Experience is key to any side who want to succeed. No matter what sport you play there has to be painted veterans in the team if they are to achieve their goals.
Of course, the exception is Manchester United’s Premier League triumph in the 1995-96 season.
“You can’t win the title with kids,” said Alan Hansen on Match Of The Day, following The Red Devils’ 3-1 loss to Aston Villa on the opening day of the campaign.
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United went on to land the league title by four points. The young lions prevailed and proved the doubters wrong.
In hindsight, however, the prosperous inexperienced players have become some of the greatest ever players to grace the English game. Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham were ‘kids’ in that team and the quality they possessed was well underestimated in hindsight.
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However, in theory, Hansen was correct. To compete at the highest level, there has to be a perfectly weighted balance of youth and experience that can combine to create sweet harmony.
England’s Ashes squad this summer is a prime example. The old hand of captain Alistair Cook, James Anderson and Ian Bell juxtaposed with the hungry rawness of Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Chris Wood to win the Urn for the Lions in fine fashion.
For Liverpool this season, they must find similar.
Brendan Rodgers’ squad is desperately green and lacks familiarity and traditional values of Anfield.
Out of the current Reds’ squad, just Jordan Henderson, Martin Skrtel, Jon Flanagan and Lucas Leiva were at the club prior to Rodgers taking the hotseat in 2012. Even Henderson had only been at Liverpool 12 months before the Northern Irishman’s arrival and Flanagan had made a handful of first-team experience.
Hence, it is just Skrtel and Lucas who can be considered ‘Anfield veterans. Steven Gerrard has departed the club for Los Angeles Galaxy which now means there is no bigger figurehead at Anfield than Rodgers.
It’s fair to say that the former Swansea City manager wants to do things his own way. He’s torn apart any previous work by previous managers Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish. Rodgers has, with the exception of Skrtel and Lucas, created his own squad in the three years he’s been in charge.
Rodgers and club owners Fenway Sports Group have a policy of buying young prospects and nurturing and coaching them to fulfil their true potential. Purchases such as Emre Can, Lazar Markovic and Divock Origi all suggest this.
Policy slightly changed this summer after a lacklustre sixth place finish in the top flight last campaign and James Milner’s arrival was nothing but an admirable one despite being 29.
However, the arrivals of both Christian Benteke and Nathaniel Clyne still emulate that the strategy of buying more tender aged players still applied; both are 24 although they've played in the Premier League for the past three seasons respectively.
With Rodgers assembling his own side, it has almost spelt the end for Lucas’ Liverpool career.
Signed for £5 million from Gremio in 2007, the Brazilian slowly developed himself from a player criticised by fans to one who many do not want to see leave this transfer window.
The 28-year-old was not included in Rodgers’ two match squads for their opening two Premier League games against Stoke City and Bournemouth this term. With a lack of first-team football at the back end of last season and not featuring this campaign, there was no wonder why Lucas was linked with a move away. Inter Milan, Besiktas and Juventus have all been keen on the defensive midfielder.
After two frustrating weeks watching from the stands, Lucas benefited from Henderson’s foot injury to gain a call-up to not just the 16 man squad, but to feature from the first whistle until being substituted with 15 minutes to play, replaced by Jordan Rossiter.
It was a typical performance from Lucas and portrayed why Kopites want to see him remain at the Merseyside outfit for at least another season. He anchored the midfield, shielding the back-four from a stellar Arsenal attack that is capable on penetrating any defence within a blink of an eye.
The Dourados native was handed the task of keeping Arsenal's protagonist Mesut Ozil at bay and that he did for the majority of the game. Lucas smothered the Germany international, giving him little space to manoeuvre his subtle movement changes that often creates much more space for the Gunners. Lucas’ energy was flawless in the first-half especially and he proved his worth to Rodgers. He won 50% of his tackles, made four interceptions, two blocks and two clearances; those are stats every manager wants to see from his defensive midfielder away from home against a rival team.
As Arsenal began to dominate after the break, Ozil did get the better of Lucas more often. Nonetheless, after not playing a single minute of football this season, he was clearly lacking match fitness and was up against a World Cup winner who can produce something out of nothing. The heart from Lucas was still there nonetheless and he still made a number of decent challenges and interceptions when Liverpool’s back was against the wall.
If Liverpool are serious about challenging for a top-four finish this campaign, they must improve their form against the top teams. Last term, the Reds scooped just four of a possible 24 points against Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United – a tally that is deemed unacceptable if they are to qualify for the Champions League.
Prior to the trip to the Emirates, Liverpool fans would immediately took a point. One point against every top-four rival away from home is a very respectable result and will help thrust a team to their league targets.
Away from home, especially to a rival team, Lucas is the perfect player to have in your team. His relentless attitude and ability to suffocate playmakers is why he’s become admired by fans. He may be limited to bench duty when Liverpool play weak sides at Anfield but there still is a place for him in the team.
When Lucas was replaced by Rossiter, he seemingly gave a wave goodbye to the travelling supporters. If it was to be his last game for Liverpool then it was a mighty farewell. Let’s hope it’s not, however.
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