CONCERNS are mounting from fans about our transfer business (or lack thereof) so far this summer, and these worries are already heading into overdrive in the coming days as Carroll to West Ham grows louder, and rumours circulate regarding the future of Daniel Agger.
I however want to concentrate on one of the oldest clichés in the book – and there are more than a few of them:
” *Insert name* is back from injury, he’ll be like a new signing.”
I generally find myself cringing whenever I hear that, not least because I always end up thinking of Harry Kewell, but when we’re talking about Lucas Leiva, I am going to actually agree and smile whilst I’m doing it. Much maligned for almost all of his first three seasons at the club, Lucas has grown into an immense central midfielder for Liverpool.
He may need to continue to work on his ball retention, but the Brazilian is a tackling machine. He is one of the best second-ball midfielders in the Premier League and I am in fact struggling to think of any better. He hoovers up the loose balls, is strong in the tackle, wins the ball cleanly and moves it on. That’s his game. He is a destroyer. He is like Mascherano but not quite on that level yet. Certainly if his passing game (which isn’t all that bad but is for me his biggest weakness) can ultimately match the Argentinean he has all the other attributes to be his equal. Time yet is still on his side.
I truly think that the turning point of the last season wasn’t the Suarez ban, or the Arsenal game when we hit the woodwork 47 times, it was when we lost Lucas to injury. He hobbled off during that Carling Cup quarter final tie at Stamford Bridge and we struggled in the league more or less since then. Of course we were in the hunt for 4th place until the weekend after we won the Carling Cup, but we weren’t winning games convincingly if we were winning them at all.
One of the big issues was the centre of midfield becoming very vulnerable. Charlie Adam had to play more games than he was signed to play, and he was asked to play deeper. I don’t think the Scot is a brilliant player at the best of times, but he struggled to hold whilst his central partner got up the pitch. He simply does not have the fitness and the discipline to do it, it was perfectly obvious he wasn’t up to the task but was asked to do it anyway. Spearing has both fitness and discipline but gives the ball away too much. Henderson has a good engine but is not a holding player. Gerrard was unavailable for large swathes of the season and is neutered if he plays deep.
With an impending change of formation to 4-3-3 Lucas is going to be integral to Brendan Rodgers’ plans for the coming season. He will sit in front of the back four allowing Gerrard and (looking likely at the moment) Joe Allen or A.N Other to get further up the pitch and get involved going forward before then dropping back when we don’t have the ball.
He might not score many goals or be the name on most people’s lips as you leave the ground at full time on a match day but make no mistake, the return of Lucas and the importance he brings to the centre of midfield is a sight for sore eyes.
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