Lucas Leiva has gone from being derided in his early years at Liverpool FCAi??to being a vital cog in the Reds’ set up. TheHardTackle takes a look at the role of the Brazilian, and examines what the midfield would look like without him.

Lucas Leiva - Liverpool midfielder | Liverpool - A Midfield Without Lucas

The ACL injury has made life hard for Lucas

Lucas is an integral part of the system employed by Brendan Rodgers and he plays the role of the ‘controller’. He is more often than not the first player to be added on the team sheet. With so much focus on flair and attack in Rodgers` system, it is imperative that the holding midfielder needs to be intelligent, mobile and he must have the ability to break up play whenever necessary. Lucas’ role is to drop in between the centre halves, picking up the ball whenever necessary, and to start the attack. He isn’t the kind of player who is very pleasing on the eye but his presence in midfield has a huge positive impact on Liverpool. This aspect, along with his fine pressing game means that he not only helps Liverpool in possession, but he is vital to them gaining it through his diligence in midfield.

Liverpool’s midfield this season seems to have a midfield combination of Lucas, Gerrard and Henderson. Lucas plays the role of a classic defensive midfielder (DM), breaking up play, winning duels and Gerrard has comfortably tucked into the role of deep lying play maker supplying ammunition to the likes of Suarez, Sturridge, Moses and Coutinho. Henderson has this free role of playing down the left or right and being a willing runner, he has become very important in the scheme of things at Liverpool. Lucas brings the best out of the more attacking players around him. Coutinho, Suarez and Gerrard all benefit from his work-rate and his rounded contribution to the team.

What will midfield look like without Lucas?

So, how will Liverpool fare without Lucas in midfield? Well, you could very much see it in the game against Palace at Anfield. Liverpool, after going 3-0 up in the first half, struggled to create any sort of tempo in the second. There was no link between the defense, midfield and the front line. In other words, due to Lucas` absence Liverpool struggled to win the ball back and as a result, they couldnai??i??t play their usual controlling tiki taka brand of football.

Below is a statistical comparison of Lucas and other DM`s in the league.

Player

Duels won (%)

Passing Accuracy

Recoveries

Lucas Leiva

59.8

89.3

41

Jose Canas

51

90.3

35

Fernandinho

48.6

86.1

31

Michael Carrick

55.1

86.4

61

Morgan Schneiderlin

52.9

87.3

33

Claudio Yacob

57.1

88.6

33

Most of the fans think that the anterior cruciate ligament injury has maligned Lucas` development as a player and he`s not the same player he was two years ago. Medical experts say that a when a sportsman tears his ACL and makes a comeback, the game is too fast for him. It takes a while before he gets used to the pace. It may be a while before Lucas is back to his best, but the stats indicate that Lucas is doing better than most of his counterparts in the Premier League. Lucas has a duels won percentage of 59.8 which is better than most of the defensive midfielders. Lucas has also made 41 recoveries this season and lags behind the impressive Michael Carrick and Gary Medel in that aspect. The Brazilian`s passing accuracy isnai??i??t that bad either, with his score of 89.3% better than most of the other defensive midfielders.

However, problems with his thigh and knee will hinder his ability to track players and it is seemingly difficult for him to cope against counter attacks. Despite his positive start to this season, there are doubts about other things, too. He also appears to have too much to do, stationed next to the creative, but less mobile Steven Gerrard. Ai??He also has the arduous task of covering the area left behind by Johnson and Enrique as they gallop up the field.Ai??This situation might force Rodgers to seek a quality DM to act as a cover for Lucas or maybe even challenge him for the position. From what we have seen in the early part of this season is that Liverpool have faded away in the second half and lack the spark and control they exhibit in the first half. This can be attributed to a jaded Lucas in midfield.

Options for cover

Morgan Schneiderlin - Southampton midfielder | Liverpool - A Midfield Without Lucas Leiva?

Schneiderlin has been impressive for the Saints

Morgan Schneiderlin from Southampton and Claudio Yacob from West Brom would provide Liverpool with the much needed competition/cover for Lucas. Schneiderlin has the tactical discipline needed to be successful in the defensive midfield role and he would seamlessly fit into Liverpool`s midfield as he is very much used to the pressing game that Rodgers employs. He is also a great physical presence in midfield and is adept at tackling and nullifying attacks. His energy is another huge plus point which makes it easy for him to patrol the midfield. The managerial switch from Nigel Adkins to Mauricio Pochettino has further enhanced Schneiderlinai??i??s development and reputation as a player. Pocchetino’s style of high intensity pressing has added to the Frenchmanai??i??s ever growing list of qualities in his defensive midfield role and Rodgers might look at him as a real option come January.

Claudio Yacob isnai??i??t going to cure all of Liverpool`s midfield issues, but heai??i??d certainly be a decent acquisition. The Argentine midfielder, like Schneiderlin, can have a huge impact on the midfield. He would also offer ample cover to the Reds` midfield, as well as offering a much more physical option than Lucas Leiva or Joe Allen. Yacob played a huge part in West Brom`s impressive top half finish in the premiership last season. He has the technical attributes to fit into a very fluid, possession conscious, Liverpool side. Yacob`s passing stats are very impressive. Given hisAi??passing skills and good tackling abilities Liverpool fans would be more than happy to see him at Anfield.

Written by Rahul Ravi

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