Winners and Losers: Skrtel Liverpool’s unlikely hero after being the villain

It was a weekend of contrasting fortunes for Martin Skrtel. The Liverpool defender was out-jumped by Mathieu Debuchy for Arsenal’s first goal, suffered a nasty head wound courtesy of the studs of Gunners striker Olivier Giroud, was partly at fault for Giroud’s later strike but made amends with a thumping header to give the 10-man Reds what by that stage looked an unlikely point.

Skrtel’s performance summed up Liverpool’s season so far – some good, some bad, a lot of misfortune. He was bundled over by Giroud moments before the back of his head was cut open and needed so much treatment there were nine minutes added on before the final whistle. Some Liverpool fans Tweeted as Skrtel was bandaged up that he shouldn’t feel obliged to continue, such was the uncertainty of his performance. They were the same supporters celebrating his towering leap and goal not long after.

It all meant that Liverpool again missed a chance to get their season going. Skrtel, whose mixed display saw him earn only 15 EuroFantasyLeague points , has been a regular in the Liverpool back line this season, playing 15 of the 17 Premier League games and, as the half-way point of the season approaches, Liverpool are stuck half-way up – or down – the table. It’s a far cry from this time last year, when Liverpool celebrated Christmas Day as league leaders.

The 24 goals Liverpool have conceded is more than any team above the 10th-place Merseysiders and more than a couple of teams below. It’s also the same total as bottom three Hull, which confirms just how shaky the defence has been. Skrtel, as a regular member of Brendan Rodgers’ XI, has been duly criticised but showed remarkable resolve not only to come back from the error that allowed Debuchy to equalise on the stroke of half-time but also the ugly gash he suffered at the feet of Giroud.

It’s that kind of strength Liverpool need to show in the New Year. Daniel Sturridge remains in the United States recovering from injury, Mario Balotelli is, well, Mario Balotelli, and Rickie Lambert remains a last-gasp option for the manager. Fabio Borini could have made himself a hero with a goal but instead added to the struggle with a silly red card. Skrtel stepped up where the forwards failed, although it would have been an easier proposition had he done his job in defence in the first place.

Skrtel at least ensured there was less harm done than appeared likely as the clock ticked down and, while there are many valid complaints from the Liverpool faithful about his performances, his dedication can’t be called into question. Skrtel needed seven staples to close the effect of Giroud’s misplaced studs as he quite literally bled for the Liverpool cause.

The image of Skrtel out-jumping the massed Arsenal defence might not be quite as iconic as the famous picture of a blood-soaked Terry Butcher – and Skrtel indeed lacks many of the former England captain’s qualities – but Liverpool need graft as well as craft to salvage their season. Skrtel can at least be relied upon for that.

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