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8 Appearances, 3 Chances Created – Is He The Real Problem In Liverpool’s Midfield?

Is Lucas Leiva the problem in the reds midfield?

I was asked to write a piece on how Liverpool FC’s midfield would look without Lucas Leiva, however even if Brendan Rodgers makes the call to remove Leiva from the first team I feel the problems will still be there. The problem in Liverpool’s midfield are Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva.

They just do not go together. They cannot control the midfield against any teams in the Premier League that have decent midfield players, which is most of them now. They also cannot play together in the current 3-4-1-2 formation that Rodgers has now chosen to employ to get the best from Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.

Do we have the players who can do this at the club already or do we hope that Rodgers can see the giant Gerrard and Leiva shaped hole in the Reds midfield and will act decisively in the January transfer window?

Lucas supporters will point out that he was excellent for a period under Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish and that he will return to the great form that preceded his cruciate knee injury. But, lets just imagine for a moment that that period of good form was the abborhation!

That form was simply down to the fact that his midfield partners during that ‘good ’run of form were Christian Poulsen, Jay Spearing or Charlie Adam! Let us also not forget that under Roy Hodgson Liverpool played some of the worst football in recent memory. It was not difficult to stand out amongst the garbage that was being played out in front of our eyes.

So if we dispel the myth that Lucas is going to turn into Javier Mascherano over-night then we are left with the other issue of Steven Gerrard as his midfield partner. I love Steven Gerrard, he is my favourite ever Liverpool player and has given me some of the greatest moments of joy a football fan can experience. I am not writing this about him to be controversial, I genuinely feel that he is not suited to playing in our central midfield in the current set up.

This season, Lucas from his 8 league appearances has failed to get on the score sheet and is yet to provide an assist. He has just created 3 chances so far.

People forget that when Steven was in his prime he never played Central Midfield for Liverpool. The then Reds boss Rafa Benitez played Steven on the right of midfield, on the left in some games and behind Fernando Torres as the No10. Perhaps he could return to that position and rotate with Phillipe Coutinho?

Rafa chose Xabi Alono, Momo Sissokho, Javier Mascherano, Lucas Leiva and even Bolo Zenden consistently ahead of Steven during his time as Liverpool boss. So if Steven could not play central midfield and control games when he was in the prime of his career, what makes anyone think he can do it now, when he is approaching his 34th birthday?

I read comparisons with Pirlo from time to time but I can assure you, Steven Gerrard is a completely different player to Pirlo, Pirlo is still dictating games at Champions League and International level. Steven I’m afraid is not. Now, whether that is down to a lack of mobility, fitness or just grandfather time catching up with him, perhaps we’ll never know but one thing is for certain, until the midfield problem is addressed fully then Liverpool will continue to struggle to control games as the manager wants.

I say fully because Rodgers did tweak things slightly at home to West Brom and played with Lucas sitting behind Gerrard and Henderson in a flipped triangle, that allowed Henderson and Gerrard to get further forward and support Suarez and Sturridge without the constant fear of having to track back and get back into position as and when we turned over possession. In some respects that worked very well, Liverpool ran out easy 4-1 winners and they controlled the midfield well against a West Brom team with a more than adequate midfield quartet.

However, come the Arsenal game the same problems arose. Lucas got drawn out of position due to his inclination to chase the ball, he gets tunnel vision and just runs towards the ball, it is far to simple for players to bypass him completely or even pass around him. As for Gerrard, the game just seemed to pass him by, the tempo that the game was played at just did not suit him and he had zero positive impact. In his defence, I will say that to have him play every minute of every game, particularly as he is England captain and has played every minute for them also this season is quite simply appalling management by Rodgers.

Admittedly there has been a time where Liverpool have had only three fit midfielders, however Joe Allen was fit to return away at Newcastle but did not make an appearance Luis Alberto came on in that same game and had an extremely positive impact on the game and of course there is Jordan Henderson, who aswell as doing the running for Gerrard in the games he has played also fits into Rodgers’ preferred method of pressing high and winning possession back quickly.

Even against Arsenal when it was clear that they were out manoeuvring us in midfield did we see Allen come on. We couldn’t see Alberto as he hadn’t made the squad. Phil Coutinho came on and with Henderson shifted to a wider position on the right hand side, Arsenal were free to run through the middle of the reds midfield at will.

So, what is the solution? Rodgers always say’s he wants to control games. He wants to inflict death by football. He talked about it plenty in interviews when he first took over and in particularly in an interview with many local radio shows, podcasts and blogs at Melwood. He talked about his ideal formation and style. He talked about how he could set up, particularly in midfield with the three playing in either a 1-2 axis or as we have more commonly seen a 2-1 axis. As of yet we have not seen that style used to any great success results wise.

Rodgers also said that was whilst he may not have the personnel to implement exactly what he wants now, he had to find a way to win games firstly and If you look at our run since Christmas 2012 you will see that he has done that and that we can genuinely be talked about as Champions League contenders this season.

As fans we can sometimes get carried away and I know that there are plenty of people who want Lucas and Gerrard out of the team completely, there are also some who say that those players have played a massive part in the run Liverpool have been on since Christmas 2012. As I have said though, we need reinforcements in the midfield area, we need Rodgers to be brave and get the team playing how he wants and to get the results with that style. If that means not playing Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard in central midfield so be it.

Let’s look at some of Lucas’ stats in the league so far.



Stats taken from Squawka