Yep, can't help myself. It's the big talking point after yesterday's win.
It's simplistic, but the main difference between Lucas and Aquilani seemed the type of passes they look to play. I'm approximating for effect, but something like 2 out of 5 Lucas passes push the ball upfield (a big reason why his pass attempts and completion rate are so high). It was about 4 of 5 from Aqua yesterday.
Seeing Liverpool intent on getting the ball into the opposition half and perpetually moving towards goal is something we've all been rightfully clamoring for. The tactic worked a peach against Portsmouth, and I wish we had seen similar against the likes of Wolves and Wigan, even if both were away from Anfield. The direness in attack has demonstrated Benitez needs to remove the shackles since the defense has settled. But it won't work in every game, as much as we'd all love for Liverpool to set the tone and tempo every time out.
I can't help comparing yesterday's team to Liverpool's 5-1 win over Newcastle in December 2008. That line-up was:
Carragher Agger Hyypia Insua
Benayoun Gerrard Babel
Lucas and Mascherano holding, Kuyt as a lone striker, and Carragher instead of Johnson at right back. And yet Liverpool still scored five. I wouldn't have wanted to see that team yesterday, and Newcastle's defense was even worse than Pompey's on that day (especially on set plays), but it's worth noting that system's brought goals in the past (and a similar XI, albeit with Torres up top, featured in the 4-1 win over the Mancs).
Yesterday's line-up, with an equally emphatic scoreline against a team bound for the Championship, looked completely different. I wrote it up as 4-1-4-1 in my match review, even if Aquilani was a deep-lying playmaker almost in the vein of (say it quietly) Alonso at times. But he demonstrated far more off the ball movement and attacking verve (and much less, albeit unnecessary, defensive aptitude); this is an enjoyable compilation of his match. It's exceptionally early days, but Aquilani looked most like a bigger Paul Scholes.
But just because Aquilani was an absolute pleasure to watch yesterday doesn't mean Lucas is a bad player or Liverpool can't win with Lucas/Mascherano in midfield. The two aren't relative or reciprocal. Both Lucas and Aquilani have roles to fill and can succeed at the club.
Liverpool's found it difficult to break down sides with the usual 4-2-3-1 where it worked a treat last season. Whether that's down to Liverpool injuries (most significantly to Torres), poor individual performances, Alonso's exit, more conservative tactics from Benitez, or the opposition figuring the system out is for someone smarter than I to deduce (although my guess is it's a bit from each). This obviously could be a remedy.
Thursday's match against Lille will be an excellent barometer for any longer-term tactical changes. I don't want to take any steam out of the preview I'll write tomorrow, but we should learn a bit about the team and the rest of the season. It's a European match, so you'd expect Liverpool to be cagey, but they need a goal. But they also have to be more cautious than against Pompey as Lille have the pieces to pose a huge threat on the counter (Hazard, Frau, Cabaye, Obraniak). However, even though Liverpool play three games in six days during this crucial stretch, that the team played its best football in months on Monday will hopefully be the overriding factor.
Either way, it'll be interesting. It's a European night at Anfield.