Lallana and Coutinho’s quick feet; Sterling’s attacking flair. Liverpool have owed all three for their improved form over the past six weeks. All three, though, were also significantly involved in the horror show start to the season, one that saw Liverpool set a worse pace than during Roy Hodgson’s brief era. The difference over the past six weeks is they have been given a stable platform to build their attacking play off of.
The single biggest difference in the side’s construction has been the introduction of a functioning midfield, one that can screen the defence and leaves Liverpool’s flair players to do what they do so well. Unfortunately, that still makes for a side short a clinical finisher, and if Daniel Sturridge can stay fit once he returns there will be hope for him adding the final piece of the puzzle as Liverpool push on in the second half of the season.
Sturridge’s return, though, is still for the future. The past six weeks and Liverpool’s return to respectability have been owed to the re-discovery by Brendan Rodgers that Lucas Leiva, when sent out to do his job as a holding midfielder, remains amongst the best in the league. A year on the bench while the manager indulged in playing Steven Gerrard in the role, intentionally embracing an unbalanced approach, hasn’t changed that.
Over that year, some have pointed to Lucas’ occasional inclusion either alongside Gerrard or in a more advanced role as proof of his decline. Yet playing further forward has never been Lucas’ game in England, and in the first half of this season, when Rodgers attempted to play Jordan Henderson in the double pivot with Gerrard, the young England international’s game suffered just as much as the Brazilian’s had in the role.
Over the past six weeks, some have pointed to Lucas’ strong performances being mostly against weaker sides in an attempt to diminish their significance. Yet that ignored that Liverpool had looked far worse without Lucas’ strong performances in the holding role when playing what should have been weaker sides earlier in the season. It wasn’t a surprise, of course: Lucas’ naysayers have never been especially concerned with the facts.
After another vintage performance in the holding role, only this time against league leaders Chelsea—who Liverpool’s midfield made look very, very average last night—those naysayers will now have to find a different set of arguments.
Video by LFC Tiki Taka