Love or loathe him, Liverpool’s immediate success will depend on him

Football FanCast columnist Michael Glover feels that Lucas deserves his chance at Liverpool and supporters should perhaps show him a little faith.

Liverpool‘s defeat at Spurs on Sunday confirmed one thing to the Anfield faithful – the eventual exit of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid, has left his old club with a monumental gap to fill.

Despite recovering with a four goal victory over Stoke on Wednesday, Anfield will still be craving that man to link their attacking play between the tenacity of Javier Mascherano and the sheer class of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres as Alonso did so perfectly over the previous two seasons.

With Alonso’s £18million replacement, Alberto Aquilani, arriving at the club unavailable through injury for a number of weeks and inexperienced in English football, leaves just one man to fill the void in the Liverpool midfield.

Lucas Leiva, the 22-year-old Brazilian, is the only first team midfielder remaining at Liverpool and the man in line for Alonso’s position last season when manager Rafa Benitez decided to spark alight the fire of his ever fading rotation policy.

Lucas joined Liverpool from Brazilian side Grêmio in the summer of 2007 and has since earned himself a reputation with Reds supporters modelled on the likes of Eric Djemba-Djemba at Manchester United and Hossam Ghaly at Tottenham Hotspur.

Both Liverpool and non-Liverpool supporters, and I admittedly include myself here, have lambasted Lucas at times with him often being used as a scapegoat for a Liverpool failing. Conversations between football fans frequently run along the lines of ‘what was Lucas thinking?’ or ‘if Alonso was playing…’

An example of this that instantly springs to mind would be Liverpool’s FA Cup fourth round replay at Goodison Park in February. The Brazilian was sent off in extra time minutes before Everton’s Dan Gosling scored a late winner to end their bitter rivals’ cup run. Cue a scaled down version of David Beckham 1998 scapegoating as the blame was, perhaps in a kind of post-match paddy, firmly placed on Lucas’ shoulders.

As pundits last season were constantly in awe of the Liverpool central midfield and attacking duo they were also critical of the replacements available to Rafa Benitez. Many of the BBC and Sky Sports experts believed the title would have made its way back to Anfield should suitable cover have been available for the regularly injured Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

But Liverpool fans need just to look at the midfield of their fiercest rivals Manchester United in order to muster up the genuine hope that their Brazilian can fill the void left by Alonso.

Parked firmly in the middle of United’s starting 11 is Darren Fletcher, a man who before last season was a constant figure alongside Kleberson and previously mentioned Djemba-Djemba in many people’s list of Fergie flops.

After indisputably his finest season in a United shirt, Fletcher is now seen as the main man in the United midfield, ahead of the likes of £18million of Michael Carrick, a £17million and injury ridden Owen Hargreaves and even legend Paul Scholes. He was a large fixture in United winning their third Premier League title in a row and was sorely missed for the UEFA Champions League Final defeat by Barcelona, after he was suspended due to a red card in the semi final against Arsenal.

Of course, some will say Fletcher is three years older than Lucas and the Liverpool man, if he is to follow in his rival’s footsteps, will need to gain more experience to be in any sort of condition to fill the hefty boots of Alonso.

But I, as a Liverpool supporter who desperately craves the return of the Premier League title, is to make a new season resolution. That is, having seen the revitalisation of Darren Fletcher last season, to simply give a chance to Lucas. Faith should be put in the judgment of Rafa Benitez – the man who led Liverpool to the Champions League title in 2005, the FA Cup in 2006 and who has defended Lucas to the rafters since his arrival.

With just a few weeks before £18million Aquilani is available to challenge his place, time is not on Lucas’ side. And, as always, only time will tell if he is up to the job. Anfield watches in expectation.

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