The former Celta Vigo forward was not quite the signing that got pulses racing. Many fans at the time were hoping for a bigger name, more of a marquee signing that ultimately did not come, but were nevertheless pleased to bring in a new attacking player early in the window.
The hope was that he would settle in as quickly as Coutinho did, and have an immediate impact.
The signs were certainly positive in pre-season, scoring 3 goals, working hard for the team, showcasing good movement, solid technical ability and a real understanding with Liverpool’s other forward players.
Iago played well in the win against Stoke. The team played well. Stoke not quite being sure whether they should play the old Tony Pulis way or the new Mark Hughes way, allowed many Liverpool players to have more time on the ball than they would otherwise have expected, and Aspas benefited.
The main development area for Aspas from a game Liverpool dominated was perhaps that his finishing lacked a bit of guile. He missed a couple of good chances where perhaps a more seasoned top level finisher would have dinked the ball over a diving keeper or rounded the keeper to slot home. However it was a good debut.
Against Villa Aspas worked hard but, particularly in the second half, struggled to get into the game and find space. His meagre frame did not allow him to hold the ball up effectively and, with Coutinho also finding the going difficult, Liverpool relied heavily on Sturridge for an attacking threat.
Iago’s performances dipped even further against the Old Enemy from Manchester. In an excellent result for the Reds, on the back of a solid first half and committed defending in the second, Iago was probably Liverpool’s weakest performer. He struggled to get into the game in either half and looked very much like the occasion got to him.
It is hard to criticise a new player too much, playing against the Champions and many experienced top professionals in his first season in the Premier League is always going to be difficult. As in the Villa game he was visibly upset when substituted, perhaps knowing he had failed to impress having wanted to do well.
Aspas has shown enough that he can be a good squad player for Liverpool, but will need to improve in order to hold down a regular first team place. With Moses already accustomed to life in the Premier League, and the incomparable Luis Suarez joining the fray after the final two games of his ban, Aspas will have fewer opportunities to start.
First and foremost he really does need to bulk up. A lack of height need not be a limitation to strength on the ball, just watch Sergio Aguero or Carlos Tevez play. Aspas is waspish in stature and needs to learn to shield the ball better when under physical challenges, for example being prepared for the surreptitious push in the back or shoulder charge.
Coutinho despite his slight frame is nevertheless able to spin past a player by rolling them, or with a quick dance of his magic feet to move away and keep the ball. Against Man Utd, the United defenders, in particular Rio Ferdinand, regularly got the better of Aspas. He was not the only one to be out-muscled. Raheem Sterling struggled against the pace and strength of Antonio Valencia on the other flank.
With Aspas unable to hold onto the ball against United, we consistently gave the ball away and invited more and more pressure. It was only on the occasions the ball came to the feet of the in-form Sturridge did our defenders have a respite. Moses and Suarez are not so easily knocked off the ball.
All in all, with just three games gone, I have been impressed with how quickly Aspas has learnt to interchange positions with our other forwards, and find space when he’s given the opportunity. He needs to become more adept at dealing with the physicality, understand better when to hold width rather than always coming inside, and gain some more composure in front of goal. There’s nothing like a few goals to calm the nerves of a new forward. Oh, and he has to stop holding up imaginary cards trying to get opposition players booked!
It’s all part of a cultural and football acclimatisation that Iago Aspas is only just beginning.
You can catch more from me on my own blog: http://taintlessred.blogspot.co.uk/
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