Arsenal v Liverpool: Defensive concerns set to be eased with return of Daniel Agger after six-match absence

Kolo Toure has struggled at centre-back in recent weeks but the return to fitness of Agger could boost Liverpool's prospects of silverware this season

Centre-back Daniel Agger's return to fitness could be just the lift Liverpool's defence needs after their leakiness was exposed in recent weeks.

The Reds have kept only two clean sheets against top-flight opposition since mid-December and individual errors have contributed to that disappointing tally.

Kolo Toure has been responsible for two mistakes in three matches, gifting an equaliser to West Brom and then scoring an own goal against Fulham in midweek and his place is most under threat from Agger's return to the squad after missing six matches with a calf problem - a spell in which they kept just one clean sheet.

But while the purists may rejoice at the return of Liverpool's only genuine ball-playing centre-half - whose ability fits perfectly with Rodgers' insistence of building from the back - the manager stressed the most important thing about a defender was being able to do his primary job properly.

 

"I like defenders to defend first," he said ahead of Sunday's FA Cup fifth-round tie at Arsenal, the team they smashed 5-1 in the league at Anfield last weekend.

"Everyone talks about ball-playing centre-halves but you have to be able to defend and be able to cope with that first.

"Obviously if you have the qualities then we want you to play because it is important how we build our game and there is no doubt Daniel Agger is an outstanding footballer."

While Liverpool have dragged themselves into the Premier League title race, sitting just four points off the top in fourth place, Rodgers insists that will not affect their cup preparations.

In fact, he believes Arsenal's pending Champions League clash at home to Bayern Munich next week may have more bearing on the fixture.

"We want to win the FA Cup, that's our objective," he added.

"We've got no midweek game so we can go as strong as we wish to go.

"It's probably different for Arsenal, who have a massive game after ourselves in the Champions League, so they may have to look at it differently. We won't need to rest anybody.

"We want to do it for the club. Since I've been here we have changed the squad around in order to try and help us in the league.

"When I have made too many changes we haven't been good enough and that's seen us go out of tournaments earlier than I would want.

"This year we wanted to do well in the cup competitions - hence the reason why we've been strong.

"We want to get to Wembley, not for the semi-final, but for the final.

If we're there for the final, then it gives us a chance to win it."

Rodgers believes their league form, which has seen them drop just four points in seven matches since the turn of the year, stands them in good stead for a trip to the Emirates.

They were boosted by their last-minute win at Fulham in midweek where captain Steven Gerrard set up one goal and scored the winning penalty as the Reds twice came from behind for victory.

"That was a truly a world-class player," he said.

"There are a number of world-class players when they are 2-0 up in the game but you see world-class whenever you are down in the game.

"His pass (for Daniel Sturridge's goal, Liverpool's first equaliser) and his composure at the end showed the team is full of confidence.

"The result the other night gave us great confidence because we weren't at our best in terms of what we were against Arsenal but we still made 650-odd passes in the game.

"We came from behind twice and the calmness showed in the build-up to the penalty.

"We kept probing and passing, trying to find the space and not lumping it into the box playing panic football.

"That was pleasing with the calm nature we got the winner."

PA

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine