After a convincing victory against a team that frustrated the Reds at home last season, all seems well at Anfield. There is a sense that our season has now well and truly begun. The little hiccup of the opening day has been all but forgotten.
Although a crushing win was registered, it must be remembered that the opposition was not the highest quality, no disrespect to Stoke, regardless of the result last season.
Liverpool were not really worked. Apart from a brief period in the first half where Stoke stepped up a little more, Liverpool pretty much had it their own way.
The central midfield pairing of Mascherano and Lucas gave a strong and commanding performance. But once again, they were not really up against too taxing an opposition. It is not my intention to take away any of the praise that has so rightly been bestowed upon Lucas. In an previous article, I asked whether this season we would see the real Lucas.
It is Mascherano that seemed to be the weaker link this time, but through no fault of his own. Rafa can only ask his players to play to the best of their ability. And the role that Mascherano is being asked to play, is just a little too much for him.
His quality and true strength is in hurrying, annoying, cajoling, tackling and breaking up play. To use his tremendous stamina and persistence to gain possession and then to play the easy ball. Last season, that easy ball, more often than not was to Alonso, who would then provide the distribution.
Due to the loss of Alonso, the easy ball option has disappeared and Mascherano is left with the added responsibility of distribution. Sadly, this is not his strength and all too often the quality of his passing has been poor and too many times we have lost possession as a result of it.
This does not make him a poor player, rather just a player being asked to perform a role he is not accustomed to nor equipped for and against better opponents he may be found wanting.
I would no doubt think that once Aquilani is fit and healthy that Mascherano will revert backed to his favoured role and do what he does best and then play that simple ball to Aquilani.
What Aquilani will do with this possession is yet to be seen, but hopes are that he can do what Alonso did and more.
In the meantime, Mascherano must improve his use of the ball or it may well be his current midfield partner that could suffer, by being left out and Gerrard dropping back into midfield leaving Mascherano to do what he does best.
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