Aspas Enjoying "Exciting League"

The game was getting away from Iago again... - Scott Barbour

He's a man written off by many as ineffectual or, at best, unfortunate but Iago Aspas is still talking like a player that feels part of the set-up at Anfield.

Oh dear. It's that time of the year when even sensible folk engage in maudlin introspection and their angsty soul-searching leads to half-baked plans that are doomed at conception. Gym owners and low-fat food manufacturers rub their hands together in Mammon-inspired glee as well-intentioned fools begin a process they will never finish and cigarette and alcohol manufacturers brace themselves for a few lean weeks, safe in the knowledge that February will be a bumper month as folk fall off wagons across the globe.

Amidst all the chaotic planning for self-betterment, Iago Aspas cuts an unlikely figure of stoicism. The Spaniard has endured a miserable time of it since his £7.7m move to Merseyside in the summer. Given his chance in the early going, Aspas failed to impress his new manager and has been resolutely ignored by Brendan Rodgers since. Granted, there have been some injury issues, but essentially, it would appear that the player is not rated by the Northern Irishman.

It's quite a come-down for Aspas, who was a leading light in La Liga with Celta Vigo, scoring eleven goals and playing an instrumental role in keeping them up. The previous year he scored a career-best 23 goals in their promotion campaign. What, you might well ask, has become of that player? Well, patently, the only opinion that matters is that of his manager, and Rodgers seems unconvinced, preferring to send a callow debutant into the fray against Chelsea with the match in the balance rather than trust a seasoned campaigner suited to the role. That Brad Smith is a full back only adds to the slight.

Aspas has been linked with several clubs on the rumour network which has reached a nicely feverish pitch of late. Such talk can easily be dismissed as baseless but hardly seems that fanciful, given the player's age and lack of first-team opportunities. Ironically, injuries to key players and the FA Cup may offer the delicate looking forward a rare chance to start for the Redmen but this may also be too little, too late.

Against a backdrop of talk that there is a rift between the manager and his recruitment committee and with the high likelihood of some more attacking talent arriving at Anfield this month, Aspas will feel his chances of proving himself in red are becoming even slimmer. It is a tribute to the player, then, that he doesn't engage in selfish moaning when interviewed. In fact, to hear him speak, one would assume Aspas was a central cog in the Liverpool machine. His observations are delightfully team-oriented and he is very much on-message as he speaks about Liverpool's progress in the Premier League.

"This is the most competitive league in the world," he gushed to Liverpoolfc.com. "It's all very close. You lose two games, but then by winning two you can be back at the top. A while ago Arsenal were six points clear [of Liverpool]. I think the standard is very even, especially amongst the teams near the top, and that makes for an exciting league. We've still got the whole of the second half of the season to play, and we cannot forget that we are Liverpool and we have to be in those top four places. We'll be battling hard to achieve that right up until the end of the season."

Looking at the next few matches, Aspas believes that Liverpool can get back on track by maintaing their excellent home form.

"We definitely need to be picking up the three points in every one of our home games," Aspas said. "They're all very important games for us, especially on the back of two consecutive defeats, and even more so since they beat us at their place. I think in the away game they played with a little more intensity than us. As a result, they were really up for the occasion and they managed to up their game a little, playing in their own stadium. They managed to go ahead in the game and that made things easier for them. It's going to be important for us to score as early as possible at Anfield, just like we've managed to do in our last few home games, and that will help ensure we get the win."

I dare you to read those words and not feel sympathy for a man who clearly has pride in being a Liverpool player and is denied the chance to actually play. The way he speaks about the upcoming games is so earnest, it's endearing. I found myself hoping he gets a start against Hull, but perhaps that says something about your scribbler's mawkish sentimentality as a wretched year ends. One can get a bit misty after watching It's A Wonderful Life twice over the holiday period. Sadly, this is harsh reality and not the kind of Capra-esque fantasy world that would probably be required for Iago Aspas to become a regular in Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool side.

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