Following the game with Valencia I remarked to my brother that Anderson had played well and that he was looking much improved. This was a no brainer, he looked pretty good against Blackburn and was the only player to come out of the West Ham game with some credit to his name.
So you can only imagine my shock when he replied that Lucas was better than Anderson and that Lucas had been performing since last year but it was only now that he was getting praised. I can’t profess to be an expert on Lucas, I have seen an upturn in his fortunes amongst their fans and in the media but I seriously can’t get my head around the statement. So I asked Dave Tully, editor of our sister site Live 4 Liverpool, for his opinion:
Arrival – In contrast to Anderson, Lucas was bought from Gremio for £6million, a small price compared to the amount that Manchester United paid Porto. The smaller fee didn’t necessarily dampen expectations though as he was the reigning Brazilian player of the year when he was purchased by Liverpool. Having already made his debut for Brazil, being Gremio’s captain as well as helping his team to the Copa Libertadores final, many felt that Rafa Benitez had got a bargain.
The first two seasons especially were very difficult for Lucas as he didn’t live up to expectations. The Anfield crowd got on his back and many questioned his continuing inclusion in the team. Unlike Anderson, who already had a spell in European football; with Porto, Lucas came straight from the slower pace Brazilian league, into the rough and tumble of English football. He was used to having time on the ball but now in the Premier League, he found himself rushed, miss-timing tackles and regularly misplacing passes. Added to this, Rafa had decided to convert the player from an attacking midfielder, (similar to Anderson) into a holding midfield player. It was a rocky transition which took years and has made it even more difficult for Lucas to settle in England.
Weaknesses – Unfairly touted as the replacement for Xabi Alonso in some quarters, his long range passing was nowhere near the standard of his former Spanish team-mate and he played a similar role in the team to Javier Mascherano, which frustrated many Liverpool fans. With Alberto Aquilani either injured or ill for the majority of last season, Lucas was picked alongside Mascherano on many occasions, but the similarity in both player’s games, led to very defensive team without any supply to Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres further up the field. Out of the two, Lucas was the worst tackler and passer leading many to question why he was in the side at all. He was however still in transition from a more attacking midfield role, as at his time at Gremio he had been used to making forward runs and arriving late in the box to finish passing moves rather than holding the fort in midfield. Lucas however rallied by the end of last season and was rewarded with Liverpool’s young player of the year. Time in the English football has seen him develop as a player and he was gradually getting used to the holding midfield role.
Strengths – The transformation from Lucas in 2007 to Lucas in 2010 has been quite astonishing. No longer the butt of jokes by Reds fans and used as a scapegoat for every poor Liverpool performance, he has evolved this season into becoming one of Liverpool’s most consistent performers. Much of this has to be credited to his mental strength for after years of being derided for his poor performances; he has never gone hiding on the pitch and has always looked to get on the ball. The departure of Javier Mascherano has seen the Brazilian step up to the plate as the Reds sole midfield destroyer. Not only is he tackling better and intercepting opposition attacks with aplomb, his pass completion stats are exceptional, and he barely gives a stray pass to team-mates. Many of the passes are short and square, but he has begun this season to be more expansive, passing forward rather than backwards. Two man of the match performances against Chelsea and Aston Villa have seen Lucas perform a remarkable turnaround in regards to popularity among Reds fans. People want Lucas and Raul Meireles to be the first choice midfield partnership now; this time last season, they wouldn’t have wanted him anywhere near the first team squad, let alone the starting eleven.
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Arrival – Anderson came to United with massive expectations and an equally big price tag. Hailed as the new Ronaldinho by those who had never seen him play before, that was already a huge weight of expectation on his young shoulders and in all honesty he hasn’t lived up to these expectations – yet.
His goal that saw Gremio promoted back to top flight football in Brazil as well as his performance for Porto against Arsenal in the Champions League were many people’s basis for making a judgement on him, hardly enough!
Anderson’s time at Old Trafford has been tumultuous to say the least. He has put in some great performances against some of the country’s best midfielders spawning a song detailing him, Fabregas and something you might see in a Japanese skin flick and it was recognised as he was awarded Tuttosport’s Golden Boy award as Europe’s best u21 following his first season.
Weaknesses – Those of us experiencing the highs of these performances were quickly brought down to earth in the Champions League final in 09 where he was made to look ordinary by Barcelona and their superstars but Xavi, Iniesta and co could have done that to most if not all and for me was all part of his learning curve.
For a young player his lack of consistency is no major concern, it happens but having already seen that he poses considerable talent I’m more interested in seeing him put together a strong run of appearances which he seems to be doing at the moment. He hasn’t been helped by injuries, supposed off field issues like the car crash this summer as well as uncertainty over his position but his attitude appears to be right and it is benefiting him as well as the team.
Strengths – Anderson has displayed his talent; he can pass both short and long range and is a lot more imaginative with his passes even if they don’t always come off. Against Blackburn his pass stats were 99 attempted 95 completed, even Scholes would have been impressed! He is also very direct with his dribbling as Valencia found out as he seemed to glide through their midfield which is added by his physical strength and he also can tackle which is a plus for an ‘attacking midfielder’. The only thing that is disappointing for me is his lack of goals, having only scored 3 (2 official) in his spell here is disappointing but I feel this is something that will be rectified. I doubt his goal against Valencia will open the flood gates but once you’ve hit the back of the net, it does get easier.
Overall: I can see why people may think Lucas is ahead of Anderson in terms of his development. Anderson’s career has been pretty stop start. If Lucas is ahead in terms of development, then the gap between the two isn’t that big and it doesn’t necessarily mean that he is a better player. Anderson has a higher calibre of midfielder to compete with whilst Lucas doesn’t have as much competition for his place in the Liverpool midfield.
As players I feel Anderson offers way more than Lucas, who to me is quite one-dimensional. Anderson also has a lot more to come whilst I don’t see Lucas suddenly becoming more dynamic.