Liverpool collapsing against Crystal Palace reinforced Lucas Leiva's incompatibility in manager Brendan Rodgers' system, so could Paris Saint-Germain's Toulouse loanee, Clement Chantome, be a viable replacement? To cover that hypothetical, here is a scouting report on the 26-year-old French international.
Liverpool supporters need to remember Lucas limited himself for the betterment of the club.
"[Brazil's] central midfielders have tended to be holders who sit and allow the full-backs to push forward," South American football writer Tim Vickery said in 2007, per BBC Sport. "Lucas is different. He gets on the score sheet both with blistering shots from range and from bursting beyond the strikers."
Lucas spoke about reconstructing his identity in 2012.
"I was open to some things that maybe others weren't, such as changing my position," he said, per Jonas Oliveira at FourFourTwo's website. "I was rewarded for this persistence."
Now in Rodgers' view, Lucas is not an undisputed starter.
"The difference now is that rather than playing with two defensive midfield players we are playing with one," Rodgers said, per James Pearce at the Liverpool Echo. "But I have to pay homage to Lucas because he's been first class with his attitude and his work."
Perhaps racked with guilt at the thought of ruthlessly throwing a good person to the scrapheap, Rodgers offered Lucas a lifeline.
"He [Rodgers] explained that he wanted to use Stevie [Steven Gerrard] as a holding player and me on the side of the three midfielders or the diamond," Lucas said, per Liverpool's official website. "I played there for Gremio."
What was the point of the seven seasons, hundreds of tackles, hours upon hours of film study and the mentally taxing rehabilitation sessions from countless injuries Lucas exhausted to be a defensive midfielder at Liverpool?
For Rodgers to think Lucas can seamlessly switch back to a role he used to play is as naive as Liverpool's defending against Palace.
Rodgers would know first-hand, having watched John Obi Mikel at Chelsea.
Mikel has failed to express himself at Chelsea because the attacking flair and playmaking proficiency he showed at the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup was coached out of him by Jose Mourinho.
If Mikel, who has semi-regularly played a more expansive role for the Nigerian national team, is a nonentity when Chelsea attack, it is highly unlikely that Lucas will be able to play more incisive passes for Liverpool.
In reality, Lucas is a straggler at sixes and sevens in Rodgers' attack-minded, free-flowing, entertaining, helter-skelter and imaginative approach to playing football.
This is the antithesis to Lucas' playing style, who has moulded himself into a boring, conservative, low-turnover, risk-averse player when in possession.
Hence why Chantome, a 5'11" and 156-pound midfielder, should be considered as a summer transfer upgrade over Lucas.
Chantome is technically solid, he possesses considerable passing range and is capable of completing razor-sharp passes.
|League Only||Chantome||Lucas||Jordan Henderson|
|Key Passes per Game||1.9||0.5||1.8|
|Passes per Game||54.8||54||56.7|
|Pass Completion Percentage||86.3||90.7||86.8|
|Long Passes per Game||4.1||2.2||4.1|
|Long-Pass Completion Percentage||77||86.4||81.8|
Chantome averages 1.4 more key passes per game than Lucas, who is hesitant in playing high-risk passes despite having a more accurate long-pass completion percentage and showing flashes of creativity, as Gerrard attested to.
"Lucas deserves a special mention," Gerrard said, per James Pearce at the Liverpool Echo. "The ball he played for the second goal—people have been raving about [Philippe] Coutinho all year and the passes he has made—but for me, that was right up there with Brazil's best."
Chantome regularly creates something out of nothing, whereas it is not second nature to Lucas.
Chantome's lofted through ball against Marseille last season hit PSG centre-forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic in stride.
When Chantome was deep inside his defensive half against Reims, he successfully hit a deep pass to Toulouse centre-forward Wissam Ben Yedder.
A key pass is when a pass leads to a goalscoring chance, and Chantome has had several games where he has been an elite creative outlet.
- Four key passes | 54/67 passes (81 pass completion percentage) vs. Reims, per Squawka.com.
- Four key passes | 48/52 passes (92 pass completion percentage) vs. Ajaccio, per Squawka.com.
- Three key passes | 57/63 passes (90 pass completion percentage) vs. Saint-Etienne, per Squawka.com.
When you look at the type of passes Chantome is making, you see accurate short-to-intermediate-range ones which stretch the field and incisive ones.
His assortment of passes are designed to keep opposing defences honest.
Chantome can play box-to-box, as evident with a run he made against Brest last season.
Starting from just outside the centre circle, he anticipated a defensive breakdown, ran to the right flank, dragged an opposing Brest player out of position and played the ball to Ibrahimovic.
Against Ajaccio, Chantome raced into the box, latched on to Ben Yedder's pass and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.
Chantome, who averages 2.7 tackles per game, lunges and hopes.
In a play last season, Chantome made a highlight-reel tackle to bail out PSG right-back Gregory van der Wiel, who was outpaced by Sadio Diallo.
In contrast, Chantome lost out in a 50-50 challenge against Lyon centre-forward Alexandre Lacazette this season, who recovered the ball and scored.
These two examples encapsulate Chantome's hit-and-miss ball-winning ability, like Lucas.
Lucas may average 3.4 tackles per game, but he is tied with Liverpool deep-lying forward Luis Suarez for most free-kicks conceded per game (1.7) at the club.
Another concern in Chantome's game is a tendency to play elaborate back passes which are counter-productive, as he is so good playing the ball forward.
He was burnt when his back pass was intercepted by Rennes left-forward Romain Alessandrini.
Chantome has the right intangibles to fit in at Liverpool.
"He [Chantome] keeps his feet on the ground," French football writer Jonathan Johnson said, per Bleacher Report. "Whilst others around him at club level [PSG] are letting theirs wander."
PSG are packed with midfielders, so Chantome is expendable, and this is another situation where Liverpool can take advantage, as was the case when PSG were willing to sell Mamadou Sakho and Inter Milan made Coutinho available for sale.
Chantome is more of a Rodgers' type player than Lucas and acts as a plan B should Jordan Henderson be out.
Statistics via WhoScored.com.
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