Liverpool summer signing Iago Aspas can be successful for the club, give him game time to prove his credentials.
Iago Aspas netted his first goal for the club in Liverpool’s third round FA Cup clash against Oldham. A cracking volley, which clearly illustrated that he is no rookie, that he indeed is 26 years old and that he surely has experience of playing against decent oppositions. The 26 year old Spaniard, must have indeed heaved a sigh of relief after scoring his first goal for the Reds.
Iago Aspas was brought in from Spanish club Celta de Vigo for a rumoured £7.7m fee. Aspas has always played for Celta, barring a year on loan to a Segunda (second division) club Rápido de Bouzas. His season of prominence was the 2010-11 one. This is when he helped his club reach Spain’s top flight. It might be hard to believe for Liverpool supporters now, but it was this man who scored 23 goals in 35 matches to help the Spanish club push its way to the first division. In Celta’s next season in the La Liga, the 26 year old scored 12 goals and was incredibly vital to save his club from relegation. It was not just the netting he was doing; he created 6 goals as well.
As visible, at Celta, Aspas was highly impressive. Spanish pundits rated him very highly and there was considerable buzz in newspapers, web and radio about Liverpool bagging a good player who could provide quality in the depth of the squad. And they were not wrong. In Celta, Aspas of course did well as a lone striker, but he often dropped off into midfield and started attacks.
He also took on players with his pace. In fact, it was his pacey movement which caught one’s eye and was the prime feature of his game. He timed his runs to perfection, he could change his pace with ease- from going slow and skilfully on the ball to bursting into fast attacks. It seemed like Iago Aspas had it all. He could play anywhere in the attack- a lone striker, a second striker and on the wings.
Aspas did decently for Liverpool upon arriving. He scored and assisted one in his semi-debut for the club in the pre-season. He assisted Daniel Sturridge’s goal against Stoke in Liverpool’s and Aspas’s first premier league game of the season. After that, he did not do enough to prove what the hype around him was all around. He started Liverpool’s next four matches, but after a terrible game against Southampton, he was receded to the bench. Suarez too made his return after that, and the effective SAS partnership started demonstrating its threat on the pitch and Aspas was basically a third wheel.
His life in Liverpool was made from bad to worse after he picked up a thigh muscle strain and was out for one and a half months. However, he did return and made a few cameo appearances. He came on for a minute, nine minutes and eight minutes his next three substitute appearances. This was when Daniel Sturridge was out with injury as well. If Rodgers wanted to use Aspas and make him prove his credentials, there was no better time than this. Rodgers could easily opt from one of the duo of Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen and use Aspas in the attack, in the Spaniard’s preferred second striker position. This was especially perfect as Gerrard too was out injured. Using Aspas would not mean dropping Jordan Henderson or Raheem Sterling. Rodgers instead did not experiment, and used went with two holding midfielders.
Aspas finally got his chance to start a match in Liverpool’s last one against Hull City. The 26 year old played for almost sixty minutes, and while he did not score or assist, he did show some lively touches. Liverpool played the third round of the FA Cup against Oldham Athletic, and Aspas was entrusted with the attack as Luis Suarez was on the bench, having played all the matches since his return for the club. The 26 year old had the expectations of a lot resting on his shoulders and he did not disappoint. The player scored a thumping volley from a ball fed by Raheem Sterling. Aspas was relieved and jubilant, as it showed from his celebration. Comments have been made since by Rodgers, and Aspas himself about how happy he is and how much it would do for his confidence.
Iago Aspas is not a bad player. He might not be as talismanic as Luis Suarez, he might not dazzle the spectators every time he touches the ball and he won’t score a brace in every outing of his, but he has the potential to at least get back to playing the way he did for ‘Os Célticos’. He can show the Kop why everyone at Balaidos sang his name louder than anyone else’s for two seasons. He can show Brendan Rodgers why Paco Herrara, Iago’s coach at Celta and ex-Liverpool player, called him “part Messi”.
The Spaniard needs the confidence of the supporters more than anything else. The fans need to back him if they want him to do well. It is understood that it will only happen when he performs well, but for that Rodgers has to take a few bold steps and play Aspas for at least forty minutes in a string of matches, if not start him in those many. Rodgers and Dalgish did so with Henderson and the quality is showing now. Even Downing, who was give a lot of time in the starting eleven did eventually start performing better than before.
With Sturridge returning soon, perhaps as close as against Stoke, Aspas might be reduced to the bench again, but again Rodgers could continue to use him as a substitute who plays for at least that much time. This might be bold, but in the long run it would prove benefitial for the club, giving them the squad strength they need. In the FA Cup ties, at least, Aspas needs to be entrusted with the club’s confidence and given starts, just like he did against Oldham.
Iago Aspas can come good with time, provided he is given that.