Liverpool won their opening game against Southampton two days ago, but they can definitely count themselves lucky as the Saints played some brilliant football after dominating the midfield. One of the main reasons of this is because of the shape of the Liverpool midfield that was put out by Brendan Rodgers.
Steven Gerrard took over as the holding midfielder last season and performed admirably. Gerrard in that role is a more potent weapon compared to anyone else in the team at the moment as none of them seem to possess the level of passing that the 34-year old has which is key element of Rodgers’ system. Joe Allen hasn’t had the best of times at Merseyside, but he has improved which was clearly evident in the last few months of the previous season. Allen, Gerrard and Jordan Henderson were deployed as a midfield trio last season and it worked very well.
In the pre-season, Rodgers went with a 4-3-3 line up more often where the trio were most effective. Steven Gerrard no longer has the legs, so the presence of Allen and Henderson as the two dynamic players around him helps Liverpool in maintaining the shape required in pressing and counter attacking teams from their own half. The same cannot be said when Lucas starts as he is a more natural defensive player.
When Liverpool start with Lucas in midfield, the formation tends to move towards a more defensive 4-3-3 as the Brazilian’s style isn’t similar to Allen or Can, and it was visible against Southampton. The opponents were allowed a lot of space in the midfield, the urgency in the midfield was lacking and the pressing was non-existent in the second half. Joe Allen’s introduction not only added an injection of pace in the midfield but also the shape that allowed the attacking trio to move higher up the pitch as Allen and Henderson were doing the pressing from their own half with Gerrard as the holding player.
Although it’s too early to talk about Emre Can, it does look like he is a very dynamic and versatile player from his Leverkusen days. Can was deployed in a number of positions by Sami Hyypia last season and came out with flying colours more often than not. He is agile, can pick a pass and isn’t shy of a tackle or two. Manchester City are Liverpool’s next opponents, and it will be surprising if Rodgers sticks with Lucas.
You could argue that it’s way too early to talk about Lucas, but he has never really done enough in the last year or so to justify a start ahead of the rest. So, unless he shows signs of improvement, it is very likely that he’ll be sold in January if not in the next few weeks.