The Importance of Lucas Leiva

This writer must confess, Lucas Leiva has never been his favorite Liverpool player. The Brazilian is articulate, tidy, and one of the best holding midfielders in the world. Still, my eye is shallowly drawn to flashes of genius, readily shown by those who have the luxury of playing high up field where every twist and turn could lead to a goal. It’s only natural, I tell myself. Amongst all the excitement of watching Luis Suarez twist and turn three defenders it’s quite easy to forget how much easier the Uruguayan’s job, and those of his teammates, is made easier by the Lucas’ presence.

It’s all the more shameful because this writer has long considered himself too smart to be fooled by the myth of Brazil’s jogo bonito. The Seleção figured out long ago that the only way creative players flourish is with a strong base behind them. The true keys to World Cup success have always lain with players such as Gilberto Silva or Dunga. Hardly carthorses but players that excelled at the less glamorous part of the game. Still Lucas is overlooked. For shame.

Lucas Leiva is continuing the proud tradition of that very special type of enforcer. He is Liverpool’s Sergio Busquets, one of the best at fulfilling the new role of the holding midfielder. Busquets isn’t protecting the defense with last gasp challenges but rather keeping the side in a position from where those challenges don’t have to be made. Similarly, Lucas isn’t a pure destroyer but every player around him now has the freedom to express himself because there is organization behind them.

Against Southampton, all shakiness from Liverpool’s midfield seemed to have vanished. The midfield triangle could be flipped to a 1-2 without fear as Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard weren’t overloaded with. Things were done more as a unit. And for all the fear seemingly caused by West Ham’s aerial barrage it’s worth noting that no West Ham player scored from open play, with Lucas doing a decent job marshalling a side led by the rampaging Mohamed Diame.

Brendan Rodgers always talks about Liverpool becoming a side that cherishes the ball, and that means the idol to live up to has to be Barcelona. And Sergio Busquets is absolutely key to everything Barcelona do. With the ball he drops back between the center-halves, allowing the fullbacks freedom to give width to an often narrow side, almost keeping Barcelona in a metodo shape. Collecting the ball from Valdes or Puyol it is Busquets who starts most offensive moves, simple outlets to Xavi or Iniesta who display the stunning diagonals and through balls.

In his short time back it seems that Lucas has been trying to perform a similar job with Liverpool, dropping between Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel to ensure the Reds aren’t left with a shortage at the back when Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson bomb forward. Lucas has also been charged with instigating most of Liverpool’s forward moves, Leiva to Allen was the most common pass combination in the West Ham fixture.

Liverpool have been rebuilding for quite some time now, and it often hasn’t looked as if they’ve been doing it with a clear plan. Rodgers has a defined ethos, and although as a possession based team Liverpool are absurdly far away from the class of Barcelona or Bayern Munich, at least this rebuilding appears to have a point.

16 thoughts on “The Importance of Lucas Leiva”

  1. All the ‘experts’ said he was wank.

    Before it was realised he is a decent player there was talk of him being offloaded to Stoke, my Liverpool supporting mates were wetting themselves thinking they were palming us off with another Salif Diao. Now they think he’s ace. Knobjockeys.

    1. To be fair, the first year at LFC he looked completely out of his depth. He was often poor, and those supporting him were doing so because Rafa was singing his praises. He’s turned into a great player, though, and is showing why he is probably the second most important player on the team.

        1. What about the Twin Crabs, Henderson and Allen? Sideways, backwards, sideways, backwards. £30m+ for that pair and Stoke get called boring! At least Rory Delap could manage an assist now and again 😉

          1. There was nothing boring about Liverpool’s performance yesterday, or the match for that matter. BTW, Henderson had a lovely sideways pass for an assist on the game winner.

            How many did Stoke score yesterday against an awful Villa side?

          2. Whilst I can’t hide from the 0-0 I can at least say I predicted that result. I would not pay £40 to watch it though was happy with the point. 0-0 boxing day, nailed on.

          3. Joe Allen is excellent.

            I could tell you about how half of his passes against West Ham went forward or that 63% of his Wigan passes went forward but it just wouldn’t fit with the media narrative would it?

            In any case, having 11 players who constantly hurled the ball forward would make Liverpool a worse side, not a better one. They don’t have the personnel to play that way.

          4. Joe Allen £15m Goals 0 Assists 0 Shots 3 2012/13

            Jordan Henderson £15m Goals 0 Assists 0 Shots 6 2012/13

            Taken from the ESPN stat thingy. Well worth £30m for FSG.

            I’d add Stuart Downing’s stats in if I couldbe arsed but it’d be very similar for £20m I’m sure.

            1. Joe Allen isn’t a goalscorer, nor is he the type of midfielder who creates pinpoint passes for his strikers to score. He’s very similar to Leon Britton, who is the engine in the Swansea team. Both footballers do a fantastic job at holding onto possession and threading the ball from near the back up to the creative midfielders.

              The Gaffer

          5. So effectively he’s Claude Makele? We had an article on here a matter of weeks ago along the lines of that type of player doesn’t exist anymore. I’m sorry but for both those players £15m seems an awful lot of money, and I’d have to put it down to the fact they’re British and it’s Liverpool, rather than them actually being worth £15mh

  2. I’m not into entertainment, I’m a Stoke fan. Good stat I’ve come across today, we’ve got the meanest defence in Europe behind only Juventus and Bayern Munich! Glad you’re happy with 2 bang average British midfielders, Norwich & WBA pick them up an awful lot cheaper and seem to get more out of them for the money. In all seriousness I think you get stitched up with the ‘oh it’s Liverpool, they’ll pay through the nose for this lad’ type agent. Hence the inflated transfer fees in recent seasons, which drive my questionable derision.

    I still haven’t forgiven you for letting us have Super Salif. There’s another flash in the pan you paid £60k a week! In our defence he wasn’t very entertaining before he got here.

    1. Yeah, I know. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of Henderson. I do like Allen, though.

      I’m not surprised by the stat regarding Stoke’s defense. When Vorm got hurt I picked by Begovic as my keeper. Best move I’ve made all season!

  3. When Lucas played in Brazil he was a box to box midfielder and won Player of the Year at 18 or 19 (not sure but he was still young). Anyway, Rafa wanted him to be a defensive midfielder and not not to go forward much. That was not an easy transition for him given he was in a new league and asked to do something different. It took him some time to play the defensive midfielder role well.

    His passing has improved tremendously and that is one reason why he is so important to Liverpool’s chances for success.

  4. Good article. He is a brilliant player really. He is the best tackler in the league, and his distribution is first rate. He’s not quite Alonso, but who is? He is key to allowing the other midfield players maximize their value in their best positions, without having to hedge their bets or worry about what’s happening behind them. As a kind of midfield ‘safety valve’ he has no equal in the Premier League. He may not be worth the most on the open market, but to Liverpool he’s arguably our most valuable player not named Suarez.

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