The main reason I hate writing during the transfer window is it prompts even more uninformed opinion than usual. I try to have at least some observation and statistics to back up my other “analysis.”
Consequently, I’m hesitant to write too much about Alberto Aquilani or define the player before he plays for Liverpool. I simply haven’t seen enough of him, let alone the unknown that surrounds every foreign player coming to the Premiership.
However, and unsurprisingly, I’ve got a few thoughts and concerns.
• The first option, with a minimum of fuss. This deal was announced one day after Alonso’s sale. One day. I don’t think Rick Parry completed a single task in a day. Granted, this was obviously in the works given Alonso’s protracted saga (which, the more I read, the more I’m convinced took so long because Benitez was fully content to wait until Madrid succumbed to the asking price), but there was no hesitation once the Spaniard was sold. Rafa picks a player, Rafa gets the player. That buys Aquilani a lot of leeway with me.
• Aquilani plays further forward than Alonso. I touched upon this in earlier speculation, and all that I’ve read, the YouTube video’s I’ve subjected myself to, Benitez’s recent comments, and that different looking 4-1-4-1 in the last friendly make me suspect it even more. Aquilani seems likely to force some sort of change in tactics. I assume he will play deeper for Liverpool than he did for Rome, in an attempt to give him that much more time on the ball before he’s closed down, but some change is likely. And this isn’t a season where Liverpool will have much time or patience for experimentation.
• Yes, I’ve seen his appearance record too. League appearances with Roma (since ’04-05): 29, 24, 13, 21, 14. Some of that is down to having Totti, De Rossi, and Pizzaro in front of him, but he has a reputation for being frequently injured. As he’s recovering from ankle surgery now, we’re not likely to see him play until September at best. We’ll see how his medical goes, but Benitez hasn’t been afraid to take a gamble on players with a “history” of injuries – Aurelio and Degen pop immediately to mind. However, and it’s a rather big however, both of those were free transfers. This deal falls somewhere between £15-20m. A slight discrepancy. How much you worry probably depends on how much you trust Rafa, but despite my sycophancy, I’m still wary.
• It’s a small sample, but… Liverpool hasn’t had the best history with Italians, although that includes all of two players over 107 years. Reserve goalkeeper Daniele Padelli’s stint in ’06-07 was ignominious at best – a lone start in the last game against an already-relegated Charlton saw the stopper concede twice in a 2-2 draw. Dossena seemed all but on his way out before Aurelio’s injury, and even afterward, rumors of a deal with Napoli appeared around the same time as Arbeloa’s sale. But now I really don’t expect him to be sold. I’ve no idea if the two are friendly off the pitch (having both played for the national team), but as an American who’s lived abroad, I can attest that it’s nice to have a countryman around sometimes.
So, welcome to Liverpool, Alberto. Make us dream.