Liverpool only have one central defender who isn't made of a theory like Agger, getting up there in years and can't be totally trusted any more (Carragher), and isn't simply a comedy act waiting to happen while looking like a pirate (Kyrgiakos). There are also the untested Danny Wilson and Martin Kelly, who have only been trusted at fullback so far. That would mean Martin Skrtel is the rock in the Liverpool defense. Unfortunately at times, it can be a bit of a ropey rock. Ropey Rock. That would be a great name for a band, wouldn't it?
Positives: Well, Skrtel was there for every Premier League game, which can be considered good and bad. It speaks to a durability which is hard to find in a centerback, and that's to be appreciated. But it also indicates that no one around him was healthy or competent enough to give him a break, and there were times when he needed one. When Skrtel is paired with Agger, he seems so far more assured. The dodgy tackles go by the wayside, and his positioning is far better. He's also tempted to actually try a pass instead of lobbing missiles as far as he can as if he were playing live action Artillery. Skrtel also did manage to pot two goals, and though he should probably be more of an aerial threat on set-pieces, it doubles his haul from the previous season. So we can expect four next year, right? Oh, and his tattoos are awesome, and that'll never change.
Negatives: Well, those games where Agger wasn't available. And before his injury, Jamie Carragher could be an adventure. And when his partner isn't assured, Skrtel can get skittish in a hurry. It's apparent that Skrtel isn't the organizer or talker on the backline, which Agger and Carra certainly are. When not properly shepherded, Skrtel dives into tackles and challenges he simply can't make, and freekicks and penalties are just around the corner. Without assured distribution alongside him, and when the backline is pressured with the ball, he gets hoof-happy (I got hoof happy once in Leeds, didn't get home until Monday morning). The marking on set-pieces gets off.
Outlook: Certainly Skrtel is a keeper. He's only 26, which for a defender means he should be just about to enter his prime. After a couple years being second in command, it would be wonderful if Skrtel can assert himself as the ship's captain at the back, because we can't count on Agger to play that many games, and Carragher probably can't either due to advancing age. If Wilson or Kelly get chances in the middle, they'll need someone to defer to while they learn the ropes. It could be a case like Vidic, who was in Rio Ferdinand's shadow for a couple years but eventually became the main man himself while Rio advanced in age. Skrtel will never be the ball-playing CB that Agger will be, but hopefully we'll see him start to come even more into his own, because that durability is so valuable.