Skrtel fired up by increased competition
Published 25/01/2011 | 15:48
Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel accepts his form has not always been the best this season but he is spurred on to improve by growing competition within the squad.
The Slovakia centre-back has put in a couple of shaky performances in recent weeks against the likes of Blackpool and Everton.
However, he helped secure the Reds' first Barclays Premier League clean sheet since December 6 in last weekend's 3-0 win at Wolves.
Skrtel is currently paired with Daniel Agger but with Jamie Carragher set to return from a dislocated shoulder in the coming weeks, Sotirios Kyrgiakos waiting in the wings, centre-back Martin Kelly excelling on the right and youngster Danny Wilson not even getting close to the squad, he knows he cannot afford to let his standards slip.
"I have played in almost every game this season and each time I always try to do my best for the team," he said.
"I know I have made a few mistakes and haven't always played well, but I don't know any player who doesn't make a mistake so I just try to do my best.
"It's important to keep playing well because we have a good squad and there is strong competition for places.
"I think that is a good thing because everyone has to work hard and make it hard for the manager when it comes to who he will pick in his team."
Kenny Dalglish has made some big decisions since taking over from Roy Hodgson just over a fortnight ago, some of them concerning the back four.
He has installed Kelly on the right in all his four matches in charge and been rewarded with some impressive performances, while he has opted to play England international Glen Johnson out of position on the left rather than Fabio Aurelio or Hodgson's signing Paul Konchesky - who has made just one of his squads as an unused substitute.
Further up the field Dalglish has started to get the best out of Raul Meireles in an advanced midfield role, while striker Fernando Torres' form appears to be back on track.
Everything came together for Liverpool to record only their third away league victory in 13 months at Molineux on Saturday and confidence, which had fallen so low under Hodgson, is returning to the squad.
Dalglish played down his part in that, shifting all the plaudits on to the players.
"When things aren't going as well as they could do for a football club and for individuals, it's very difficult to turn it around," said Dalglish. "But they've turned it around and it's great credit to them.
"They did fantastically well on Saturday but we want to go on and win more matches now.
"We've enjoyed the victory and it was a good atmosphere on the bus coming back from the game."
Skrtel admitted the shut-out against Wolves had given the defence, in particular, a boost.
"It was crucial we kept a clean sheet because this season we haven't had as many of them as we would like," he told liverpoolfc.tv.
"A clean sheet always gives you confidence as a defender and if we can keep more of them then we will soon start to win more games."
The manager reserved some praise for the 20-year-old Kelly, who although selected regularly for Europa League games by Hodgson had made just two league appearances this season before Dalglish's arrival.
"Martin's done very well for the club," he said.
"He's like a new signing for the club because that's four on the spin he's played now.
"He's earned it and it doesn't matter what age you are, if you are performing you'll have a chance of playing.
"It is impressive when you come into a team that isn't playing as well as it can and you play as well as he has done."
Kelly is likely to keep his place at right-back for the visit of Fulham tomorrow, which will also see the return of captain Steven Gerrard from a three-match suspension.