Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Is Aquilani the answer for Liverpool?

It could only be the rollercoaster Liverpool regime of Rafael Benitez where the season has not yet reached the end of August and already it feels like time is running out.

The brutal truth is that only one team — Manchester United in 1992-1993 — have won the Premier League title having, like Liverpool, lost two out of their first three games.

But it would not be Benitez if he did not choose to do things the difficult way and, after a 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa, the Liverpool manager elected not to take the bait when asked about his frustrations on the limits of his spending.

When asked about the big picture at the club, Benitez, as he so often does, immersed himself in the micro detail of small mistakes and misfortune.

It is Xabi Alonso's absence that is the issue du jour as far as Liverpool are concerned but it is debatable exactly what difference he might have made on Monday.

The real problem was a curiously lacklustre Steven Gerrard and the new angry version of Fernando Torres who seems to have developed a temper that makes him less effective than when he treated every challenge with haughty indifference.

More than anything, Monday's defeat demonstrated the need for urgency in the recovery of £18m signing Alberto Aquilani, whose rehabilitation from ankle surgery is not expected to be complete until the end of September.

The performance against Villa showed that — never mind Alonso — when Liverpool cannot rely upon Gerrard and Torres there is not another creative spark who might be able to conjure up something in a difficult situation. Aquilani with a brilliant right-foot shot and a physical game despite his diminutive stature can make things happen.

Having a new crowd favourite in the team will shake things up nicely and Gerrard always performs better when he thinks there is a rival for his No 1 billing.

The players themselves insisted that they had not given up hope with Glen Johnson insisting that the leading contenders will all drop points.

“I definitely believe that teams like Aston Villa and Tottenham and Manchester City will take points off the so-called big four this season,” said the England international.

“Obviously this is not the start to the season that we wanted but it was only the third game and there is a long way to go.

“It is still the early part of the season so we are not going to beat ourselves up at the moment. Of course, we would like to have a few more points but it's not to be so we will just keep going.”

Until Aquilani returns, it looks like Liverpool are stuck with Lucas Leiva whose own goal and poor performance only seemed to make Benitez more loyal in his defence.

That faith is unusual in a manager who, in the past, has been quick and ruthless in bundling his bad signings out the club.

On Monday night Benitez leapt to Lucas' defence for the second time this season, saying he believed “100 per cent” in the player's strength of character.

The sad truth is that until Aquilani's long-awaited debut he has precious few other options.

Source: Independent

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