Pitchside

The man who could cost Liverpool the title

Pitchside

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Liverpool's midfield was maligned earlier in the season. It was too weak, too slow and not mobile enough. Fast forward a couple of months and the Reds are on the verge of winning the title and boast one of the most effective midfield's in the country.

What has happened then? Brendan Rodgers moved Steven Gerrard deeper - something he's been thinking about since he arrived in 2012 - and the benefits are clear to see.

Many people worried about whether Gerrard could hack it in the deep midfield role, sat just in front of the defence. He has performed beyond expectations, though, and is formidable in his new role. The main concern around the change was that Gerrard has never really shown the kind of mentality that would allow him to just sit and stay put at the back of the midfield. However, the coaching that went into the move has been exceptional and Liverpool have dominated midfield's in 2014.

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A key aspect to that is, sadly, the absence of Lucas Leiva. The Brazilian has been at the base of the club's midfield for a number of seasons now but it has become painfully clear over the past 12 months that he cannot hack it on his own. Gerrard has shown in just a couple of months how the role should be played and Lucas just can't live up to that level

As disheartening as this may sound, Lucas' injury earlier this year was key to the club reaching the level it has and why they are now on the brink of winning the title. Who knows what would have happened if Rodgers moved Gerrard deeper early in the season but one thing is for sure, he moved him back as soon as Lucas was injured, and it was critical.

The Brazilian has been a substitute in recent weeks as the Reds have gone on an 11-match winning run to the top of the Premier League. He has made excellent cameo appearances like at Old Trafford where he came on with little over five minutes remaining but completed more passes than Manchester United in the time he was on the field.

He offers a calm presence on the ball in the dying embers of a match and will play a big role in the final three games of the season. However, it is painfully clear, judging by his performance against Norwich City on Sunday, that he cannot play at the required level to start for Liverpool.

A midfield quartet of Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling has been magnificent and Lucas does not really fit into it. He had to play at Carrow Road due to Henderson's three-match suspension and Daniel Sturridge's injury, but he did not play well.

In fact, in the 94th minute of the game, with Liverpool hanging onto their 3-2 lead with everything they had left to give, Lucas ploughed into Martin Olsson and gave away a silly free-kick. It incensed his captain Gerrard so much that a clip of it went viral on social media.

via Max Bauer (Vine)

Lucas also missed a perfect chance to seal the three points just a couple of minutes earlier as he scuffed his shot from six yards wide.

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Judging by his statistics this season, it is easy to see why he isn't deployed as the side's main defensive midfielder anymore. He's won just 45% of his tackles this season while committing 56 fouls. He is clumsy and often gives away silly free-kicks in dangerous areas. In fact, he's become accustomed to it and well-known for his ability to put the side under pressure at pivotal moments.

It is strange. When he comes on as a substitute, he alludes calmness and spreads confidence with his passing and ability to keep the tempo in midfield. However, when he starts a game, he's reckless and sloppy. He almost cost his side an enormous three points on Sunday.

With Liverpool back in the Champions League next season, Lucas will likely to be kept at the club, but don't bet against Rodgers selling him. The Brazilian can be a useful asset, but more often than not, he can have a negative impact and almost always proves a costly inclusion.

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