Following four consecutive defeats, a shock exit from the Champions League and a humiliating 3-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, there were five players central in turning Liverpool’s season around:
Lucas Leiva: He remains one of the most under-rated players in Brendan Rodgers’ squad, but that hardly seem to bother him on pitch. Since that defeat at Old Trafford, Liverpool have enjoyed a nine game-unbeaten run, winning six of those, where Lucas has proven to be the catalyst of his team’s gradual progress. It’s no coincidence that Liverpool remain unbeaten domestically whenever Lucas was picked in the side this season.
Tony Barrett of The Times writes: “Rodgers has already acknowledged his importance by ruling out a move this month despite interest from Inter Milan, but on this form it would be foolish to allow Lucas to leave at any time beyond that.”
Lucas has largely benefitted with Jordan Henderson playing alongside in the midfield, instead of Steven Gerrard. While Liverpool are lacking bit of craft in the middle, there has been a marked improvement in the overall defensive set up. Lucas & Henderson, with their bundles of energy and drive, provide the necessary safety belt, in front of the 3-man defensive back-line.
Lazar Markovic: There was never any doubt with the Serbian’s immense potential, it was the question of him adjusting quickly to the new system and pace of the league that bothered the fans. As he now grows with more confidence, we are witnessing a world class player in the making.
Fans were bit skeptical ahead of Liverpool’s Capital One Cup tie against Chelsea, whether he could handle the likes of Eden Hazard on the flanks (even we predicted using Javier Manquillo instead of Markovic), as he is not a natural/but a make shift wing-back, but he amazed everyone with his tremendous defensive work load against the Blues. His positional awareness is impeccable while his first touches, close control with the ball and intelligent passing are pleasing to eyes. He rarely losses the possession – but is always ready to make a pass.
He is only 20 and far from the finished article, but he is already contributing a lot to Liverpool’s revival and vital in the Red’s surge to securing the Champions League spot.
Emre Can: Another youngster who is gradually making a big impression in the Liverpool squad. The 21-year-old has been used as a make-shift central defender in Liverpool’s 3-man defence, and he has looked as convincing as ever.
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) January 20, 2015
Emre Can looks very confident on the ball. “Modern” centrehalf…. ….not his best position, but is doing good — Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) January 20, 2015
If Carragher thinks that one mistake means Emre Can has been ‘found out’, what would he have made of his own mistakes as a defender?
— PhantomGoal (@PhantomGoal) January 20, 2015
Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher took an unusual swipe at Can (against Chelsea) where his mistake/fouling Hazard in the box, earned Chelsea a penalty in the first half. It was really harsh on a young player who has been asked to play out of his natural position. Of course, there are enough rooms for improvement, but at the same time, he brings more stability at the back than the big money summer signing Dejan Lovren.
Philippe Coutinho: Rodgers once hailed him as the little magician. The Brazilian is capable of conjuring moments of genius, but consistency is his only demon that impedes him from becoming an outstanding player. This season, it has been different.
In Rodgers’ 3-4-2-1 system, Coutinho is the creative heartbeat of this team, and he is living up to the expectations nicely.
Raheem Sterling: Rodgers once said that Sterling is the best young player in the world at his age and he was right in his assessment. For a while forget about his skill, pace, determination, drive, and adaptability. A lot has been said and written about those aspects. What amazes is his maturity! A 20-year-old, already European young player of the Year, carrying the onerous burden of a team like Liverpool, following the departure of a world class player like Luis Suarez, week in week out is in itself a terrific achievement.
He has played on the right, on the left, as no 10, as a striker and as a false nine. He is an asset for Liverpool and England, and almost driving the team singlehandedly, to the position they want to be.
Liverpool are eight in the league, five points behind Manchester United, but the Reds are slowly getting back to their vintage form of last season. The young brigades at Liverpool is driving the team forward. The future is bright, but it’s the present that matters most.