Its awesome when you’re right

Finally, Aquilani plays in his best position

I know it was only Portsmouth at home, but after many, many painful displays of inept and disgraceful soccer, Liverpool finally put together a strong outing in yesterday’s 4-1 win. Scoring four goals against the Premier League’s bottom team that is in administration and definitely going down is not any great achievement in itself. But far more than the scoreline, its was the players and formation that manager Rafa Benitez put on the pitch at Anfield that is giving Liverpool fans reason for hope. Finally, we got to see big money summer signing Alberto Aquilani play in an advanced midfield role with both Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. The big question now is with Lille at home in the Europa League on Thursday and a trip to Old Trafford on the weekend, will Benitez stick with it or revert to form and use both Dirk Kuyt and Lucas.

As I have said here, here, and here, I have never understood why Lucas has been favored over Aquilani. By any measure, Lucas is just not good enough to hold down a regular spot in central midfield for a top of the table side. He doesn’t control the ball well, he doesn’t pass well, he doesn’t create goals, he doesn’t score goals, he doesn’t take up great positions, he doesn’t defend particularly well, and he is not a vocal leader on the field. Aquilani is a gifted passer of the ball, is both decisive and positive with the ball, is composed in control, and is constantly thinking about how he can help his team score goals. He is not much of a defender and he is not that quick. But the difference between the two players was so obvious Monday it was impossible to ignore.

One exchange that did not even result in a goal explains all you need to know. Liverpool gained possession in their own half with Aquilani only about 35 yards from his own goal. As the ball moved up the field eventually to Torres with his back to goal about 35 yards from Portsmouth’s goal, Aquilani kept moving forward, ultimately beating the offside trap and latching on to a lofted ball from Maxi Rodriguez for a very tough over-the-shoulder volley that went just wide. Lucas would still have been in his own half and would never have thought to make that run.

One good outing does not make a turnaround, especially as poor as Liverpool have been this season. But the evidence is there for Benitez should he choose to see it. Liverpool may be more exposed when playing Aquilani advanced and Ryan Bable and Rodriguez on the wings, but they can also score goals, something they seemed incapable of during this miserable stretch. I like Dirk Kuyt and don’t want to lump him in with Lucas for too much criticism, but he is really a defensive winger/forward and is evidence of a more defensive approach.

My bet is that Benitez brings Kuyt back but finds a way to leave Lucas on the bench for the matches against both Lille and Man U. Or maybe that’s just what I hope.


One Response

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Aquilani opened my eyes yesterday. I was struck by the same incident you cited – he just loped down the field, thinking hard about position (constantly glancing around).

    The ways this game reward creative thinking about space and timing never fails to please me.

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