Fabio Aurelio, Alvaro Arbeloa, Steve Finnan and John Arne Riise. Four contrasting full backs who offer something a little bit different to the Liverpool team.
Having watched the Liverpool v Besiktas massacre, it was noted by the commentator that some of Liverpool’s most impressive wins have come when Aurelio and Arbeloa have played together; this was evidenced in the games against Arsenal last season, Reading and Besiktas this season.
I have felt for quite some time that both these players should be our first choice full backs on a permanent basis. I have never been a John Arne Riise fan and how he has lasted this long at LFC is beyond comprehension. A very limited player and to quote Paul Tomkins when he rightly says that Riise is….. “jack of all trades, master of none“. The upshot…. solid, dependable, the odd spectacular goal and thats about it. The downshot….no pace and ‘probably the most one left-footed player in the history of the game‘, to coin our sponsor’s phrase.
Our attacking play suffers when he plays at left-back because he doesn’t offer much by way of overlap and thus penetration. For example, witness Patrice Evra’s involvement in Man U’s second goal against Arsenal last weekend. When can you honestly say Riise has done something similar, let alone regularly, for Liverpool?
Whether this is down to tactics or not is a matter open for debate, but it seems almost certain that having watched him play for so long he does not take enough responsibility when going forward. Fabio had been extremely unlucky with injuries throughout his career and so far that trend has only just abated, but for how long who knows?
What is most impressive about Aurelio is not only his passing, (according to Rafa, Fabio is a better passer than Alonso) but his ability on the ball and his willingness to overlap (outside or inside) the winger in front of him, be it Kewell, Babel or Riise. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of Riise. Furthermore, Aurelio nearly always makes himself available to receive the ball by making triangles. He also does not have Riise’s extremely annoying propensity to “hoof” the ball even when there is clearly time and space to do something a little more constructive, be it to carry the ball forward, play a one two with his winger as he advances up the field or simply pass the ball infield. If Fabio can stay fit and get a run of games than his critiques will see that he is without a shadow of a doubt our most accomplished left-back.
Concerning the right-back position, Steve Finnan has been fantastic for Liverpool over the last few years. However he is now 31 and his best years I feel are behind him. His form has been patchy this season and because Arbeloa has been a revelation since he joined us in January it may be time for ol’ Stevie Finnan to make way. Alvaro is by no means the finished article, but at 24 he can only improve and thus his peak years are crucially still ‘in front’ of him, whereas as aforementioned, Finnan’s are behind him.
In comparison to Krompkamp and Josemi, Arebloa is Javier Zanetti. Mobile, very comfortable on the ball, intelligent passer and hungry for success, Arbeloa has the necessary ingredients to be our mainstay right-back for years to come, all things being equal of course. Where he needs improvement is in his defending. Prone to the odd mistakes he does not have Finnan’s near 100% reliability, but it should come with time.
A versatile player he may be, but Alvaro is not a defensive midfielder in any shape or form. His failure to track Fabregas’s run in what turned out to be Arsenal’s equalising goal should not blotch his growing reputation amongst knowledgeable Liverpool fans. Asking him to play that position against the caliber of Arsenal was a mistake on Benitez’ part, and his part alone, even if it was for the last 15 minutes or so of the game.
In the same way Aurelio operates at left-back, Arbeloa usually makes himself available to receive the ball without being under pressure. The one twos and the triangles are also part and parcel of his game. Hugging the touchline in much the way Aurelio does, Arbeloa helps to stretch the opposition by giving the team extra width. Given his footballing education at R.Madrid Castilla its not surprising.
It will be interesting to see whether or not Benitez will employ Aurelio and Arbeloa as his two orthodox full backs despite the rotation. Only time will tell, but what are your thoughts and if you were the Liverpool manager, who would you play at left and right back?