Dani Pacheco showed once again last night why he is so highly thought of by both the Liverpool coaching staff and Liverpool supporters. He put in a man of the match performance against City in a 3-3 draw in the reserves, and his consistently stylish displays in attacking midfield have raised a few questions to whether he should be given a run in the first team.
Pacheco has been on the bench for Rafa Benitez’s first team on a number of occasions this season, but has yet to start a game for the Premier League side. Although Pacheco is a slight figure at 5ft 6, he is quick and agile and some have compared his style to that of Cesc Fabregas. Whether he can live up to those sort of comparisons is the question many people will want to know the answer to and the only way he can demonstrate his abilities is by playing in the first team. Unlike Arsene Wenger, Benitez does not have the same confidence in his young players, and over the coming months there will be a time when the Spanish manager will have to decide on the future style and make up of the team.
It has been heavily rumoured in recent days that Liverpool are in talks to bring Kenwyne Jones to Anfield. It is a great indicator of the direction of play which Benitez wants to go with the team. Jones is no doubt a target man, a powerful striker who wins headers and can hold up play. Despite this his goal record this season is not spectacular, 6 goals in 17 games, but the purchase of the player will certainly show what style Rafa is looking for as they seek to recover form and achieve a Champions League place.
It was demonstrated quite clearly against Spurs what the fundamental ethic that will underlie Liverpool’s recovery under Benitez will be: hard work. There was no lack of effort from the team against Tottenham and they fought for every ball, but creative play was lacking, especially in the first half. Certainly some of this was down to the lack of Torres and Gerrard in the side and the fact the team was struggling for form, but the general character of the side with the likes of Degen, Lucas, Kuyt and Insua is that many of the players are hard working grafters but lack of flair. Certainly Jones will add a great aerial threat and give Benitez a different option in attack but he is not a player who will add a great deal of finesse or creativity to the team.
Here’s the dividing line between two styles of play. Jones, with grafters such as Lucas and Kuyt supporting him, or the young flair of Pacheco and some other attacking talent playing alongside him. The other day I recommended some loan signings in the guise of Ben Arfa, Mancini and Vicente, they would fit into a more attacking and expansive style but I don’t feel that will be the direction Benitez will go in. He has his own style of play and will surely stick to what he knows, but with Pacheco playing so well in an attacking midfield at the moment, why can’t Rafa take a risk? He has the ability with his passing to open up defences, and it is sort of play which is needed if Liverpool want to finish in the top four.
Over the next few months or so, Benitez will be under heavy scrutiny, he must make the correct calls on signings this January and on tactics in upcoming games. If he fails to come up with the answers, questions will be asked of the manager once again and I implore him to not go back into his shell and just revert to defensive displays. Hard work can only go so far and I would really like to see Rafa in the future with some ambition, picking more expansive players. The purchase of Maxi Rodriguez is a good start but I believe we will need even more quality in the team as the contest for fourth place goes to the wire. Finishing in a Champions League place will be tightly fought with Man City, Tottenham and Aston Villa all right in contention, and players like Pacheco may just make a difference in tight games, when drawing 0-0, to open up the game and provide a valuable goal.