As last season descended into the Springfield Tire Fire, when planning where the club had to go and what it needed to do a lot of us had the giant fear that everything would be handicapped by the most stable portion of the team, the central defense, being poached by clubs that actually had a clue and were able to compete for the baubles that seem beyond Liverpool. And we said that if one or both of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger shove off, Liverpool are going to be so far down the hill they need to climb that the thought of never ascending that summit would start to creep in. Well, guess what? We may be there!
Though you know how this playbook goes. Skrtel gave an interview to a newspaper in his native Slovakia in which he says the cliched, "I'm here because my contract says I have to be and clubs have approached me but Liverpool won't let me go so that's it," quotes. This of course will be followed by a denial or accusation of a bad translation and misquoting, but it's the smoke we didn't want to see. Ever.
Even as everything else went wrong, Liverpool fans could comfort themselves knowing that at least the defense was set, and that's a pretty good starting block to build from. It's the only starting block to build from, actually. Skrtel and Agger also seem to fit perfectly into a Rodgers system, Agger especially. But Skrtel's confidence with the ball has grown in recent years along with his ability, and when alongside Agger he's hardly a heart attack like some people.
But if Skrtel goes? Carragher can no longer play a majority of games without causing a mass brain bubble among the Kop faithful. Coates is still too raw and unproven to step in. A panicked buy would not ease anyone's nerves. And what if it causes Agger to consider if he shouldn't be looking at greener pastures? That would truly be running in place.
I think I'll be hiding behind the couch until August 31st.
-In news to make you feel better, Lucas will play on the North American tour, which means he very well may be ready for the start of the season. Other than the two centerbacks, it became pretty obvious who was the most important player for Liverpool, and it was obvious because he wasn't there. No matter what system you want to play you can't implement it if you can't break up the opposition's possession and pass the ball exactly where it needs to be to start your attack. And Liverpool are getting the best in the business back.
-There's actual matches to discuss. Tomorrow sees the draw for the first round of qualifying for the EUROPA League that Liverpool are involved in. And unless they draw Dundee United, they'll be flying to Mars to compete in it, a mere five days after coming back from Baltimore. Ukraine, Macedonia, Israel or Belarus are the possibilities. I think I speak for a lot of supporters in saying that I hope the club takes the competition seriously. I know a lot of Spurs fans weren't pleased at Harry Redknapp's constant chucking of it. It's a chance at a trophy, it's a chance at some European nights at Anfield (though not the ones we really want, but they'll do for now) and it's more games to give some players a game who aren't getting enough (if Rodgers can expand the squad enough to handle it). That journey begins tomorrow.