When Lucas Leiva had to limp off only 21 minutes after being subbed in Saturday’s game against Aston Villa, Rodgers and his staff must have collectively held their breath. It cannot be stressed enough just how important the Brazilian is to Liverpool FC’s midfield – not to mention, the entire team dynamic. Rodgers had tried to spare Lucas from action but after a miserable first half, the midfielder was direly needed to control a loose midfield.
In an effort to play a very aggressive offense, Rodgers had formed a 4-2-4 lineup with only two men in the role as midfielders, leaving Lucas out of his usual trio with Gerrard and Henderson. With captain Steven Gerrard placed in holding role and the midfield left exposed, Aston Villa was up by two goals after only 36 minutes of play. Contesting to Lucas’ vital role on the team, his presence in the second half lead to more possession and allowed Gerrard to go higher up field and do what he does best. Most importantly, the 27 year old offered another route of passing for the often stilted defense.
With very limited options in the defensive midfield, Lucas’ injury is going to hurt Liverpool in the forthcoming weeks when they take on Everton in the Merseyside derby and later in February when they face the top ranking team in the Premier League, Arsenal. Joe Allen, who substituted Lucas following his injury in Saturday’s match, is the closest thing Rodgers have to a Lucas type of player and even then, Allen has not seen much actions over the last few months.
There is cause for a bit of relief as Lucas declared on Twitter that he will be back in a ‘few weeks’. This is in stark contrast to the suggestions that the Brazilian had suffered ligament damage and could be ruled out for up to three months. Whether it will be a few weeks or a few months before Lucas returns to the starting line-up, Rodgers will have to do some serious thinking before the January transfer window closes. Can Liverpool compete for a top four spot with a key player missing or will he have to enforce the midfield with a possible signing?
So far the rumor mill has only churned out a possible agreement between Liverpool and Basel player, Mohamed Salah, which as of today is a lost cause after Salah joined Chelsea FC. Salah’s allure had been his ability to play in several positions, most notably on the wing and midfield. Shortly after Mourinho closed the deal, there were reports that Liverpool had made a bid of £15 million but were outdone by Abramovich’s deep pockets.
Whether or not Rodgers can or will pursue another signing, it is going to be tough, if not impossible, to find anyone who can step right on the team and perform Lucas’ duties. He is not only combative and mobile but also a leader. Therein lies the magic of Lucas; his presence is a reassurance that allows the other players to play their game.