This isn’t meant at the expense of any of the other players on the team, because as frequently reiterated, everyone played well yesterday, but I’ve been surprised to see so little acclaim for Aurelio’s contribution to the result.
In Alonso and Agger’s absences, the onus on starting the attack has fallen to Carragher, Hyypia, and Mascherano. While Mascherano has resumed playing some lovely short passes to open up space in the last few games, none of these three has the long-range passing that’s in either Alonso or Agger’s locker. In the past few games when Liverpool’s struggled, it’s been Carra and Hyypia pumping long balls forward out of defense to varying degrees of success.
This is where Aurelio shined last night. I’m going to crib a couple of images from the invaluable flash stats at the bottom of the Daily Telegraph’s match report to illustrate.
The preferred passes category illustrates the point perfectly:
Look at the number of passes Aurelio played to Crouch compared to other players. Crouch also received the ball from Aurelio more than anyone else. In addition, Aurelio received the ball from Carra and Hyypia more often than not, showing he was a frequent pivot between defense and attack.
Admittedly, Crouch’s availability as a target-man and his ball retention played a big part in the success, but it was Aurelio who usually found him with the pass.
Too often against the likes of Marseille and Besiktas away, Liverpool lost possession when they hoofed it out of defense, and when they struggled, they ended up resorting to this option more in spite of a lack of success. But with Aurelio’s excellent long passing, coupled with Crouch’s ability to collect the ball, Liverpool was able to set up attack after attack against Besiktas.
Again, this isn’t a slight on Carragher and Hyypia. Both are superlative defenders, and both are rightful legends of the club. But I also think both would admit bringing the ball out of defense and long-range passing aren’t their fortes.
I for one am thrilled to have Aurelio back in the team.