Liverpool 0-0 Everton
Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United
Liverpool 0-0 Aston Villa
This are the games I firmly believe Liverpool could have gotten something out of had Luis Garcia been healthy. Granted, aside from Newcastle, these are all the league losses and draws since Garcia’s injury in early January, but the point remains.
I hesitate to write this now as I hesitated to mention it in any of the match reports, because this is Liverpool, it’s not right to put any one player above the team’s performance. But after yesterday’s “game” against Villa I simply can’t help myself.
Without Garcia, Liverpool has little creativity and flair, the type of player who can break these deadlocks and dreary games. It’s not a matter of being able to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and drag the team kicking and screaming to a win, as Gerrard has been known to do on occasion, but more a player who has the required tricks and guile to unlock a stubborn defense when the game’s not going as planned. Garcia’s not a game changer, but he certainly can be a match winner.
All I could think of after yesterday’s game was the 1-0 win over Arsenal last year, when Garcia, coming off the bench, scored the winner three minutes from time by being in the right place (getting into the penalty box is a start!) at the right time for the rebound from Didi Hamann’s long-range effort. It’s one of my favorite qualities about Luis, and reminds me of a semi-famous Shankly quote: “Aye, Roger Hunt misses a few, but he gets in the right place to miss them.” Garcia gets in the right place to make things happen, whereas yesterday, Liverpool didn’t have anyone in the penalty box on a number of occasions, and were content to pass the ball around looking for an opening to develop, only to give possession away before that could happen.
Outside of Bellamy (who was bereft of service), Kuyt (no goals in his last 7 matches, and for all intents and purposes, was a midfielder against Villa), and Gerrard, Liverpool had no attacking options starting. I’m not including Riise, as he mainly played at left back with Aurelio in midfield, and nearly all of his goals this season have come when he’s been in midfield; I think the Community Shield was the only game where he scored from defense, and that was attacking quickly from a Chelsea corner. But against Villa, no one in the team who has Garcia’s trickery, intelligence, or any of the other qualities I’ve already gushed over.
You need players like Luis for games like these. All the times Garcia is slated for not fitting into the Premiership with his many attempts at being clever, you forget what he offers offensively. And it’s a quality that no other player has at Liverpool, outside of Harry Kewell, who obviously isn’t an option at this point.
For all the talk about needing a new striker, someone who can score 20 goals a season, what Liverpool really needs is a creative attacker who can play on the wings or through the middle. And that’s what Garcia is when healthy.
As frustrating as he can be, he’s also proven himself necessary.
Absence certainly makes the heart grow fonder.