Is Lucas Leiva Liverpool's most important player?
Liverpool opinion: Liverpool's form improved after Lucas returned from injury in December
After a horrendous start to the Premier League, Liverpool actually turned the tables with some splendid performances.
Eventually they finish seventh in the league, which was in fact considered bad in terms of their expectations but good looking at their earlier games.
Was this change in fortune, a matter of luck or was something actually changed for the good in a realistic sense?
A lot of factors did effect this transformation in their play, but one of the key reasons has to be the return of their defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva from injury in December.
To understand the true repercussion, one would need to look into the games before and after his return.
Before his return
Liverpool looked as if they were building a young squad signing of Fabio Borini, Joe Allen, and Oussama Assaidi.
The then new manager Brendan Rodgers had a new vision for Liverpool, which would have a totally new-look with the passing game. He did not tamper much with the defence, as he knew he could rely on the existing defenders who performed well the previous season. Also, he had Lucas coming back from injury for the start of the season.
But things changed as Lucas was substituted early in a home game against Manchester City and was ruled out for another two months. This meant Rodgers had to deploy the inexperienced Allen as a creative defensive midfielder who is naturally a holding midfielder who can keep possession.
Allen, who had a shoulder problem, was dismal in his new role and was too defence-minded with less creative passes. Besides, there were a lot of defensive errors, which led to conceding crucial goals. Though his pass accuracy was good, most of his passes were back passes. This coupled with lack of attack options made the first half of the campaign a hell for Liverpool.
After his return
After a string of bad performances, there was something for the fans to cheer about in December, as Lucas was making his second injury-return in the season. This meant Allen could be put in a more advanced role.
No one would have thought the impact Lucas could create. On his first match after injury against Southampton, he was excellent with his passing, creativity and most importantly, his control on the defence. The crowd gave him a standing ovation when he was substituted on that match.
Things became good to better for both Liverpool and Lucas as he continued his good form. The team was further boosted by the mid-season arrivals of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, who took the goal-scoring burden off Luis Suarez.
Lucas continued his good run for most of the games left. More than his defensive role, he was also the point of incidence of many attacks as well. He also gelled well into the passing system Rodgers was trying to bring about.
One can easily point out a lot of factors that augmented Liverpool through the course of the season, but the return of this 26-year old midfielder has to be one of them. There is more to come next season as Rodgers is looking to build his new Liverpool by signing some young talents.
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