Not too long ago, Lucas was perceived as a laughing stock by many Liverpool fans. Consistently in the shadow of Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard at the height of his career, Lucas was shunted out the bench and rarely played. Anfield never appreciated the Brazilian midfield maestro and constantly questioned Rafael Benitez when he chose to play him.
A couple of years on, Lucas Leiva is returning to the Liverpool starting eleven after a national call up. Recently voted Fans Player of the Year, the 24-year-old will be essential to providing balance in the midfield.
Let me explain--the formation that King Kenny chooses will consist of at least two central midfielders. In my opinion, the central midfielders with any chance of playing week in, week out are: Steven Gerrard, Raul Meireles, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson, Alberto Aquilani and Lucas himself.
Out of those six, five possess a natural instinct to go forward, Lucas is the odd one out. This isn't a criticism of Lucas. In fact, it's a trait that will almost guarantee a starting place in midfield.
Why? Simple. When Liverpool advance up the field and start applying pressure in and around the final third, central midfielders like Gerrard and Meireles will be keen to help, to have a pop at goal.
Therefore, they leave the defence uncovered and vulnerable, especially against counter-attacking sides. Or they would, if Lucas wasn't on the field.
Lucas would sit back, hovering around the half way line just in front of the back four, thus providing cover but still being able to partake in the attack if the ball reaches him.
In the event of a counter-attack, whoever else occupies the other midfield slots would be caught out. However, with Lucas providing that extra man in defence, the counter attack would be slowed down a little, providing the caught-out midfielders the chance to get back into position and organise themselves.
However, all this being said, the main reason Lucas will turn out to be a regular starter is this: he's irreplaceable.
Now some of you may argue that Gerrard can take up his position. And yes, you'd be quite right. However, Gerrard is no stranger to scoring goals. He would be tempted to join attacks, and this may lead to dangerous counters, as I mentioned previously. Also, Gerrard is, unfortunately, getting on a bit, and Lucas is still blossoming.
Others might say that Charlie Adam could take up the reigns as holding midfielder number one, but I wouldn't recommend that. Like Gerrard, Adam is very efficient when going forward, but the fact is, having seen him last season and against Valencia, I don't trust his tackling ability.
Jay Spearing would do well in the future, but he's under-experienced currently, and to be honest, he doesn't look like a first team player.
Lucas is also known to make the odd rash tackle. But with the improvement he's made in the last few seasons, it's not long before that criticism dies down, too.
My argument concludes here, then. Comment with your thoughts if you wish, and thanks for reading.
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