Where Liverpool Striker Iago Aspas Must Improve on Return from Injury

Max Munton@thisisanfieldLiverpool CorrespondentNovember 18, 2013

Iago Aspas in action for Liverpool against Aston Villa earlier this season.
Iago Aspas in action for Liverpool against Aston Villa earlier this season.Michael Steele/Getty Images

Iago Aspas recently told the official Liverpool FC website that he hopes to be back in contention to play by the end of November, a month and a half after picking up a thigh injury in training.

However, despite parting with £7.7 million in the summer to bring Aspas in from Celta Vigo, his return won’t be one that over-excites too many Liverpool fans.

Before injury forced the 26-year-old onto the sidelines, Aspas had had an indifferent start to his Liverpool career, with six appearances in the opening stages of the season.

Aspas started Liverpool’s first three games of the Premier League campaign before being dropped for the fourththe 2-2 draw at Swansea. However, he was an early second-half replacement for the injured Philippe Coutinho.

Looking forward to his eligibility to play, Aspas must now find the areas of his game he must strengthen in order to find a way back into Brendan Rodgers' first team.



The main negative picked up by fans during Aspas’ first handful of games for the club was how lightweight he seemed.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01:  Iago Aspas of Liverpool battles with Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on September 01, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Suggesting his problems lie in the transition between La Liga and the traditionally more physical Premier League is a dangerous assumption to make, and one that borders on an excuse for Aspas.

His thin, wiry physical frame does little for him in terms of attacking responsibilities and holding the ball up. His weakness is illustrated in his poor average duels-won stat, according to Squawka, of just 41 percent.

Against Stoke City on the opening day of the season, Aspas appeared to be brushed off at ease by the colossus of Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross.

A baptism of fire for any league import.

Only when he learns to outwit or outmuscle Premier League opposition will Aspas be able to turn on the tricks and close control that made him such an attractive proposition in La Liga.

Indeed, maybe his skills with the ball will be the key to breaking past opposition defences.


Finding His Position

At Celta Vigo, Aspas was given the freedom to play high at the top and allowed to cut back into midfield or drift out wide.

This role is perhaps very similar to that designed by Luis Suarez and made for Suarez alone. 

With Coutinho often in a free role covering the width of the pitch in high, attacking areas, is there really room in Liverpool’s team for another non-regimented player in Aspas?


Choosing the Right Play

Aspas’ position isn’t as out-and-out as some people had hoped, believing he was an upgrade to Fabio Borini, who is spending the season at Sunderland.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Liverpool player Iago Aspas in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on August 24, 2013 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Nevertheless, he is an attacker, and with that comes the expectation to either score goals or create goals.

In his first six appearances for Liverpool, Aspas recorded just one assist, according to Squawka.

He did, however, make six key passes, which gives hope that with a little more experience and education about his teammates and the pace of the league, Aspas will choose the right pass and become an important provider of goals.


First-Team Opportunities 

Since Aspas has been out, Liverpool have seen a number of attacking changes that will make life even harder for the Spaniard to find regular football.

Suarez has settled back into the first team after his suspension arguably better than ever before and Coutinho returned from his own injury problems to cement his first team place. 

Meanwhile, Jordan Henderson’s role in the team has become much more advanced, with the England international now contributing further to attacks. 

Victor Moses remains a little bit lost, with his wider expertise not favoured by Rodgers’ systems. Nevertheless, he remains a quality attacker at the club and competition for Aspas.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21:  Victor Wanyama of Southampton tackles Iago Aspas of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Southampton at Anfield on September 21, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Aspas needs game time and this is where Liverpool's non-participation in Europe and the League Cup turns from a blessing in disguise to being without a useful tool.

With Liverpool set to enter arguably their most difficult stage of the season – a festive fixture schedule that sees them travel to Everton, Hull, Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea before the turn of the year – will Brendan Rodgers risk easing Aspas back into the team?

A run with the Liverpool Under-21s could do Aspas the world of good before he is ready to step back into the lion's den.


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