On the verge of an Anfield exit over the summer, Lucas now, once again, looks to be a vital cog in Liverpool’s starting XI. Two wins on the bounce may not sound all that impressive, but the Reds’ shocking start to the 2014/15 season means that victories against Stoke and Leicester have been gleefully greeted on Merseyside, where the ecstasy of last season is now a fading memory.
Lucas has been back in the team for the vital six-point haul, and it’s fair to say that he’s had a big influence. Not convinced by the Brazilian?
Well here are FIVE reasons he’s as crucial as the likes of Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling or Daniel Sturridge right now…
Last night Lucas occupied the holding role against Leicester, and Liverpool won. It may sound a bit simplistic, but with the Brazilian in the side this term, results have been better than when he’s absent – which just proves that he’s doing a decent job, even though he’s not the sort of player to earn praise with raking passes or driving runs.
In the 10 games Lucas has played this season, the Reds have won seven and lost just two. Conversely, the 11 in which he has not featured have garnered two wins and seven losses. Okay the stats can be a little misleading as the South American made winning cameos against West Brom and Ludogorets and was taken off while the Southampton game was poised at 1-1, but his impact should not be taken lightly.
Steven Gerrard may be getting a lot of flack recently, but the system being deployed by Brendan Rodgers and the lack of confidence in the side is rather hanging him out to dry. Although a top quality midfielder, ‘Stevie G’ has never been the most defensively responsible player, and with his pace now fading, putting him up against clever attackers is lamb to the slaughter stuff. Last season he got away with it thanks to the high pressing from Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, but with opponents having more of the ball and time against the Merseysiders now, Gerrard is often exposed.
Conversely, Lucas is comfortable sitting in front of his backline, and uses his reading of the game and know-how to cut out through balls and win back possession efficiently.
Building on the last point, using Lucas allows Gerrard to be deployed further up the pitch. Although the 34-year-old’s powers are beginning to wane, he is still, arguably, the best finisher in the Reds’ team – aside from the unfit Sturridge – and can pick out the right pass at the right time – as his assist record from last season backs up. A first goal from open play since early 2013 – against Man City – is testament to his reduced powers from deeper, and he’s likely to build on this tally if kept nearer the final third.
Lucas’ Liverpool career has been one of peaks and troughs. Signed from Gremio in 2005 as a promising attacking midfielder, his failure to produce ‘samba flair’ on a regular basis led to cries for him to be shipped out to anybody who would take him from an unforgiving crowd. But after reinventing himself as a more defensively minded central player, his stock once again rose to the point that he was named as Liverpool’s Player of the Season in 2010/11.
Injuries have once again seen his reputation slide recently, but he’s already shown that bouncing back is what he does best.
There’s a lot to be said for doing your job effectively and quietly. While Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and Gerrard grab the headlines, Lucas was, arguably, the Reds’ best player against Leicester. Four key incepts, six clearances – the joint highest in the game – 59 passes and a host of tackles make for positive reading and ensured that the Foxes only goal came rather fortuitously.
Lucas now leads the stats (in terms of averages) in his own squad for tackles, clearances and incepts, which are all areas in which the Reds have needed to improve after a porous opening to the season. He may not be reinventing the wheel, but sometimes going back to basics is what’s needed.