After scoring four times in pre-season and sprinkling in a few neat tricks and flicks to go along with his impressive work-rate, things were looking up for new signing Iago Aspas at Liverpool. Four games into the season and without a goal to show for it, it's fair to say the regular season hasn't gone quite so well for the striker.
Things started promisingly enough against Stoke, with Aspas registering the assist on Daniel Sturridge's goal and managing a pair of shots in a solid if unspectacular performance. Unfortunately, since then the ex-Celta Vigo striker has increasingly been a non-factor, not even registering a shot on goal over his next three outings.
"Over the last four or five seasons I probably haven't gone as many games as this without a goal," he admitted, "I've never been an out-and-out goal scorer, but it's true that over the last three seasons I have scored quite a number of goals. On a personal level I'm not entirely happy as I would want to be because I still feel that I can do a lot better."
The injury to Philippe Coutinho may give Aspas the chance to impress before Luis Suarez returns against Manchester United in the League Cup. Yet even that now appears less than a certainty following Luis Alberto's hat-trick for the U21s on Tuesday, with Brendan Rodgers in the stands to watch the young attacking midfielder dictate play.
At this stage, Alberto may be as likely a choice to play off Sturridge on Sunday as Aspas will be. Meanwhile, Rodgers also has the option of pulling Jordan Henderson inside and starting Raheem Sterling on one of the wings opposite Victor Moses. It all adds up to an uncertain future for Aspas at Liverpool.
None of which is to say he's fated to fail in England before having hardly even begun. Some players take longer to adjust to a change of scenery than others, and for a relative bargain like Aspas, ending up on the bench because the likes of Sturridge, Henderson, and now Moses appear likely to be preferred on form is hardly the end of the world—at least for the club and its fans.
"I've not set myself a goals target," he added. "What I have done is aimed at playing as many games as possible to try and help the team to get into the top four, which I think is the most important thing for us, [but] it's not that easy coming here from the Spanish league [and] I've only had a short period to settle in. I'm working hard in training and in the gym to try and improve."
Whether it's fair to him or not, Saturday may be Aspas' last best chance to show he can settle quickly and contribute for Liverpool as a key player—at least for a little while. If he doesn't, it won't mean his time at Liverpool is already done and Aspas is as good as a write-off with, after the weekend, five league games under his belt. With Luis Suarez returning, though, it will make any chances to impress much harder to come by.
However, and in contrast to last year, for Brendan Rodgers there are plenty of options he can look to regardless of how Aspas performs—and so one would hope fans will be happy to accept him as, at worst, something of a potential supersub this season. For the player, though, one doesn't imagine the chance to be a supersub at Liverpool was what motivated him to leave his boyhood club.