Lucas Leiva, the 26-year-old Brazilian, has emerged in recent years as one of Liverpool’s more consistent players racking up high appearances a season and performing at a high level, he has even been called up to the Brazilian national team on numerous occasions.
This season however he has not seemed the player that established himself as an integral member of the team. Lucas is no stranger to criticism, having a nightmare start to his Liverpool career he was accustomed to being booed of the field, the ridiculous long hair did not help his popularity.
The exit of Mascherano and Alonso from the club was to be the dawn of a new era for Lucas, it gave him a new responsibility, he new he could become a regular in the team and he took his chance and hasn’t looked back since. The injuries suffered by Aquilani in his time at Liverpool may have been a blessing in disguise for Lucas.
Lucas began to make an impact in the starting 11 in the 2009-2010 season but the 2010-2011 season was the best of his career, in that season Lucas was voted fans player of the year an accolade that would have undoubtedly pleased him considering two years prior to this the same people were booing him on a consistent basis.
Lucas was starting to be recognised as one of the top defensive midfielders in the Premier League and even signed a new long term contract with Liverpool, a contract he deserved for his great performances.
The 2011-2012 season started off in similar fashion Lucas was a key player breaking up opposition attacks and putting Liverpool on the front foot with his quick passing, in December however his season was cut short after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Chelsea in the League cup quarter final which ruled him out for the remainder of the season.
His recovery was a lengthy one and on his return to competitive action against Manchester City in August of 2012 he injured his thigh and was ruled out for another three months, although he has now recovered from these injuries and is a first team regular once again the form he experienced before the injuries still eludes him.
In 2012-2013 Lucas was substituted 10 times, more than ever before in his Liverpool career, he seemed to have lost that yard of pace that used to enable him clean-up in front of the back four. It is no coincidence that in the last two seasons Liverpool’s defence have struggled.
Liverpool’s back line never really changed an awful lot in the last few seasons, Agger and Skrtel had developed a partnership that was working brilliantly but last season they both seemed very exposed, why was this? The main reason was Lucas was not stopping the attacks and the two defenders were under more pressure than ever.
This season Liverpool have brought in Sakho at the back to try and return to what was once a solid base of the team but as of yet it has not worked. Liverpool have conceded nine goals in the last six games which is not a good stat for a team challenging for a top 4 place.
The main blame keeps on being put on the defenders but its time people questioned Lucas’ contribution, at Arsenal on Saturday his performance was poor, the midfield was completely overrun and he was unable to stop Arsenal from driving straight through the Liverpool midfield and piling pressure on the defence.
Two years ago, Saturday’s game would have been perfect for Lucas, a real midfield battle where he could enforce himself on the game but he could not do it on this occasion and it cost Liverpool dearly.
It is fair to say Lucas is not the player of a few years ago when he was capable of keeping tabs on players such as Cesc Fabregas, he can still do a job at Liverpool but he needs competition in his position to drive him on.
I think it’s time Liverpool looked to investing in a new defensive midfielder because Lucas at this moment is just not good enough to help them achieve their goals.