It’s been a remarkable turn of events for Lucas Leiva, twice already in this short season. The Brazilian was reported to be heading out to Turkey in the summer window. However, despite there being strong indication that he would be leaving the club, he was kept for some reason and he started against Arsenal in August. The 28-year-old put on an impressive performance in the match and was crucial in ensuring the Reds returned from a tough place, where they crashed and burned 4-1 last season, with a point and a clean sheet. Lucas then went on to feature under Brendan Rodgers prominently, and was seen as an important member of the squad.
When the Northern Irishman was sacked, many thought that the Brazilian’s time at Liverpool would come to an end as he wouldn’t suit new boss Jürgen Klopp’s system. However, that has certainly been far from the case. The rejuvenation of Lucas, in fact, can bee seen as one of the early success stories of Klopp’s short Liverpool career so far.
It wasn’t surprising for people to think that Lucas wouldn’t fit into the new boss’s system. The high-tempo, “gegenpress” style of play Klopp is synonymous for, could be a bit too much for the 28-year-old who is not known for being the most mobile. But Lucas has silenced his doubters in style and his performances and Klopp’s faith in him has breathed a new lease of life in his Anfield career.
Lucas has started every Premier League game under Klopp – he even captained the side in the absence of both Jordan Henderson and James Milner – and has been brought off the bench for every cup game where he was rested.
Lucas has had quite a ride with the club so far. He was under heavy criticism when Rafa Benitez brought him from Brazil. At the time, he divided opinion among Liverpool fans like no one else. He was very vocally a target for supporters’ frustrations initially. However, Benitez was confident that the Kop faithful would see the player he invested in and eventually they did. Lucas began playing arguably the best football of his career. He was even awarded the club’s player of the year for the 2010-11 season. It was incredibly unfortunate that he suffered a terrible ACL injury in December 2011, when he was in the form of his life. Since coming back from a terrible injury that left him in the sidelines for months, the Brazilian has struggled to truly get going and perform to the levels he could. Until now.
This season, under two different bosses, Lucas averages 5.8 tackles every 90 minutes in the league. His 5.5 tackles per game, in fact, is the best average in Europe’s top 5 leagues for a player who has played a minimum of 8 games. The Brazilian also averages 2.1 interceptions every 90 minutes. His grit in the heart of the pitch has been essential for the Liverpool side that has been so porous at the back. Needless to say, Lucas has been instrumental in Liverpool only conceding 3 goals in the 4 Premier League games under Klopp, as he has shielded the defence with expertise.
What has been more remarkable however, is how he has got forward and helped in the attack. The Brazilian is not known for the offensive side of his game despite starting out as a box-to-box midfielder. He has created 11 attacking chances in the league, which is the fourth best after James Milner, Alberto Moreno and Philippe Coutinho. While this also shows how Liverpool have not done too well in the attacking department, the mere fact that Lucas is here is astonishing and remarkable.
“The arrival of Klopp has given me a new energy. He shows he has enough confidence in me,” said Lucas recently.
Any player needs his manager to show confidence in him for him to play with no inhibitions and it is not surprising to see Lucas play his best football since before his ACL injury with Klopp showing so much trust in his abilities.
It will be interesting to see whether Klopp does any buying or selling in the summer transfer window as it could be assumed that the German will want to work with whatever he has at his disposal unless some places need urgent reinforcements due to injury. But Lucas, who so many thoughts would be the first one to head out and who so nearly did in the summer, is not going anywhere just yet.