Liverpool haven't quite missed Lucas as much as they have Philippe Coutinho over the past few matches, which isn't so much an indictment of the midfielder as it is the system that Brendan Rodgers has developed this season. The midfield is more of a theory than a reality under a manager who'd arrived lauding Lucas as one of the "disciples" of an approach that held a dynamic, pass-focused midfield in the highest esteem; now it can be Lucas or Jordan Henderson or Steven Gerrard or just about anyone who's cognizant of the fact that any death by football is going to come from Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge rather than slow build-up and patience in the passing game.
So that Lucas missed yesterday's draw was unfortunate but not critical, and one of the few times his absence was noted was on Yohan Cabaye's goal, when neither of Gerrard nor Henderson was around in a deeper role to shield the back line. What he offers--or at least what he did in the past--isn't on display in Liverpool's current setup, but if the evolution Rodgers promised occurs, we know that Lucas can produce.
His ability to do so was seriously in question after two serious injuries, the first of which came when he was in the midst of the form of his career. A thigh injury at the start of the 2012-2013 season further jeopardized his prospects, and it's only now that he's started to seem on the way back to his best after a long a difficult recovery:
"I had to search really deep for some strength because there were a couple of days I could barely move and the doctors did not even allow me to hold my baby son. The club was amazing to me, supporters met me on the street and told me that things were going to be OK. And all the support I received then is the reason why I don't really see myself playing for any other club if I have the choice. I'd love to have my testimonial at Anfield.
"The Premiership is a long and tough journey and we just have to look at our defeat [at home] to Southampton to see that. But I'll give you one thing: maybe we would have drawn that game against Stoke last season [they won 1-0 after a late penalty save by Simon Mignolet]. There's a feeling that a couple of things went our way [this time round]. But ask me again how I feel in January, because that's when we will really know what we can achieve this season."
Where Liverpool will be in January is anyone's guess, especially given that performance levels haven't improved to the point that we can confidently say we know anything about where this squad is headed. We know that Suarez and Sturridge can get the goals at one end and Simon Mignolet is good at stopping them at the other, but what happens in between still needs sorting. Lucas' future will go some distance in determining that, and if he's truly one of the "disciples" of Rodgers' approach, then you'd figure that the club's progress will occur with him as an important cog in the midfield.
And, as is mandated by internet law, video of his timeless masterpiece against Manchester City. Get there again, please.
Video by MilanKakaBaros