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Sideshow Bob

Avatar & New Members Forum Mod
May 8, 2011
Good discussion point in the 5 Things We Learned article. What do we think? Smalling-Jones, Smalling-Rojo or Jones-Rojo?

5 Things We Learned: Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United - Stretford End Arising

3) Settled Centre Back Pairing?

For as long as both Jones and Smalling have been at the club we have been unable to fully assess their abilities as each time they have had a run of games and show potential one or the other, or both, get injured. Of late however both have had a good run of games and it’s now that it looks like that potential will come to fruition and they will really establish themselves. Smalling in particular has been in fine form this season. He has long been regarded as the best ‘defender’ at the club, however his distribution on the ball was an element that held him back. Working with Van Gaal however seems to have had a positive effect in that regard, with Van Gaal placing a big emphasis on ball playing centre halves. A common theme of late has been Smalling’s bursts from defence. He has also displayed a fine array of passes spreading the play and keeping possession ticking over the past couple of games, evident once more at Anfield.

The partnership with Jones has looked very solid. A potential weakness of Smalling’s is his knack of switching off at times, however with Jones beside him the fears can be allayed somewhat as Jones lives and breathes every second of each game and is generally well positioned should he needed to be called on, with last ditch tackles a common feature of his game. The problem for Jones, or potentially for Smalling, is that neither are left footed. Van Gaal likes to have a left footed left centre back and a right footed right centre back so potentially the partnership may break up once Rojo gets back to full fitness. However if they keep producing as a pair as they have been, Rojo will have his work cut out to oust either of them.
Given Van Gaal's preference to have a left foot-right foot combo at the back, I expect Rojo to come back in after the international break. Smalling and Rojo linked up well earlier in the season too anyway. However, Van Gaal is someone who likes to stick with the same 11 too and after 2 really good performances by the duo and the team, he may stick unless he's forced into changes after the international break.
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