Lucas Leiva: Good Enough for Liverpool?
If you believe Liverpool manager Raphael Benitez there are few midfielders more suited for the Premier League than Lucas Leiva. After all, Benitez has spent much of his 2009-2010 campaign lobbying on behalf of the twenty-two year old Brazilian. Benitez praises Levia’s work rate and dedication to the team, all the while ignoring his glaring deficiencies. Liverpool supporters from Merseyside to Mumbai have been lamenting Leiva’s inclusion in Benitez’s first team since the departure of Xavi Alonso. Replacing Alonso was always going to be a challenge, but after Sunday’s dismal performance against Chelsea it is concretely clear that Leiva is never going to be the man for that task.
This is a player that is simply not good enough for the daily rigors of the English Premier League. Yes, at times he looks like a fluid player that is capable of stringing together a few passes. However, against the likes of Chelsea, Aston Villa, and Spurs he has looked entirely out of his depth this season. The Chelsea match was particularly striking. Leiva appeared tactically naive and physically inferior as Chelsea’s midfield bossed the game and easily pushed the Brazilian off the ball. Benitez has exhausted the English media by plugging Leiva’s ability to give his all, but after Sunday’s 2-0 defeat it is obvious the midfielder brings little more than useless energy to the side.
Moreover, this is not a new problem for Liverpool. Benitez has been attempting to integrate Leiva into the first team for the better part of two years. So I put the question to you, the readers of EPL Talk: is Lucas Leiva good enough for Liverpool Football Club? Is his style of play strong enough for the English Premier League? If nothing else English football is associated with pace and physicality, two qualities that Leiva clearly lacks. At times the midfielder forlornly wanders the middle of the park, giving balls away while simultaneously disrupting Liverpool’s offensive output.
This behavior has deeply effected Steven Gerrard’s play in 2009. Against Chelsea the Liverpool skipper was forced to drop deeper in an effort to link midfield with attack, disrupting his offensive rhythm with Fernando Torres. Gerrard is renowned for his forward runs and box-to-box capacity, but on Sunday fans saw little of this as Chelsea ran riot in the second half.
Of course Liverpool’s misfortunes are not the sole responsibility of one player. Jamie Carragher has looked his age thus far and Dirk Kuyt has been incredibly ineffective on the right during this young season. Liverpool’s internal struggles are also well documented, as owners George Gillette and Tom Hicks continue to drag the club’s reputation through the mud.
Nevertheless, Leiva’s lack of creativity in midfield is the most pressing matter for the Reds on the pitch. Summer signing Alberto Aquilani is returning to health and is predicted to make his first start for Liverpool in the Carling Cup at the end of October. Even if Aquilani usurps Leiva’s place in Benitez’s midfield, Liverpool will still need to call on the Brazilian down the stretch. Most pundits cite Liverpool’s lack of depth as the primary reason that the Merseysiders will not end their twenty-year title drought in 2010. The fixture congestion created by playing in four competitions will certainly test this theory, and Lucas Leiva does little to ease these concerns.