By Matt Davies
The absence of Lucas Leiva has affected Liverpool’s last year greatly, in the 2010-11 season he was voted as our player of the year, and rightly so. His main asset is his ability to anchor the midfield and break up the play, whilst he was fit last season he made more tackles than any other player in the league and he had very high passing accuracy too.
This season we have had central midfield options of Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard, Nuri Sahin, Jonjo Shelvey and Jordan Henderson. Whilst all of these players can play defensively, none of them would consider themselves ‘defensive’, even Rodgers said that Allen has more to offer when he has the chance to move forwards.
Nearly every game of the season Allen has played at the back of the midfield where the main job is to tackle and receive the ball and then release it safely, forwards if possible. Allen is very good at passing the ball to teammates and normally has pass accuracy of over 90%, whilst this is a very good achievement, he doesn’t attempt many tricky passes compared to a player like Gerrard whose accuracy will be lower but he plays more difficult balls. Lucas is more in the middle of the two, he will give the ball away slightly more but he also plays more cutting passes through the middle. Because of this we should be better at creating chances and more likely to get behind the oppositions defence. Lucas has the ability to win the ball and start our attack, something which we have been missing.
Allen also tackles quite well, especially for someone who is 5 ft 6 and not the strongest of specimen, Lucas tackles more than any other player in the league and he tackles strongly and wins nearly all of his duels. This means that although his pass completion probably won’t be as high as Allen’s, he would probably complete more because he has more chances.
Steven Gerrard is a player who has seemed to under-perform this season, obviously with some exceptions. Even though he has not been at his best, he is still a player that you would want in your team because he makes passes that no one else in the world could do. He is the heart and soul of the team and when he performs well, the whole team performs, therefore getting him to perform well is extremely important.
During the FA Cup Final last year Gerrard played the attacking midfield role with Spearing behind him trying to hold the midfield. It was obvious during this match that Gerrard did not trust Spearing with the ball and it didn’t allow him the freedom that he would want, this isn’t a problem that we have when Lucas is playing, over time Gerrard has trusted him more and more and it is now evident how much he trusts him now. With Lucas back it frees up Gerrard to move forwards and help him to attack, where he is most of a threat. It will also be interesting to see how Allen plays differently when he has someone behind him anchoring the play.
In conclusion, it will be great to have Lucas back, he anchors the midfield and gives the other players more freedom whilst also helping with initiating attacks. His return will allow more players to play in their desired roles and move forwards more without being as afraid about having to rush back. He is a player that has been sorely missed and I am sure he will get a huge reception when he returns to Anfield, hopefully before too long.