When Liverpool signed Joe Allen in August of this year, it seemed as though the midfield was set. The Welsh midfielder--not quite holding, not quite attacking--was brought in ostensibly to bridge the gap between defense and attack, with Lucas' return anticipated and Steven Gerrard in a more advanced role off the forward line. Brendan Rodgers prefers a 1-2 in his three-man midfield, if his words in a press conference with supporters is anything to go off of, and assuming that was the original plan, the arrival of Allen seemed to be the final piece to a puzzle that would see Liverpool with a very talented midfield.
Things didn't quite go as hoped for on the opening day of the Premier League season, with a largely dominant performance collapsing in on itself en route to a 0-3 result at the Hawthorns. The signs were good, though, with possession dominated and the heart of Rodgers' approach--a midfield obsessed with possession and control--settled with Lucas and Allen, even if Gerrard was starting to show the signs of a player who'd spend much of the next few months struggling to adapt.
And then the Manchester City match happened, and we gazed on in collective disappointment as Lucas, Liverpool's best player in 2010-2011 and for the first part of last season before he was taken off on a stretcher at Stamford Bridge in the 2-0 League Cup win in November, limped towards the touchline with his shirt covering his face. We've still not seen Liverpool's midfield at its best, and with Joe Allen starting brightly but tiring of late and Steven Gerrard, Jonjo Shelvey, Nuri Sahin, and Jordan Henderson inconsistent at best, most have invested their energy in the return date of the Brazilian midfielder.
Thankfully that's edged closer and closer, and as part of Brendan Rodgers' pre-Wigan presser on Thursday, we finally got a more immediate seeming update:
"Lucas Leiva will come back into training, which is great news. He has worked tirelessly in his rehabilitation, so he comes back out onto the field in a good moment. He won't be ready to play for the weekend, but certainly over the next couple of weeks he'll be very close."
The only bright spot lately in the midfield has been the cameo appearances of Suso; Allen's dip in form has been pronounced, and the display against Chelsea, while improved in the second half, was far and away his worst of the season. With neither of Gerrard or Sahin impressing regularly but proving the preferred options, we're left to hope that "the next couple of weeks" is the right amount of time for Lucas to work his way back and get up to speed, and that entering the new year we're able to rely on his presence on a more regular basis, with the other two spots sorting themselves out as needed.