In recent weeks, the Liverpool squad have been finding their best form once more. This appears to be down to a relatively young and balanced midfield providing a core for the team, allowing goals to be scored from all over the pitch, alongside a defensive system that appears much improved from recent years. Kenny Dalglish has worked wonders for Liverpool, as the team has learnt to play for each other, and now, with financial backing alongside the backing of the players, Liverpool is no longer considered a ‘one man team’ like back in the day when Steven Gerrard appeared to gain results by himself, but a team that all contributes effectively, bar the possible one or two exceptions, forming Kenny’s own, personal squad and style.
The old names of Milan Jovanovic, Joe Cole and Sotiris Kyrgiakos no longer feature, and Ajax, Aston Villa and Blackpool were raided for quality, merging the likes of Adam, Suarez and Downing almost flawlessly in order to make Liverpool a title contender once more.
A player at the hub of this change for Liverpool is Lucas Leiva, the Brazilian defensive midfielder that just a couple of years ago looked unable to keep up with the pace of the premier league. He has been pushed his way into become an ever present, a mainstay in the new Liverpool team that has shown such promise. Watching him in the win against Chelsea, and the unfortunate draw with Manchester City in recent weeks, he has progressed strongly.
It seems he fits in a lot better in this Liverpool team, with tough yet classy Charlie Adam beside him, and Dirk Kuyt battling back to help, Lucas appears to be playing with a lot more confidence and belief, quietly bossing games which was so uncommon a few years ago. Lucas has managed to warm the hearts of the Liverpool fans, as he quietly gets on with his jobs of tidying up in front of the back four, sweeping play from side to side as only a Brazilian can do. The current Liverpool system has suited him, and the team, nicely; yet with this unfortunate injury leaving him out until the end of the season, and an important December ahead of them, who will Liverpool turn to that will enable their current run of invulnerability to continue.
The first, and perhaps naive option would be to replace him with a reserve midfielder. The likes of Jay Spearing or Jonjo Shelvey have put their names forward for his spot, in a desperate attempt to make their mark in the first team. Unfortunately, it appears recalled Blackpool loanee Shelvey is still developing and perhaps not quite up to scratch just yet, and with Spearing as well perhaps good enough for Championship/reserve level at best, the ‘like for like’ swap may prevent such a feeling of security within the Liverpool midfield, as a weak link could prove problematic in must win games.
However successful transisitions into first team premier league football have come from the likes of Tom Cleverley or Aaron Ramsey at Man United and Arsenal respectively, experiencing successful loan spells at high championship/low premier league clubs in recent years. These experiences can be the next stage for a boy to become a man; therefore a chance may be all that is needed for Shelvey to impress.