It’s fair to assume more than just a few Liverpool supporters were left with their eyebrows raised when the teamsheet for their opening Premier League fixture against Stoke City was released.
Admittedly it was a surprise to see Joe Gomez given the nod to start at left-back ahead of Alberto Moreno, and some questioned Brendan Rodgers for starting Dejan Lovren in the heart of his defence, but the biggest shock of the day can be placed next to where Lucas Leiva’s name should have been.
I say should, because despite the Brazilian’s rapport with the Liverpool faithful and obvious experience when it comes to anchoring the midfield, he was omitted from the squad that travelled to the Britannia Stadium.
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Not benched, like Emre Can and the unfit Roberto Firmino, but left out of contention altogether. The teammates he could count himself equal to on the day go by the names of Mario Balotelli, Jose Enrique and Fabio Borini.
That particular trio of Messrs all have one thing in common; they’re likely to be sold before the summer transfer window is out.
Now it may be that Rodgers has big plans for Lucas yet. That his decision to snub the 28-year-old was a carefully devised plan deployed to ensure his team had the maximum chance of obtaining three points.
The end of the road?
Who are we kidding though? Lucas’ lack of involvement on the opening day of the campaign points towards the fact that he isn’t wanted at Anfield any longer.
But if he’s to be the next casualty of Rodgers’ campaign then he won’t go without scores of people advising against it, myself included.
Even ignoring the probably fluffed out transfer gossip from earlier this week that suggested Liverpool were ready to listen to offers for Lucas, it’s hard to see past the notion that the South American might have kicked his last competitive ball for the Merseysiders.
The wrong move
And yet following Steven Gerrard’s departure for U.S shores he remains arguably the most experienced player Rodgers has. Only James Milner and Kolo Toure could possibly take umbrage with that claim.
Never one for the game’s purists, Lucas has always had a place in the hearts of the Liverpool faithful purely because he’s very good at doing a job in front of the back four. Had the Reds been more successful over the past few years it’s not improbable that people would be drawing comparisons with Claude Makelele.
The idea that Rodgers wants to properly revamp a side that looked dangerously stale last term isn’t foolhardy in any sense of the word, but the Northern Irishman could easily look back ruefully if he decides to relinquish Lucas’ services to a foreign party and then ends up watching his side hit a bad path of form mid-way through this campaign.
Rodgers certainly has other options for a deep-lying midfielder. Jordan Henderson patrolled the area to good effect against Stoke, whilst Emre Can is deserved of a chance and the likes of Milner and Joe Allen aren’t averse to being tasked with breaking up the play rather than creating it.
Worries are reasonable
Yet Milner aside there’s a lack of experience in Liverpool’s midfield that could be the undoing of the Reds should their lokomotiv fall off the tracks before it reaches destination Top Four.
What’s more, Lucas is the only one who specialises in nullifying the threat of an opponent’s midfield, and he’s proven time and again over the course of his Reds career that he’s not a commodity to be underrated.
With Liverpool having started healthily and boasting plenty of vigour throughout their squad there’s no immediate panic at him not being a starting XI regular, but to keep him out of the squad altogether is a mistake. Forcing him to leave the club is a disaster waiting to happen.
Liverpool fans, what do you think about Lucas’ position? Would Brendan Rodgers be making a mistake by selling him? Let us know in the comments box below.