It wasn’t the 5-0 win over a relegation-threatened side―the second time that the Reds had put five goals past the Canaries over the campaign―that caught the eye, but instead it was a voice at the back that boss Brendan Rodgers was so impressed with.
As strikes from Jordan Henderson, Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Steven Gerrard and an own goal from Ryan Bennett found the net, all of it was surveyed from central defence by Jamie Carragher, who was making only his second Premier League start in 23 matches.
Following a deeply disappointing first-half display that was ultimately the key ingredient of a 2-1 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford a week previously, Rodgers had decided that his “quiet” team was in need of more leadership and more of a voice before that Norwich fixture at Anfield, as ESPN's Richard Jolly reports.
Carragher was brought back into the side in place of the struggling Martin Skrtel, and including that game the veteran defender would start 15 of the last 16 league matches of the season.
He was only on the losing side once.
Of course, it wasn’t just Carragher’s voice and leadership that helped Liverpool improve their results, it was his talent, too. But having an experienced figure around the place certainly helped matters.
Now, though, the defender’s retirement left the Reds needing another experienced voice at the back to guide them through matches if required, not just on the pitch but off it, too. It took Rodgers a matter of days to fill the void.
With a free-transfer deal for Kolo Toure to be completed when the 32-year-old defender’s Manchester City contract expires at the end of this month, Rodgers has wasted no time in adding another experienced leader to his squad in the wake of Carragher’s retirement.
Upon initially making his decision to retire last summer, according to The Telegraph, Carragher wouldn’t have known just how many matches he was to play in the 2012/13 season, and Toure won’t be entering Anfield with designs on appearing week in and week out ahead of the new campaign either.
Targeting a new, headline-grabbing—and probably expensive—defender this summer remains one of Rodgers’ key tasks, with The Guardian and the Mirror citing Schalke’s Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Ajax’s Toby Alderweireld as the most likely to be targeted.
Either one of those two would, of course, slot into the side as a key first-team member, but that doesn’t mean that Toure’s influence won’t be felt elsewhere.
This isn’t to say that defenders as experienced as Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson can be considered novices, of course, but with none of them particularly vocal, they could all benefit from the leadership of Toure, who has captained teams as strong as Arsenal, Manchester City and the Ivory Coast in the recent past.
His influence on the fields of Liverpool’s Melwood training base and in matches when he’s selected will be crucial for the club going forward, particularly if―as appears likely―a younger defender will be seeking to forge a partnership with Agger.
Instead of putting pressure on that partnership, Toure will instead be there to aid it, and to step in whenever that extra voice is required.
The signing of the two-time Premier League winner appears more and more astute the longer you consider it, and his experienced voice could help make a positive difference in much the same way as Carragher’s did.
Perhaps the new season’s turning point has come early.
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