If speculation is to believed then Liverpool are about to perform a makeover on the current squad, be it at the loss of Fernando Torres & Steven Gerrard or with the gain of Joe Cole and Rafael Van Der Vaart as they would have you believe. A new and more experienced left back appears high on the agenda and more recently it is alleged to be in the form of Wigan’s 69 capped and £6m rated, Honduran international Maynor Figueroa.
The left back spot was often a talking point for both press and fans throughout the 2009/10 season, as a span of injuries left Fabio Aurelio restricted to just 23 appearances in total for the campaign with the young Argentinian Emiliano Insua shouldering the majority of the responsibility for Benitez with a total of 44 appearances in all competitions. Many will argue that Insua succumbed to the pressure he was placed under more than he rose to it, before injury to him also brought a halt to his season a few games from the end causing Daniel Agger to have to take up the reins.
Logic would tell you that a fully fit Aurelio, in theory, would have restricted Insua to a much lower number of appearances as his gradual introduction in the latter part of the 2008/09 season turned in to a baptism of fire for the last one. As well as not being able to give Liverpool some of the more creative options further up the field, as well as at dead ball situations, that Aurelio could offer, Insua found himself at times out of form in a side that was collectively several yards off the pace.
At times Aurelio remained on the bench, when Insua took to the field. Benitez way well of been guilty of trying to play Insua into form as he did with several other preferred players, while the opportunity was not extended to all in the squad in the same way. But the reality may have been that the fitness of Aurelio was a long way from where it should have been as he sat warming the bench.
Insua’s own career at Liverpool continues to be a talking point, despite Aurelio moving on to pastures new after rejecting a pay as you play deal in Rafa’s final weeks. Fiorentina lie reportedly in wait, ready to table an offer just shy of the £4m mark, for a player that is waiting to see if the manager is going to show the “no faith” card as many fans have done before him.
Switzerlands Reto Ziegler is yet another left back being connected with the club. The former Spurs winger now playing his trade at Sampdoria after a positional conversion, has just came off the back of a good season with the Italians. Although Hodgson has good experience with Swiss players, he is believed to favour the British market and after the players lacklustre time at Tottenham in the Premier League it may be something that Hodgson is not prepared to offer Ziegler a second go at, especially in such a critical position, amongst a back four that is crying out for immediate balance.
Should Liverpool indulge in Figueroa or even the much earlier previous rumoured interst in Man City’s 36 capped England international Wayne Bridge, then do the stats comparison actually paint a much clearer picture of what Liverpool have already against what they are looking to bring in? Take a look at their Premier League exploits for last season and perhaps a little thought needs to be considered before Insua is sent out the door following in the footsteps of Yossi Benayoun.
Stats will not show you a true value of heart, they will also show you tackles won and lost but not tackles that never got made when they should have been, they also wont show you the times when there just wasnt enough pace in a player to combat an opponent, or his acceleration over the first 10 yards. Whether you believe that Insua’s play suffers from letting in too many crosses from wide areas, pulling the back four out of line because of poor positional awareness or whatever other take you have on the beautiful game and how it should be played, some times the stats tell somewhat of a different story.
What they do show you is that despite his obvious rawness in the game coupled with the varying extremes of Liverpool’s performances on a rollercoaster of a scale, they might well actually be well placed to hold on to the youngster for a little while yet. Despite giving away a number of years and even a bit of height to the said candidates, Insua’s stats do stack up against them, maybe even more so if you revert back to his age. His stats will show you that he possesses an ability to get forward, he is comfortable on the ball and possesses a level of discpline in his play despite his level of experience.
Hodgson may well be the man that allows Insua’s game to develop in a more structured format, only time and patience will tell, it worked for Lucas after all. For sure a new left back needs to appear on the horizon, for place competition alone, but under the right guidance Insua’s game could develop well and Liverpool could find themselves benefitting more than from just a quick sale now with little thought. Stephen Warnock was a good example of this, which Aston Villa have born the fruit of further down the line, he has even been mentioned with a Liverpool return in some areas as just a viable option alongside the other names on the list.
The key step for Roy Hodgson is to restore the balance that left with Arbeloa and Aurelio in situ, something that will no doubt be heavily influenced by Christian Purslow and Martin Broughton who hopefully wont back track on promises publicly made to balance agenda’s and needs of their own in line with the monsters that continue to lurk in the shadows at Anfield, looking for any any scent of profitability that can be extracted from the club.
Stats Source: Opta & Barclays Premier League