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Almost done with the defense!
Fabio Aurelio (2006-present)
Aurelio’s probably the most “talented” player on this list, a tremendous passer and dead ball specialist. A free transfer as well. But he’s struggled to stay in the side through three-plus seasons thanks to injuries, including a freak accident playing footie with his kids last summer. When he’s had an extended run of games, he’s been fantastic; Inter home and away and 4-1 win over United pop immediately to mind. But his fragility prompted the signing of Dossena and has given Insua the time to blossom.
Emiliano Insua (2007-present)
Okay, so he made the list because I needed a fifth option and have preached about the player since his debut against Portsmouth in 2007. Still only 20 and an Argentinean international, he’s rendered the £7m Dossena moot (and that’s £7m Benitez could have used elsewhere). Admittedly, Insua’s started the majority of the games this season and Liverpool’s backline has looked unusually shaky. You can’t deny coincidences. But he’s shown signs for the future, and hopefully heralds the maturation of Benitez’s youth policy.
John Arne Riise (2001-2008)
A calamity-prone last campaign, including an incredibly ill advised own goal, is what’ll make this poll even close. The daywalker had more than double the appearances of any other left back, first choice for nearly seven seasons. A Duracell battery of a player – Kuyt before Kuyt – with a cannon for a left foot (pity his right foot was only there for balance). This might be one of my favorite goals ever. He wasn’t always a defensive liability either, part of the tremendous backline along with Finnan, Carra, and Hyypia, who’ve already made this team. “John Arne Riise, ooh, ahh, I wanna know…”
Djimi Traore (1999-2006)
Comedy inclusion. Despite seven years at the club, I was still surprised he made over 140 appearances. Traore was probably better at center back, but played more on the left when needed, including in Istanbul, where his goal line clearance helped Liverpool hold on for penalties. However, naturally, he’ll be best remembered for the Zidane turn that knocked Liverpool out of the ‘04-05 FA Cup.
Stevie Warnock (2004-2007)
The last of the Owen/Gerrard generation to come through the Academy. Impressing on loan at Coventry in 2003, Warnock came back from two broken legs to feature for the first team. An honest defender – you couldn’t find a player more willing for the cause. But Riise and Aurelio were always ahead of Warnock, and the defender was sold to Blackburn when still just 25. Now he’s part of the “buy everyone English” project at Villa.