I wouldn’t put Stoke or Norwich City in that category, them simply being the previous teams to score against the reds.
It’s been conceded that Carragher was at fault for the penalty that cost Liverpool the game against Stoke. Albeit a poor team performance all round, this didn’t help. Same goes for the goal against Norwich. Poor positioning allowed Grant Holt to ghost in and head the equaliser.
Kenny Dalglish is no mug, and Carragher was left on the bench against Chelsea for the simple reason that he’s not been good enough of late. It’s all ‘if’s ‘but’s and ‘maybe’s but I wouldn’t argue that the game against Chelsea would have ended the way it did had Carragher been playing. Sad, but true in my opinion. I don’t believe he would have held out during the near 30-minute spell that Liverpool was being over run by the spirited home side.
According to www.anfieldindex.com Jamie Carragher’s pass completion rate has fallen substantially over the last couple of seasons, from over 84% in 2008-09 to 72% last season. This goes a long way to explaining the decline. He’s never been the fastest defender, but his positioning has always been second to none. The deterioration in this aspect of his game led to the Stoke and Norwich mishaps. Agger has attempted fewer long passes than Carragher but with a higher success rate, 15 passes and 66% success compared to 17 passes and 41% success.
I don’t want to appear to be casting Carragher by the way side as some useless has-been. Like a fat old should be retired boxer getting his kidneys beaten while he bounces off the ropes. Far from it. Jamie Carragher still has a part to play for the Liverpool team. Perhaps not as a first choice but definitely as capable back up for what would now appear to be the first choice defensive pairing of Agger and Skrtel. In the cup matches he could partner young Sebastian Coates and give him the benefit of his experience.
All is not lost. It’s just heading that way. Jamie Carragher has certainly been a favourite of mine from a long, long way back and he’s more than played his part in some of the most memorable moments in the clubs recent history. He’s had his detractors along the way, much of it unfairly. One thing is for certain. It’ll be some time before Liverpool have another player as dedicated, determined, hard working and reliable as this lad is.
By Ben Green
Follow me on Twitter @Mrbengreen