The Case For Lucas

Liverpool have kept just two clean sheets in 19 matches, and yet recent rumours suggest that their best defensive midfielder may be heading out of the club in the near future.

Throughout the summer there were rumours that Lucas could be leaving Anfield, with Napoli, and a reunion with Rafa Benitez, looking to be the most likely destination. It seems that like me, Brendan Rodgers was not overly concerned with the loss of the Brazilian. He still had Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson and Phillipe Coutinho, and had just invested in Emre Can, central midfield depth did not appear to be a problem.

However, with the start to the season that Liverpool have made, and the defensive frailties from last season still looking to be a major issue, perhaps Rodgers should rethink his decision to allow Lucas to move on.

Earlier this week a number of media outlets resuscitated the speculation that was rife in the summer. According to the London Evening Standard “Lucas Leiva is keen to leave Liverpool when the transfer window re-opens in January.” The article reports that Lucas had spoken with Radio Marca and said: ““I’m not speaking to anyone at the moment because I’m under contract, but I am looking around, given I am not playing.”

Rafa

Lucas was once a mainstay of the Liverpool team. Sat in front of the back four, he would shield them and disrupt attacking moves, intercept passes made by the opposition, and generally attempt to break up attacks before they could blossom. In 2009-10 season Lucas was the fourth most prolific tackler in the Premier League. The following season, in 2010-11, he was voted Liverpool Player of the Year by the fans, amassing 40 per cent of the vote. Lucas continued his excellent form into the next season, but unfortunately it was cut short when he was stretchered off at Stamford Bridge. LFC History state that: “his absence was more keenly felt than anyone’s else’s and Liverpool’s midfield fell apart without him in the second half of the campaign”. They have every right to say this, Liverpool lost 11 of the 19 remaining league games.

Using statistics gathered from Squawka we can see just how effective Lucas is in a defensive position. In the 2012-13 season, per 90 minutes Lucas made more interceptions, blocked more shots, won significantly more tackles, and made more successful passes than any other Liverpool midfielder. As well as this he only finishes behind Gerrard in terms of number of clearances, and behind Nuri Sahin in aerial duels won.

Despite missing most of the second half of last season through injury, Lucas’ stats are equally as impressive. Per 90 minutes he made more interceptions, made more clearances, won more aerial duels, successfully completed more passes, and had the best pass accuracy of any Liverpool midfielder. As well as this he only finished behind Gerrard in terms of blocked shots, and behind Joe Allen in terms of number of tackles.

Lucas Dominating

Clearly it would be wrong to state that Lucas brings nothing to the team. Without him in the starting eleven, Liverpool are less secure at the back, and the results of this can be seen in the number of goals the side are conceding currently.

When Lucas was injured on the 21st of January, in the second half of last season, Rodgers dropped Gerrard in to a deeper role. This apparent stroke of genius coincided with an incredible run of form which saw them lose only one game in the league from then until the end of the season. I was convinced that Gerrard would now remain in this deeper position, and make Lucas redundant. Though I was correct with my prediction, it seems it would have been better if I had not have been.

It is probably no coincidence that Gerrard’s repositioning in midfield, and Liverpool’s tremendous run of form last season occurred at the same time. With a more attack-minded defensive midfielder Liverpool were geared towards creating chances and scoring goals. The philosophy of the team seemed to be “outscore the opposition”. With Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez up front, this philosophy worked, but now that Liverpool are unable to call on either of these strikers, the weaknesses have been exposed.

With Suarez and Sturridge paired up front, it did not matter as much when Fulham scored two, as Liverpool would score three. It did not matter when Swansea scored three, as Liverpool would score four. It did not matter when Cardiff would score three, as Liverpool would score six. The obvious defensive weakness of the team and the system, was papered over by the goals provided by the free-scoring strikers. Now that the strikers are not scoring, the obvious weakness becomes more of a glaring problem.

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This article was originally published on TitanBet on 26/10/14

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