Why Lucas should no longer figure in Brendan Rodgers' plans

Lucas Leiva

Lucas is fit and available for selection once again but he may now find himself fifth choice in Liverpool's midfield.

Liverpool midfielder Lucas may believe he is in a fight for his Brazil World Cup place but in reality he could be about to embark on a battle with Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho for a Reds starting berth.

Brendan Rodgers' men have shown impressive form during his absence, maintaining a high points-per-game ratio (above 2.0) that sees them firmly in the hunt for the Premier League title, but there have been question marks concerning their defending as a unit.

Part of the problem has been Steven Gerrard's s adaptation to the role as a more holding midfielder. Although he has steadily improved in this department he will never be a natural as it is a specialist position.

To watch Southampton and in particular Adam Lallana drop between the lines as he did in the game between the two sides recently or Lukas Podolski march unchecked to end Liverpool's FA Cup run at the Emirates was galling as Kopites on Twitter immediately pointed to the fact that neither player would have had so much joy were it not for Lucas.

While this may suggest Lucas' return is imperative, the constant need for a conventional holding midfielder or 'destroyer', in the Claude Makelele mould, in Rodgers' system is more pertinent. The 27-year-old is the only player in the Liverpool squad who can be described as such yet there is a case to be made that his form this season has been less than exemplary. What cannot be denied is that whenever Lucas and Gerrard have been paired up in midfield the team tend to lose their ability to control games and often the initiative is handed to the opposition as a result.

Lucas seems to be a player regressing and while his commitment to the Liverpool cause can never be questioned, his quality of contribution can.

At present there are much better defensive midfield options out there and one need only look at the constant speculation linking Rubin Kazan's Yann M'Vila to the club to believe that Rodgers and the transfer committee know the same.

It would appear Lucas no longer has the legs and indeed the engine to make himself a big enough presence in Liverpool's midfield. The manager's decision to move Coutinho towards the centre and play effectively a 4-1-2-3 formation and give his team yet another dynamic means that of the two players remaining in the middle of the pitch to start, Gerrard and Henderson will more often than not be selected.

What is more frustrating with the Brazilian is his tendency to get caught up the pitch and outmuscled in the tackle. His injury record is less than ideal too and possibly this is why his form has suffered and why he is now too slow a cog in the Liverpool machine.

The key point of contention with Lucas, more than any other however, is how he constantly allows players to put themselves between him and the ball in dangerous positions, usually on the edge of the penalty area. Naturally he concedes free-kicks and puts his team on the back foot. Typically a holding midfielder should be sweeping loose balls in this zone where they are facing the play and not in fact towards their own goal. The more the number 21 does this the more he is not performing his job for the team properly.

Take Jordan Henderson as a comparison for example. Here is a player that is on altogether different curve, on arching further and further upwards. His engine and dynamism bring into sharper focus Lucas' decline and while it would be a mistake to write the former Gremio player off, it would be a shock to see him anything other than a squad player were he to remain at Anfield beyond the summer.

Gerrard no longer has that burst of acceleration and harsher critics would say he is just as slow as Lucas, yet what they are forgetting is that the Liverpool captain has much more in his locker to offer the team.

The positives far outweigh the negatives and his leadership qualities alone will always redeem him in this Rodgers side.

The opposite holds true for Lucas and this ultimately why he should no longer figure in the manager's long-term plans.

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