I suspect very few Liverpool fans would have foreseen the rise of Mamadou Sakho that has recently transformed him into an Anfield favourite.
Finally, Liverpool’s French defender is earning his plaudits in the centre of defence after a difficult start to his career in England. With a new era on Merseyside upon us, it seems the arrival of Jurgen Klopp has triggered a resurgence by Sakho. Fans have now woken up to the reality that he stands as the club’s strongest central defender. The inconsistency of Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren is finally being exposed by the ever improving composure of Sakho on the ball in addition to the warrior-like physical and mental application that he displays each week.
Klopp’s immediate impetus to restoring Anfield’s famous atmosphere has prompted a new love shown by fans towards the commanding and determined nature of the towering and unorthodox centre half. While his technique on the pitch suggests otherwise, he is far more assured with the ball at his feet now and has the confidence to play first time forward passes that would have been a risk with him in the past.
Sakho was inspired form away to Spurs in Klopp’s first game in charge and has continued to impress under the new manager ever since. He handled a top striker in Harry Kane sensibly and has looked to be a more influential figure in the side than his Liverpool compatriots over the last few games- so much so that there is a case for the idea he could prove to be an effective Captain. With fans on side and a new coach in the dugout, he finds himself in the ideal position to take responsibility, grow in stature and emerge as a pivotal member of the team.
He also impressed in the Europa League, albeit against an average Rubin Kazan, where he completed 100% of his tackles, making three clearances and three interceptions as well as winning thirteen duels- five more than anyone else on the pitch.
The introduction of a new central defender in the January transfer window could prove significant in providing Sakho with a reliable partner while also forcing the likes of Skrtel and Lovren to up their game.
He is, by no means, the finished article but he is going the right way about cementing his place in the side. It will be interesting to see whether his strong performances continue in the weeks to come or whether he has simply benefited from the positive mood surrounding Jurgen Klopp’s presence. An away fixture this weekend against a Chelsea side in desperate need of a win will be a good test for him.