Liverpool's Misfortunes: Alberto Aquilani Is Not The Cure

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistOctober 22, 2009

With Liverpool on their worst run of results since 1987 the club is deemed to be in crisis. Everyone has their own theory on the reasons for this slump, the manager, the board room battles, the lack of a strong squad.

More and more people, including writers, fans and Rafael Benitez,seem to be of the opinion that once Alberto Aquilani is fit all their problems will be solved. Looking a little closer at the Italian's career, Adamo Digby believes they may be in for a shock.

As most people are aware, due to Xabi Alonso's unhappiness at Anfield, the club were forced to sell him. In doing so they significantly weakened their team, as he had been one of their best players last season, arguably as important in his performances as those of Steven Gerrard or Fernando Torres.

The one thing that worked in their favour was that it was Real Madrid chasing the Spanish star. The fact they were aiming to create Los Galacticos II benefited Liverpool to the tune of £30 million.

That money was given to the manager to reinvest in his squad.

After securing the signature of Glen Johnson, Benitez then turned to Aquilani as his replacement for the departed Alonso. Enter one of Serie A's brightest prospects of the last five years: Roma's Alberto Aquilani.

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He was born in Rome, and turned down the chance to sign for Chelsea and Arsenal to pursue his dream of playing for his childhood heroes AS Roma.

He represented Italy at every level, breaking into the full National Team at 22, in the same season he established himself as a regular for Roma, 2005/06.

Whenever you read about Aquilani the same phrases keep popping up: "energetic midfielder", "exceptional passer" and the brilliant "keen eye for goal." All three are cliches, all three are partly true, all three are impossible to prove.

Having watched the development of his career, I am happy to share my view of the player, and what I believe he brings to the table. My first point maybe of no concern to Liverpool fans but I think it is one worth noting.

Despite being born in Rome, playing for the team all his life, confessing his love of the club and never asking to leave, Aquilani has never been as popular with the fans as fellow Romans Totti or De Rossi. The reasons for this seem to lie in his difficult personality, and his tendency to be caught in possession, often due to his over-indulgence in clever flicks that rarely pay off.

Another reason maybe his languid style.

Much like Berbatov at Manchester United, he is perceived as lazy, many fans berating him. A prime example is the Euro 2008 exit against Spain where large parts of the Italian media crucified him for "not wetting his shirt", an obvious reference to his refusal to sweat for the cause.

While in itself this is no reason to believe he won't suit Liverpool, anyone following the English game knows the kind of player the fans and media warm to. Blood-and-guts battlers like Gattuso would be welcomed with open arms, while players like Berbatov, even Ronaldo are often viewed with suspicion, tagged from day one as "lazy foreigners."

He does not have a specific position in the midfield, he likes to move a lot depending on the circumstances. This is where he does suit Liverpool.

The holding position is occupied by Mascherano, whilst Gerrard attacks. This leaves a kind of "in-between" role that Aquilani enjoyed at Roma, playing between De Rossi, and Perrotta.

His supposed "eye for goal" has led to him scoring only 19 goals in his seven years of first team football, so that perhaps explodes another myth. However, the main issue is the number of games he has played in those seven years. His current total, in all competitions is 188.

Taking only the seasons he has been a first team regular into account, we are looking at four seasons, in a 38 game Serie A. In that time he has played 72 games out of 152, less than half. Breaking it down further, he has started in 24, 13, 21, and 13 games in the last four years respectively.

He's clearly rarely fit, deemed to have weak legs.

In Italy this was obviously a problem for him. The English Premier League is far more physical, far more energetic, and giving skilled ball-players far less time on the ball, all of which can only lead to him spending more time out injured.

He often performed well only against teams that allowed him space in the middle to move, again not something enjoyed by midfielders in the Premier League. All in all, I just see this as a bad fit for a team who simply cannot afford a £20-million flop. The club need him to hit the ground running, but nothing in his history points to that happening.

If, and when, he suffers another injury, which the evidence points to definitely being more a case of when, he will no doubt be labelled another flop at Anfield.

I can see him really struggling to cope with the expectation and the stress and asking for a move back home within two seasons. With former club Roma more cash-strapped than Liverpool, one of the other giants will welcome him back with open arms, with Milan my best guess, and Liverpool will be lucky to see half their investment back.