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Lucas Must Learn that Mediocrity Isn’t Good Enough


Friday, September 26, 2008 by

Not one to dwell too much on what the reaction might be, Rafael Benitez has never shirked away from making controversial choices because people might not agree with them. Few of his decisions, however, will match the levels of surprise hit the last time Liverpool travelled to Goodison Park.

With the game stuck at 1-1 and Liverpool struggling to build play, Benitez came up with a strange solution: take off Steven Gerrard and replace him with Lucas Leiva.

The Brazilian had been hyped up on his arrival yet for all the promise, few saw him as the best suited to replace the captain in such a high profile game.

Yet the move paid off. Liverpool started to get more into the game after that change was made and it was Lucas’ shot that Phil Neville handled on the line to give Liverpool the match winning penalty.
It also gave Lucas the ideal platform on which to build and confirm all the good that had been written about him. Sadly that hasn’t happened. Lucas has been given many opportunities but on very few occasions has he shown anything of special note. True, it is hard to pin-point games where he has been poor but quite simply it is often difficult to notice Lucas at all.

Take the recent game in Marseilles. Throughout the ninety minutes it was easy to forget that Lucas was even on the pitch such was his ineffectiveness. When the post-match statistics popped up, however, Lucas was up there with the top five passers in the game. Even more surprisingly, 80% of his passes had found a red shirt.

The reason behind this is fairly simple. Lucas follows the old Liverpool mantra of getting the ball and passing it on to the nearest team-mate. In that respect, Lucas excels.

Yet that is only half of the equation: Liverpool players were also expected to move into space in expectation of the return pass or to keep the move flowing forward. And that is where Lucas fails. He gets rid of the ball but rarely does anything particularly creative with it nor does he move too far away for the part of the pitch where he operates and this limits the impact that he can make.

This has also made him an easy target for criticism. The number of fans dissatisfied by how he plays is increasing with every game and they are getting more vociferous.

They have good reason for this. Lucas can occasionally thread through incisive balls, he is clearly an intelligent player and the high esteem in which he is held back in Brazil and indicator of his talent.

All this, however, is not enough to offset the current impression that he doesn’t add anything to the team.

For, what made Liverpool such a strong team for such a long time wasn’t simply their style of play but also the aversion of mediocrity: which is what Lucas has been for most of his time at the club. Time has come for him to start showing that he is better than that.


Neil said...

Perhaps if he was played in a more advanced position - his natural role - you would see a better player.

He was top scorer in the Brazilian top flight FFS!

I think Rafa is merely schooling him in a deeper role so that he gets used to more frequent contact, tackles etc. He is still only a kid.

If you want to pick on a Brazillian, pick on that dozy b*stard left back.

Paul Grech said...

@ Neil. I'm not aware that Lucas was top scorer in Brazil although he was the player of the season.

As far as your left back comment goes, I'm not sure understand. Fabio Aurelio has been good this season, even though he's missed his usual number of games through injury.

If, on the other hand, you're pointing on Dossena then you've got your nationalities wrong as he is Italian.

Neil said...

Paul - Perhaps you should read up on these things then. 22 goals for Gremio - one of the smaller teams in the league at the time (since relegated).

It's quite simple; Brazillan left back = Aurelio. He is a dozy b*stard. He frequently lacks the concentration needed for our team. Against Liege his passing and throw-in(!) selection was poor.
He frequently puts team mates under pressure when there is a better out ball to be played.

He also gives the ball away too often. See the Man U game where shortly before we conceded he played the ball to his left, straight out of play. It wasn't a clearance, it was merely him showing a lack of composure and passing to nobody. This at a time when we were under pressure and needed to retain the ball.

He doesn't seem sharp enough for the English game.

Dossena is Italian. Although he's yet to set the world alight in a red shirt, he was picked for the national team last time out, and Italian managers don't tend to select bad defenders. We shall see if he improves with time (he should play tomorrow as Fab is injured), but for me, Aurelio needs to be used as back up.

We are being linked with Gareth Bale, it will be Aurelio who makes way if we do buy him.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Paul here, Lucas was poor last time but, is it his fault that,like most,he is being played out of his natural position?....Keane,Kuyt,Gerrald, I need to go on?...a player played out of position like that, can only try and do his best....and learn to udjust!!!

Nicky Tanner said...

He was Brazilian player of the year in 2006 however I still don't see why he is soo highly thought of by Rafa that he would consider selling Alonso.

His appearance in the last minutes of the Merseyside derby last season and the shot that led to the penalty was just luck (he did'nt change the game).

The verdicts still out on the youngster considering Rafa spent €9 million on the Brazilian. Still think we need another more creative midfielder.

Paul Grech said...

@ Neil. Haven't had time to check out the 22 goals part of your comment but Gremio a small side and relegated? They were finalists of the Copa Libertadores two seasons back and are top of the Brazilian league.

@ Nicky Tanner (you're not THE Nicky Tanner, are you?) True, he is still developing but he needs to start showing his talent more often.

Paul Heron said...

I think maybe he just needs a good run of games to find his form. He definitely possesses the raw ability.

Bob said...


your facts are wrong. Lucas scored 4 goals in 38 games spread over two seasons