Excuse me while I wipe the tear from mine eye caused upon the news that Lucas Leiva has been ruled out for the entire season with a ligament injury.
This comes as a massive blow to Liverpool as he has been the most valuable player for the Red's this season. The looming absence of the midfield rock poses a stern test for Manager Kenny Dalgleish in how to replace the defensive steel that the Brazilian provides in the center of the park.
Watching the midfielder hit the deck after a seemingly soft challenge in Carling Cup action against Chelsea Tuesday night was a gut-wrenching sight to any Liverpool fan. Scans revealed damage to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee rendering the midfielder a mere spectator for the rest of the season. Used in an anchor role for Liverpool along side new signing Charlie Adam. A partnership that looked to keep paying dividends on the back of their win at Chelsea in the league a fortnight ago, and most recently the 1-1 with Manchester City. Lucas' role allows Adam to play more expansive, breaking forward quite often seen in the two matches previously mentioned. The defensive security the Brazilian provides is integral to this Liverpool side, closing teams down with lighting pace.
The question now is how does Dalgleish fill the void in midfield. Charlie Adam is not a defensive midfielder by any stretch of the imagination, and neither is Jordan Henderson… really. Maxi Rodriguez is out of the question, though he may get more starting opportunities, and Gerrard operates best sitting behind the striker. Gerrard has made just five appearances this season, having had a after recovering from a groin operation in April, set back further due to an infection. So without the Liverpool captain Dalgleish has to dig a little deeper. Dalgleish has recalled 19-year-old Jonjo Shelvy out on loan with Blackpool, but he lacks the premier experience to shut down the abundant talent in the EPL. Jay Spearing, though young has done well when asked to play the midfield role for the Red's and you should expect to see him start against the lower ranked teams in the league. The seemingly excessive summer purchases of midfield oriented players' now looks a stroke of genius by the Scot, as the options are anything but scant. But that said none really posses that defensive mindset that players likes of Lucas, Gattuso and Daniel De Rossi posses, as the role of defensive midfielder's seem to be becoming obsolete. Jordan Henderson has been struggling on the wing since his move from Sunderland, so assuming of the Lucas role could be some redemption for the young player. This is how I see the line-up shaping out:
Johnson Agger Skrtel Enrique
Kuyt Henderson Adam Downing
The return of Gerrard should change this, but until then I see this happening. Also prepare to see Luis Suarez up top on his own with Dirk Kuyt sitting behind him, prepared to help out the midfield when necessary.
Lucas will undergo surgery, but is not be expected back by the end of the season. Once the laughing stock of Liverpool, Lucas has evolved tremendously into a player would be first on my team sheet each week. A couple years ago if someone asked me who on my team I would gladly have just up an vanish I would have said him, or David N'gog. Now I love his role and how he plays it, making his absence from the starting XI that much harder to bare.