05 April 2007

On Aurelio and Liverpool's Left

Aurelio operation declared success.
[…] Benitez today confirmed: "He will be fit for the pre-season. Yesterday he had an operation and it was really good. It was over quickly – the doctor carried out a new kind of operation."

The injury came hot on the heels of some of Aurelio's finest moments in a Liverpool shirt, most notably two assists against Arsenal last weekend.

Benitez added: "He was playing really well, so it was a pity to see him get injured again."

Good news for Fabio, to be sure, but it’s still an awful injury, and it’s gotten me thinking about both his future and the future of the left side.

I’ll just come out and say it. I honestly don’t know if Aurelio is going to feature in a Liverpool shirt to the degree he did this season, if at all.

Thanks to the takeover by Gillett and Hicks, the transfer speculation has ratcheted up to heights not usually hit at this time in the season, let alone when the window’s in full swing. Liverpool's been one of the lead items in BBC's transfer speculation nearly every day this week. I’ve said before, and I imagine I will reiterate it frequently during the off-season, but I don’t see Liverpool as far away as many others do. For the most part, I’m happy with this squad. I like this squad.

If required to, I’d say that Liverpool’s greatest need is an attacking player comfortable on the left wing. Maybe it's mainly because of Garcia and Kewell’s absences, although I do believe it more than that, but it’s been the biggest problem in my eyes the majority of the time.

I have at times been guilty of a knee-jerk response towards the strikers, specifically following the most recent Manchester United game, but after calming down and trying to analyze it, I’m always hesitant to put it all on the shoulders of the forwards. Maybe it’s because, personally, I like Bellamy, Crouch, and Kuyt as players and will often look past a lack in ruthlessness. I also like all the (different) options they offer the team, and when it comes down to it, one of those three would have to make room for any new forwards.

In my eyes, Liverpool has not created enough offensively in midfield, end of. Benitez’ system frequently sits his central midfielders deep, and when Gerrard’s not in the middle, not much attacking comes from there. It’s essential that the two wingers cover for this. And a lot this season, whether it’s the injuries on the left, or bedding in of players like Gonzalez and Pennant, it’s been a failing. The right hasn’t been as much of a problem; not only has Pennant started to come around, Gerrard is frequently played there when Alonso and Mascherano/Sissoko, players who epitomize what Benitez wants out of his central midfielders, are deployed in the center. Many times, the left has been a different story.

Aurelio, when fit, had gone some way towards fulfilling that. He’s not a true winger by any stretch; his best play almost always came at left back. But he fulfilled the role needed by Liverpool on that side; he was comfortable with the ball at his feet, and more importantly, crossed some absolutely gorgeous balls into the box, which is essential when you have a striker like Crouch.

Now though, I don’t know. I’m tempted to again think that if Liverpool spends any significant amount of money, it’ll be on that side of the pitch. Which could see the end of Aurelio, if Riise keeps his left back berth, and/or Kewell, if it’s a true attacking winger that’s brought in. Admittedly, Gonzalez looks as if he was bought for this role, but he’s seemingly had a more difficult time adapting than any of the other new signings, demonstrated by the fact he’s struggled to make the bench recently prior to these last two games.

I don’t want to speculate on possible purchases. Not only is it frequently, if not always, wrong, it makes me feel exceptionally dirty mongering in tabloid rumors. So I’ll leave that to the London rags, and the staff that actually scouts these players. All I know is if a player is bought, especially one that’ll cost the fortune some think Gillett and Hicks money will allow, I’d both hope and imagine it’ll be a player like I’ve described.

And if this truly is getting near the end for Fabio Aurelio, it will be an utter shame. There’s no exaggeration when I say he put in some near world-class performances recently. But when a player is ostensibly made of glass, he’s not going to be the solution for Liverpool’s problems.

And it’s a pity.

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