On Saturday the 18th of January Liverpool drew 2-2 with Aston Villa. It was a day where Rodgers experimented with the role of Steven Gerrard, placing him deeper in the midfield to sit just in front of the defence. On Tuesday the 21st of January, The Independent reported that the “experiment did not work” and Rodgers had to bring on Lucas to rectify the situation.
At the time this seemed to be the correct option (arguably salvaging a point for Liverpool that game). Lucas is a natural holding midfielder, and perfectly comfortable providing protection to those behind him. However, that game Lucas sustained an injury, damaging the collateral ligament in his right knee and had to be replaced not long after coming on. This appeared to leave Liverpool with a problem in the defensive midfield position.
The same Independent article stated: “Rodgers could be tempted to find additional cover in the transfer window as he has been short in the area of defensive midfielders for some time”. As we now know, Rodgers did not do that, instead he persisted with the conversion of Gerrard and since that game against Aston Villa (with Gerrard situated in a deeper role) Liverpool drew one and won twelve of their thirteen games. Finally succumbing to defeat against Chelsea in their last outing.
During this period, not only did Liverpool “hold on to fourth place”, as The Independent claimed their aim was, they rocketed up the table into first place. Few could have predicted the success Liverpool achieved during those thirteen weeks, not only winning their games, but playing some of the best football all season. A 4-0 mauling of Everton, a 5-1 demolition of Arsenal, winning 3-0 at Old Trafford against Manchester United, and putting another 4 past Tottenham.
This phenomenal run of form and these breath-taking performances coincided with the loss of Lucas, who many believed was an essential part to the Liverpool team, and the deeper role that Gerrard was played in. Surely this is no coincidence.
Despite having a tough time at the start of his Liverpool career, Lucas, through persistence and continued good form, became an integral part of the Liverpool machine. It was said that he allowed Gerrard to have the necessary freedom to excel, and so he was one of the first names on the teamsheet. Times are changing though, and I feel that time is running out for Lucas, and for players of his ilk.
By experimenting with Gerrard in a deeper role, Rodgers was already looking at the next step in the evolution of Liverpool’s tactics. The injury to Lucas accelerated this step dramatically, as if Lucas had been fit Rodgers would almost certainly have put him back in the starting 11 following the poor performance against Aston Villa. As it was, Lucas was injured and not available, and so the transformation of Gerrard continued, being placed in a deeper role and thus continuing the progression of Rodgers tactics.
I believe Liverpool would always have got to the stage they are at now, with Gerrard consistently placed in a deeper role, it is just that with Lucas’ injury in January, this process took far less time than it might have.
Now that Liverpool have reached this point, one has to wonder what the future has in store for Lucas. With Gerrard occupying his deeper position, Henderson and Coutinho preferred in the centre of midfield, and Sterling placed in the hole behind the front two, Lucas appears to be only good enough for the bench. Added to this is the fact that Liverpool will certainly strengthen in the summer, and if rumours are to be believed Adam Lallana could be on the way, then this leaves Lucas in even more of a predicament.
I would not be surprised if Lucas left the club this summer or in the next 12 months – if there are bids placed or Liverpool need to raise extra cash – because I do not believe that he fits the system and the style of play Rodgers wants the team use. Indeed I think Lucas’ recent omission from the Liverpool side is an example of a trend that we will see more and more of in the next few years. A topic I will focus on in more detail in a later piece.
This piece was originally published on Proven Quality
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