There is something special about Brazilian footballers, they give a whole new dimension to a side, and Liverpool were without that dimension when their Brazilian Lucas was out of the side. His return, with 8 games to go, is just what the doctor ordered for Liverpool.
When Manchester United outclassed Liverpool at Anfield, Liverpool not only lost their 13 match unbeaten run, but they were also missing a calm head and an experienced campaigner, the person who instigated the unbeaten run- Lucas Leiva. From being close to transfer listed and becoming the main man in midfield, Lucas has once again proven his quality this season.
Pivotal to the 3-4-2-1
Liverpool are back to square one it seems. When Sturridge was injured in late October last year, it is safe to say that Rodgers lost the plot in terms of who should play upfront. Mario Balotelli played as the lone striker, and with his a lack of pressinga and uninspiring work rate and absolutely no delivery from his team mates, a Super Marioa was cast aside. Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini were handed opportunities in some of the games, but it was really after the disaster at Anfield (where they drew to Basel to be knocked out of the Champions League), that Rodgers revamped Liverpool`s shape.
Lucas suddenly became quintessential to Liverpool`s plans and his partnership alongside Jordan Henderson helped Liverpool`s new system to flourish. The Brazilian is a mighty good reader of the game and his ability to make vital tackles and interceptions in midfield is such a plus for Rodgers and his team.
|Dribbled past per game||1.4||0.9||0.8||0.9|
(Stats source: whoscored.com)
The defensive statistics clearly show that Liverpool are better off with Lucas in midfield doing the a dirty worka and alongside Henderson, has been by far the best player in midfield for the Reds. Liverpool`s dependence on the Brazilian`s presence has been so much so that, the Reds have lost only once in the 14 Premiership games he has played this season, with the only loss coming against West Ham where Liverpool were a outclassed and bullieda for the entirety of the 90 minutes.
Ever since Lucas hobbled off in the Merseyside Derby, Joe Allen has stepped into his role but with a varying degree of success. Apart from the blinder he played against City, Allen has been average in his central midfield role and really struggled to come to terms with the Manchester United midfield last weekend. The Allen-Henderson midfield never really got going in that games, and Liverpool, who mercilessly put opposition teams to sword in the first quarter of games last season, were on the receiving end of a Herrera-Carrick partnership in midfield. United`s tactic was to lump long balls onto Fellaini, and the United midfield won most of the knock downs. The likes of Allen and Henderson were at sixes and sevens, and didna t really know if they had to sit back and win the ball or press United to win back possession. They eventually did neither in the end, and Liverpool ultimately paid the price for it with a poor first half, and with the over-enthusiastic Gerrard showing his team mates a how it is donea with two crunching tackles and a needless red card at the start of the second half.
The game cried out for Lucas, but it was perhaps that Rodgers didna t want to risk him as he has only just recovered from injury. But with the international break at the moment and the possibility of improving his match fitness in the charity game at Anfield, plus stints with the Under 21 team, Lucas will be just about 100% for the crucial game against Arsenal next weekend.
A Can-Lucas partnership against Arsenal?
One thing which have not seen this season is a Lucas Leiva- Emre Can partnership in midfield. With Gerrard and Skrtel suspended for 3 games, and the attacking duo of Sturridge and Lallana sidelined due to injury, it may be possible that Rodgers might try to move Henderson alongside Coutinho, and try playing Lucas alongside Can in central midfield.
Emre Can`s is a central midfielder by trade, and his physical presence and dynamism can help Liverpool handle the likes of Coquelin and Ramsey in Arsenal`s midfield. Rodgers would also be wary of opposition teams trying to catch out Can in his Right centre half role, and would be willing to play the experienced Kolo Toure in the right hand side of defence with Dejan Lovren in the centre. It might seem to be a big risk, but it is a risk worth taking especially with so many injuries and suspensions. Johnson/ Manquillio/ Flanagan could be brought in as wing backs to help the defence shore up a little bit as Sterling would be most probably playing upfront and Moreno`s vulnerability at left wing back.
There are so many permutations and combinations which Rodgers can try out, but a Can-Lucas midfield might be just be the catalyst for a top four finish.