Is Benitez playing games with Agger as he did with Keane?
Daniel Agger is a superb centre-back. Not only is he commanding in the air and a good reader of the game but he is also comfortable on the ball and has an imagination and ability for going on surging attacking runs or stroking an accurate attacking long pass. Plus he has the technique to strike an excellent shot as testified by his long range scorcher against West Ham a couple of seasons back.
For me it is typical of the pragmatic defensive-minded Rafa Benitez that he rates the 'no-nonsense' purely defensive Martin Skrtel above Daniel Agger. I imagine him writing in his note-book during games a big tick against Skrtel for his aggressive defending and simple passes while putting a question mark against Agger's name when he makes as interception and then embarks on a dribble beyond the half-way line.
When Skrtel received his nasty ligament injury in October Daniel Agger came into the team and Liverpool maintained their tight defensive record. His performance away against Bolton was excellent - losing a tooth and playing on with courage. Against Arsenal it was his vision and ability to play a long pass that saw Keane go on to score a crucial equaliser. And against Wigan he immediately atoned for a defensive error by launching into a committed run deep into the Wigan defence which led to the comeback goal.
But despite being an effective part of a team that had maintained Liverpool's lead of the Premier League he started being undermined by Benitez. The ageing Sami Hyppia started getting games in front of Agger. And then when Skrtel was fit he displaced Agger immediately. Agger has been a regular unused sub in the last seven weeks when Liverpool have stuttered and today against Man City was even displaced from the bench by Hyppia. If Agger wasn't injured major questions should be asked of Benitez why he was left completely out.
It looks to me like Benitez's self-defeating style of man-management is on display again. His treatment of dropping Keane just as the Irishman was building up good confidence was head-shaking. And now it looks like we are seeing another stylish and determined player like Agger being slowly frozen out of the Liverpool first team.
Its disappointing because Keane and Agger are good footballers to watch and I believe they make Liverpool a more attractive and dangerous prospect because of their creativity and ball-playing ability.
There is a strong suspicion that Keane was frozen out because Benitez was looking to prove a point and stamp down his authority - though for what reason its unclear and anyway to me there can be no good reason for the treatment that the Irish captain received. Is he doing the same to Agger: leaving him out for non-footballing reasons and ultimately playing a pointless game with someone's career while also damaging the playability of the team. It looks to me that he is.
What's your own reading on the Agger/Benitez situation?