Albert Riera: Underused or out of his depth?

rieraAlbert Riera had a decent first season with Liverpool last year with 28 league appearances for the winger bringing Liverpool 3 goals and 3 assists and good overall play as Liverpool mounted their unexpected title challenge. This season has not been such a happy story though for Riera, much like his side, and the injury-hit midfielder has found himself slipping down the pecking order despite having done little wrong.

Obviously injuries have played their role and Riera has been one of the many Liverpool players who’ve spent time on the sidelines this season, having had a hamstring aggravation. Riera has returned to contention though yet failed to take control of the first team spot again ahead of the inconsistent Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun who is not even a left winger by trade. Questions have not been raised over Riera’s future but only due to the fact that Babel’s future is speculated instead given how he is flattered to deceive.

Admittedly three goals and three assists isn’t the best tally you’ll ever see and it would be plausible to believe that a winger could contribute more but Riera spent last year adapting to Liverpool’s style of play and was involved in many of their attacking moves even if he didn’t directly score or provide an assist. Rafa Benitez clearly had faith in him and knew he could regularly start the Spaniard. The same can’t be said of this year though and Riera will be wondering if he can earn that place in the first team once again.

Almost all of the Liverpool players have underperformed this season and it would be harsh to single out someone like Riera for criticism, particularly when he’s barely been playing, but you have to wonder why Benitez has dropped him. Does Benitez believe that Riera’s not enough of a threat for a Premier League winger? Or is he simply taking too long to ease Riera back into the team in the fear of losing him again much as he did with Alberto Aquilani?

Only Benitez really knows why Riera is being ignored in favour of Babel and Benayoun and why Liverpool, despite lacking money, are being linked with left wingers. Riera has previously proven that he is capable of playing at Premiership level, as anyone who could be a regular for a title chasing team can’t be a bad player, although he is not the most effective of players out there. Riera has regained fitness and been available for a while now so injuries can’t be why he’s being left out. It’s believable to think that Benitez is reluctant to use him when he could be carrying a knock as he does not want to aggravate it but, given their plight, Liverpool should really start giving Riera a chance once again if Benitez has any faith left in the man. If he doesn’t then Riera’s Anfield career is already on the verge of tatters.