Why Lucas deserves his new deal at LiverpoolPosted: April 3, 2011
Lucas Leiva has been long a figure that has divided opinion amongst Liverpool fans. He arrived at Anfield as a young man and took on the challenge of living in a foreign country. His early performances came under some great scrutiny from the Liverpool faithful but he has shrugged that off to become a regular in the Liverpool first team as well as making himself a permanent fixture in the Brazilian national team whilst earning himself the much coveted number 5 jersey in the process. But why has it all gone right for the young Brazilian? Well, that’s for you to decide but you’ll soon see how his game has improved from when he first joined the reds to his most prominent season which has seen him earn a reported new 5 year deal, which many (including myself) believe he has deserved.
Lucas arrived at Liverpool in the summer of 2007 from Brazilian side Gremio, who had just finished runners up in the Copa Libertadores to Argentinian giants Boca Juniors. He arrived in time for Liverpool’s pre-season tour of Hong Kong and he made his competitive debut in the 4-0 win against Toulouse in a Champions league qualifier at Anfield. Lucas made 32 appearances (scoring 1 goal) in all competitions for the reds that year but failed to dislodge Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso from their midfield berth as a champion’s league semi- final was reached.
The following season fortunes changed for the reds as they challenged for the league title and lost out by a whisker to their great rivals Manchester United. It was a strange season for Lucas. He played 39 games for the first team but some fans showed their displeasure by booing him off the field during a home draw with Fulham which was very out of character for the Liverpool fans. Statistically his best game was against Newcastle where the team ran riot winning 5-1. He completed 54 passes out of 60 (90%) and he was very unlucky not score himself despite testing the goalkeeper on numerous occasions. He also set up Steven Gerrard for his second in that game with a pin point pass which had the Newcastle defence in 6’s and 7’s.
During that season Lucas 1282 minutes of league football that season with a pass completion of 83% (865 passes). Obviously this is much lower than Xabi Alonso who played 7 more games than Lucas that season. A tackling percentage of 75% that season is also impressive and it is only second to Mascherano when compared between the three midfielders that season.
The departure of Xabi Alonso in the summer of 2009 and the long term injury to new signing Alberto Aquilani helped Lucas to put a tight grip on the midfield berth vacated by the Spanish pass-master. Lucas played 50 games (the third highest that year) in all competitions and made the position but unfortunately for him and the team, a 7th place finish and an early exit from the Champions League was not deemed good enough and Rafa Benitez paid for it with his job. He clocked up his 100th game for the reds against Spurs in a 2-0 win in January of that season. He had a very impressive end to the season and a fine solo goal in a 4-1 win against Benfica in the Europa league Quarter Final documented that. The young Brazilian was unfortunate to miss out on the Brazil world cup squad for the tournament in South Africa.
The summer of 2010 started with much confusion and lack of knowledge on where Lucas would be playing his football come the end of the transfer window. This was even thrown more into doubt when Rafa Benitez was relieved of his duties and Roy Hodgson came into replace him. The Young Brazilian captained the reds in most of their pre-season games. Towards the end of the transfer window there was a lot of speculation as to whether he’d make a move to Benfica but it never materialised and Lucas started the season as a regular starter in a red shirt.
Thus far, Lucas has had an excellent season and the majority of Liverpool fans have recognized his improvement. He has made a tackle every 17 minutes and 36 seconds (57.4% success) which is quicker than any other player in the league. This shows his importance in keeping the opposition out. This season he’s had an 84% pass completion rate this season compared to the team average of 75%. This included a 90% in the game at White Hart Lane against Spurs. He has also weighed in with one goal, which was against Steua Bucharest. Since Dalglish has taken over Lucas has continued to progress thus earning himself a new 5 year deal. He has certainly been one of the few positives to come out of the Hodgson era in terms of personal development.
That’s bring me to the question to whether he deserves the new contract. I am of the opinion that he deserves it. His constant improvement has been invaluable this season especially in games against Chelsea and Manchester United. In the future I do not see him as regular fixture in the first XI, but he will continue to be a valuable squad player. And even if he does not feature that much in the next 18 months, the length of his contract means the club can cash in and receive a generous transfer fee. Hopefully we’ll see more improvement over the next few years and he’ll be part of the Liverpool match-day 18 for many years to come.
Follow Robert on twitter @Robbie_OR