Jury still out on Liverpool’s Maxi Rodriguez?

The Argentinean wide man was signed during the January transfer window on a free transfer from Spanish club Atletico Madrid on a three year deal but since his arrival, he’s got little change out of the Premier League’s full backs and it begs the question – will he be able to adapt to the rigours of the English game?

It’s fair to say that since his arrival his impact has been somewhat limited to nothing more than a few nice touches here and flicks there but he seems to have the perennial problem every winger signed by Benitez has…a real lack of pace. He doesn’t seem able to beat his man although he wouldn’t be the first Liverpool winger to suffer this problem and he seems to drift in from the flanks and narrow Liverpool’s play even further, something most Liverpool fans wouldn’t have thought possible.

Spotting a decent winger is one of Benitez’s problem positions along with full back and as a result Liverpool have been weak down the flanks for a number of years now. Converted winger Dirk Kuyt and full back Glen Johnson appear to be a step in the right direction but Liverpool still lack a consistent threat there, something that rivals for the much coveted top four spot that Spurs and Aston Villa have and Rodriguez’s style of play has typified our season thus far, stilted and predictable.

You have to ask yourself why Atletico would have let a winger who was once touted with moves upwards of £15m to the Premier League just a few years ago go on a free transfer mid season? According to all reports, Rodriguez has struggled in Spain for the past few years to replicate his earlier form that he showed at Espanyol where he proved a lively and dangerous winger. Signed as a goal scoring midfielder, it looks more as if Rodriguez was signed to appease the unsettled Argentina Captain and integral member of the Liverpool team Javier Mascherano, a close friend of Rodriguez’s, who has long been mooted for a move to Spanish giants Barcelona.

In his six appearances at present for Liverpool, Rodriguez it has to be said has had a fairly difficult run of teams to play against in Stoke, Spurs, Wolves, Bolton, Everton and Arsenal and ease himself in to. It will always be hard to adapt to a much quicker paced league from the ones he’s been accustomed to in Spain and Argentina and perhaps I am being hasty in writing him off so early but he really has done little since his arrival. I’m not expecting fireworks or to be dazzled straight from the off but perhaps a decent cross or the ability to beat his man isn’t too much to ask for from a seasoned international.

Liverpool have been a team struggling for form throughout most of the campaign but with the Argentine in the side they’ve admittedly accumulated 11 from a possible 18 points on offer, a steady if unremarkable record, much like the player himself and although he rarely looks threatening his run in the team has coincided with a change of fortunes that has forced Liverpool back into the top four. This can largely be put down to the team’s stringent defence though which has seen them concede just twice in that run of games.

Former Man City assistant manager Mark Bowen stated that after Robinho’s departure to Brazilian side Santos, that the forward whilst talented struggled to adapt to the physical side of the game here in England and that the demands it placed on him rendered him inconsistent as a result. Whilst Rodriguez may not contain the questionable attitude and work ethic of a Robinho, it remains to be seen whether his natural game has the facets to trouble a strong and quick Premier League full back.

Rodriguez could soon join the long list of wingers such as Gonzalez, Nunez, Pennant and Babel that Benitez has signed during his time at Anfield who have struggled with inconsistent form, injuries and an inability to adapt to the physicality of the Premiership for the Argentine at present looks a shadow of his former self. He has the aim of a place in the Argentina squad at the World Cup to play for should his form pick up and if that isn’t an incentive enough for him then nothing will be.