Patience, contends every annoying sage you've ever encountered, is a virtue, but it is not one that finds much traction with football fans. We are a rabid lot, satisfied only with success in the instant and perpetually whining about, well, everything really. This unedifying trait is particularly pronounced amongst the ranks of supporters of once-successful clubs. Such unfortunates have an innate sense of status and entitlement, which although it may have been earned, is often at odds with the reality of the present.
When a new player steps in front of that audience, he is often granted precious little time before he is deemed a success or a failure, a world-beater or a waste of money. This adjudication is delivered summarily, with the smug assurance of a Pope speaking ex cathedra. The smug, self-righteous certainty of the football fan is a gloriously awful thing.
In recent days the Spaniard, Iago Aspas, has been the subject of just such a prematurely judgemental assessment by many who purport to support Liverpool Football Club and its players. Now, don't get me wrong. As poor Iago blustered around Anfield against Manchester United, the living manifestation of the phrase a red card waiting to happen, there were none more vocal than I in exhorting Brendan Rodgers to remove him from the field of play, ten minutes ago.
It wasn't a paucity of effort or lack of stomach for the fray, you understand -- Aspas simply couldn't get to the pitch of it, as Irish legend, John Giles, is fond of saying. He was off the pace but rather than being cowed, he bit back with careless late tackles and a snarling demeanour. He certainly doesn't lack moral courage (another one of Gilesy's), but it was referee bait and he should have been hooked at half-time.
In pre-season and to a lesser extent against Stoke and Aston Villa, the forward has shown a beautifully assured touch, an eye for a pass and a pleasing directness. He has clearly developed a method of compensating for his lack of physical presence by being aware and quick on his feet. It is noticeable that Aspas is generally on the half-turn when receiving the ball, thus allowing him to evade or roll tackles and elude his marker. In that regard, he is perfect in Rodgers' attacking system, being mobile, technically assured and tactically astute.
The most striking thing about Aspas in a Liverpool kit is the slightness of his frame. His arms and legs have none of the musculature one normally associates with professional footballers. Not every player needs to be possessed of Enriquean biceps, but his physique is less what one would expect from a man of twenty six and more reminiscent of a schoolboy shivering on some public park in an oversized shirt.
John Aldridge, once of the parish of Anfield, echoed the concerns and observations of many in his Echo column. "The former Celta man is learning that English football is not for the faint-hearted," said the Liverpool legend. "In England Aspas is learning that you have someone on you as soon as you get it." There has been much talk of bulking up, the English solution to an English problem, but I quietly hope he retains his fragile looking body and makes fools of the Premier League's destroyers with wit and guile. One need only look at the likes of Gabriel Agbonlahor, a few seasons back, to see how negative an impact too much muscle-building can have on a player's natural game and mobility.
Aspas once played with Monday's opponent, Michu, at Celta Vigo and The Greatest Bargain In The History Of Football(TM) has been sharing some thoughts on his former team-mate and the forthcoming clash with Liverpool on Swansea's official website.
"They [Liverpool] have one of my friends, Iago Aspas," the Swansea man said. "I think he is really good and is going to have a good season. I want to play against him. Liverpool is going to be a difficult game. They are really strong but we need to get three points at home."
With earth-shattering profundities like that to nonchalantly drop into conversation, it is highly likely that Michu and his rapier wit are the toast of the Welsh town's more salubrious coffee-houses. However, as a man who has had a dramatic and instant impact on English football, the goalscorer may also have a little guidance for his old mucker on how to make an early impact, and more importantly, how to survive the trip to Stoke, physically and emotionally intact.
Given Aspas' meteoric rise in such a limited time, we would do well to allow him a little wiggle-room before rushing to categorise him as a hero or villain. He has obvious technique and a willingness to engage in the physicality of the Premier League. My favourite Aspas moments have come watching his face when he's been substituted. This guy, who two seasons ago was playing in the Spanish second tier, was absolutely disgusted and clearly mouthing profanities as his number was held up. He believes in himself as a starter for Liverpool Football Club. There is no shortage of character in Iago Aspas. If we afford him the courtesy of patience, he may well prove that. For now, to awkwardly paraphrase the Bard, demand him nothing. What we know, we know.