Iago Aspas hasn't had the brightest of starts to his Liverpool career. After a promising pre-season, Aspas had a chance to really establish himself in the side while Luis Suarez sat out the first six matches of the season. His performances fell flat, however, and then a thigh injury sidelined him from mid-October all the way through November. Only just recently is he starting to get any kind of run in the first team again.
As a result of that slow start, Aspas has been the subject of much derision in some circles of the Liverpool fanbase. Many see him as too small, too weak, or just plain not good enough for a club like Liverpool. That seems a little harsh in light of him having to adjust to the English game after playing in Spain for his entire career, but he certainly has fallen short of expectations so far.
That's why seeing a brighter performance from Aspas on Sunday, including his first competitive goal for Liverpool, was such a good thing. With the obvious caveat that his performance came against a League One club, Aspas looked much more part of the side than we've seen before. He was finding the right spaces and making himself available for passes in a way that we haven't seen from him yet.
Aspas' goal was a well-taken effort as well. With Raheem Sterling driving down to the byline on the right side of goal, the Spaniard started off by the far post and then ghosted in to space a bit farther away from the goalmouth, then volleyed Sterling's cross home. The relief and joy on his face to see the ball kiss the back of the net was palpable.
Now, Aspas is hoping to use Sunday's performance as a stepping stone to bigger things with the club. With Daniel Sturridge returning to health, his opportunities will likely be limited for now, but another prime opportunity to prove his progress in a little over two weeks with another FA Cup match against either Bournemouth or Burton Albion. For now, Aspas will likely have to settle for substitute appearances, hoping to make an impact late on in matches.
There is still hope for the Spanish striker at Anfield. While he's never really going to be a force in the starting lineup, Aspas can still be a valuable part of the squad, especially with Liverpool's Champions League aspirtations. Having quality depth to rotate in is a must during a Champions League campaign, and a player like Aspas can give you exactly that once he's had a chance to properly bed in to the side. In a situation like this, patience is a must, especially once progress like what we saw last weekend starts to show. Hopefully over the next couple of months, that patience and trust will be rewarded.