By the time these words aparate onto the internet, Reds fans will have had ample time to replace or repair the device they were holding upon reading the latest Lucas Leiva news. Whether hurled at the wall, the dog, or through the window, you were not wrong.
Most will have excreted at least one hot take of Skip Bayless proportions across the social medias. Better out than in. The
cold hearted bastards more rational minds will likely already be pontificating a world where our blue-eyed #21 is making hearts swell in the 34330 postal code of Istanbul. Fowler, if we weren't so distraught with the utterly imbecilic action that Brendan Rodgers appears to be on the verge of taking, we could appreciate the bittersweet irony of the move on offer. Lucas Leiva taking his thumping Red heart to the historic city that Liverpool lifted their fifth Champions League trophy in? It's enough to make Debussy cringe with it's cloying melody.
But what of our wretched post-Lucas reality? Well, it comes down to how Brendan Rodgers solves the riddle.
Option A: Thrilnerson
Let's be honest, one would be hard-pressed to come up with too many negative things to say about any plan involving these two. Industrious, skilled, experienced, captainy--James Milner and Jordan Henderson are as fine a set of central midfielders as England has produced since Jonjo Shelvey and Jay Spearing.
The gamblers among you would do well to bet on this duo taking the lion's share of central midfielding minutes this season. And even though the Gerrard-Lampard experience sets a negative precedent for how two natural box-to-box midfielders can struggle with the intricate requirements of a double pivot deployment, one can see what Rodgers is thinking here.
Henderson has always had a comfort level from deep that dissipates when he's asked to operate higher up in those tight, final third quarters. In contrast, Milner has the touch, timing, and cool head required for that pressurized part of the pitch. On paper, then, all this option needs is good offensive spacing, and the consistent minutes to get a hang of the defensive positioning and timing.
Plus, when Rodgers decides he doesn't need all three substitutions yet again, they're a duo that can run all game and give him in-game flexibility.
Option 2: Emre Can
Speaking of box-to-box midfielders being asked to play out of position, Can appears to be tabbed as Lucas' actual, for real replacement. As if there were such a thing. But it's not hard to see why Rodgers would have his interest piqued by this option. Dude looks the part. Yoked, as skilled as anyone on this team whose name doesn't rhyme with Schmilippe Schmoutinho, and he loves a tackle. And that hair. Let's not pretend like it couldn't work out exactly how Rodgers appears to be thinking it will with Can.
Lets also not pretend Rodgers would choose this option for Can's actual abilities as a screen in front of his favorite Dejan. Because the ravishing 21-year-old German, currently, is simply not a defensive midfielder. Not a knock on the player he is, nor the player he could become, it's just it doesn't appear to be in him naturally.
Can is Gerrardesque in his wanton lust for a bursting run in possession. He has no patience for the subtle teasing of angles that screening midfielders live off. He manages to get caught out with play in front of him and defensive support behind--a cardinal offense for the position. And his proclivity for that thundering slide tackle will be a point of interest for opposing managers looking for easy set piece opportunities.
Is it impossible for Can to develop into Sergi Busquets on steroids? All of the screening qualities; all of the attacking skills? No, because that's how much talent the German has. But that is a development path that may take most of this season, if not more. That's a development path that could derail Liverpool's ambitions for Rodgers' fourth year. Plus it would ask him to limit so much of what he already does so well, and don't we all want to see his granite cheekbones pushing forward, bringing the offensive ruckus?
Option D: Joe Allen
Currently injured, often injured, and about as good at this stuff as Jay Spearing was. We know what the Red Panda does by now, surely? Perfect squad player. Solid jack of all trades. Let the guy stay in his lane, Brendan, we beg you.
Option Please, Sir, May I Have Another:
Liverpool sign William Carvalho, or Asier Illaramendi, or Ruben Neves, or one of the thousands of DMs that apparently grow on trees in the French league. If Lucas going makes us cry, then this option is the sort of aloe-infused tissue we'd like to blow our noses on.
Option Year 0.2.1: Pedro Chirivella
We're not kidding. If Lucas leaves, our querido Chiri would represent Liverpool's next most natural defensive midfielder. The kid's position has yet to fully shake out from the youth level spin cycle, but he sees the game from deep, treats the ball with care, and has shown an eye for nipping counterattacks in the bud. Those are all very useful screening qualities, none of which are likely to impress Brendan Rodgers if we consider the evidence at hand. Too soon for wee Pedro, folks. Way too soon.
Remember Alf? He's back! In defensive midfield form!
That's about it. Aside from the caveat that Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke may be the catalysts for an avalanche of goals that buries any and all defensive concerns for Liverpool this season. Rodgers' mad scientist routine has pulled this type of magic off before. We'd be lying if we said we haven't always been enthralled by that scorched earth approach to attacking football. It's a hell of a drug, as every Reds fan should acknowledge, considering it nearly clinched the 19th.
But has Rodgers really forgotten that it also brought the fine margin losses and slips that lost Liverpool the title? Does he really not give Lucas any credit for Liverpool's best midfielding in his three seasons at the helm? Did he not actually watch how Lucas reintroduction to the starting eleven last year was a key to the defensive solidity that brought the team back into top 4 reckoning? Does he really not regret forsaking the sort of conservative defensive adjustments that could have pushed the team's anemic offense into Champion's League qualification during last season's final six games?
Is it a moment of clarity that fans are not privy to that has led Rodgers to his tactical and squad selections for the infancy of this 2015-16 season. If so, fair play to the Gaffer--that's why he gets paid the big bucks. Of course, during our teens we also experienced a moment of clarity, which led to us repeatedly turning the top half of our mousey brown coiffure orange. That didn't mean we should have been trusted with a hair dying kit, though.
Either way, it seems time to brace yourselves for a version of the future where Liverpool + Lucas ≠ ♥♥♥♥. And if you find yourself with that thick gin haze dragging you through weird emo-punk playlists, then remember this friends: it's not your fault.