With an injury to Andy Carroll in the last couple weeks, Maxi Rodriguez, a largely forgotten man since Kenny Dalglish’s reign began, has found himself in the Liverpool starting XI, and he hasn’t wasted the opportunities.
He scored a hat trick in the 5-0 defeat of Birmingham and another goal this past weekend in the 3-0 win over Newcastle, both at Anfield.
This is the same player who missed an absolute sitter at Chelsea in February and who completely disappeared from the field at Old Trafford last September (just a couple for instances), leading many around Anfield to want the Reds to cash in on the former Atletico Madrid man in the summer.
In the Argentinean’s defense, he has mainly been played on the wings for Liverpool, which is not his preferred position. That’s odd because his main trait to Liverpool when he was signed by Rafa Benitez in January 2010 was his ability to play on both wings—and the fact that he was a free transfer.
His best position, clearly, is on the bench or as an emergency strike option.
Having an attacking player on the bench who can come in when your star man is injured and actually score goals is a great asset for a team vying for trophies (next season hopefully). Maxi is also quicker and has better feet than other Liverpool backups like David N’Gog and Joe Cole. Maxi can also feed the ball to other forwards, a trait N’Gog doesn’t yet possess.
Liverpool is on the cards for a full-scale revamp this summer. Plenty of current Reds will be shipped out, and better players, or players who are actually wingers, will be brought in.
Guys like Maxi, Cole, Milan Jovanovic, N’Gog and Christian Poulsen are all on the list of those most likely to be on the outs at Anfield, among others.
Maxi, however, did a lot to stake his claim in the side the past two games. The others on the list haven’t really been given the chance to do so, but Maxi must’ve impressed King Kenny enough in training to merit a starting spot at the weekend.
Maxi himself has said he sees himself at Liverpool next season and that he wants to help the team fight for a Europa League spot in the last three games of this season.
Two of those games will be his real test: away to Fulham on Monday and then the last game of the season at Aston Villa. Maxi’s biggest struggles this season have all come away from home. He hasn’t been able to impact games, and he’s missed good, if not great, chances.
Liverpool as a team have been poor away from home, winning four, drawing three and losing a completely unacceptable 10.
Maxi, however, has personally been rather unspectacular away despite his goal at Bolton last October, which sealed the Reds' first away win of the season and the only one under Roy Hodgson.
If Andy Carroll is fully fit again for the trip to Fulham, it could mean Maxi will be sent back to the bench, but given his four goals in the last two games, he could retain his spot in place of Jay Spearing.
If he can keep his impressive form up for the final three games of the season, a spot in next season’s squad is as good as his.
Colin Doyle was also generous enough to palm Joe Cole’s shot into the back of the net for Liverpool's fifth goal against Birmingham, but that shouldn’t help Cole’s case.
If Harry Redknapp and Tottenham really want to pay £5 million for Cole, take the money and run.