Robbie Keane exclusion from the Liverpool Squad seems bemusing for many fans and critics alike. Against Chelsea, his presence wasn’t necessarily needed, and it seems that he would have taken up a valuable place on the bench.
Many fanatics, me included, thought Keane was brought in to support Fernando Torres up top, but as time wore on, it became obviously recognisable that he could not fit into the Liverpool "offensive structure".
Well, Torres was always going to have that starting berth upfront ahead of Keane. Torres is practically irreplaceable. Keane was brought in. not to replace him, but to support him as one of the attacking three midfielders as he finds it difficult to lead the line. He doesn’t have the discipline or the tolerance to wait for the ball to come to him; he needs to be involved in play. He is endlessly dropping back deep to receive the ball, virtually becoming a part of the midfield. That is not necessarily a criticism, his youthful exuberance is a joy to watch, but his style does not suit the lone role up-front where Torres excels.
If Steven Gerrard were to be injured, it would be expected that Keane would slot into his position as both players use similar areas to receive the ball and create space. Keane is not the player Gerrard is by any means, but it seems that Keane was brought in as an overpriced spare man to play in the absence of his captain. In a 4-4-2, formation with Gerrard on the right side of midfield might ideally work for Keane, but that is not getting the most out of Liverpool’s prodigal son.
Where else could Keane play?
The hard crafting Dirk Kuyt has made the right attacking midfield position his own though his sheer hard work. He is one of Rafa Benitez’s favourites, and the stunning performances of newcomer Albert Riera certainly adds character to that left side, a position that was troublesome last year. Therefore, these positions are a no-go.
Understandably, Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun are ahead of Keane on the subs bench for the left and right midfield positions. Benitez is more likely to substitute Kuyt or Riera so that is why Babel and Benayoun would be on the bench ahead of Keane.
The highly talented David Ngog has been given the substitute striker position on the bench where the manager believes that the young Frenchman can play the lone striker role better than Keane. It doesn’t justify Liverpool paying £20.3 million in the first place.
Keane realistically cannot play to his full capacity out on the wings, and it would be difficult, almost damn near impossible to surpass Gerrard in that central role. Yes, he did replace the captain at the game at Wigan, but that is very much a rarity. Benitez probably thought Liverpool would win the game early and give Gerrard a much-needed rest.
Keane will play regularly if Gerrard is ruled out for injury or suspension, but no fan nor football supporter alike would like that (well, expect Manchester United fans). Keane was not dropped from the squad on bad form; Benitez simply didn’t include him as it made sense. Gerrard was needed for the whole game against Chelsea and Everton, simple as that.