1 Sept 2009

Alberto Aquilani: Is he ready for the weight of expectation?

Amid the ‘stories’ of bids for David Villa and Franck Ribery, Liverpool spent a considerable amount of money on the comparatively unknown Alberto Aquilani. Already, the former Roma player is charged with saving Liverpool’s supposedly ‘faltering’ title hopes, but could the expectation placed on his shoulders prove to be counter-productive?

Liverpool’s transfer budget has been a source of huge debate this summer; it seems that by all accounts we are, as some might say, completely skint.

With around £38m income and around £38m expenditure (I know it’s a lot more complex than that but work with me here), it appears that Rafa has ‘broken even’ this year, which is great, but not the most exciting transfer news about a team that is supposedly chasing the title.

Xabi Alonso has gone and in his place we have Alberto Aquilani, who will eventually cost (with add-ons) close to 20m.

As we saw with Robbie ‘£20m on the bench’ Keane, some people seem to think that having a large price tag guarantees success, when the evidence suggests all it guarantees is expectation as heavy and inflated as the price tag itself.

When the misfiring Keane was dropped, it was an outrage! Liverpool fans were polarised, “How can you drop £20m?” one side cried, “He’s dropping a man, not a bag of money” the other side replied. Money doesn’t make the man, and it certainly doesn’t buy happiness.

Regardless of the price tag slapped on Aquilani, he will need the same time and understanding as any player, maybe even more so. He may well be a gifted individual, but we must exercise caution during his introduction to life at Liverpool.

After all, he’s no mercenary - a lifetime in Rome has proven that he’s a homely kind of guy, something that was backed up when he turned down a move to Chelsea and Arsenal at age 16.

The Liverpool medical team are positive they know how to Aquilani’s his injury woes, and though his rehabilitation seems to be long and drawn out, hopefully it will prove fruitful.

One thing that has concerned me is the timing of Aquilani’s recovery - he is due back in early October, the same time we play both United and Chelsea. I have high hopes that he will get off to a flyer in the same style as Fernando Torres, but I also worry that maybe peoples’ expectations will be too high.

The reality is we have a player who has spent the last 2 years troubled with injury. Aquilani has come to a superior league with a faster style of play and he will need to adjust to Premiership fitness standards. As such, I will be doing my best to not judge him too harshly in during his first year at the club.

The unfortunate crux of the matter is that many Liverpool fans will not give him that time. A lot of the fans are still bitter at Alonso going, and a lot of them expect Aquilani to be as good as, if not better than the Spaniard.

We must realise though that they are both completely different players. Aquilani will make runs; he dribbles, and at 6ft 1 he might even grab a header or two. We mustn’t be fooled into thinking the man is prolific in front of goal though - he is very much a creator and will probably play 20 yards ahead of where Alonso plied his trade. This could make all the difference.

The weight of expectation can be a heavy burden on players coming to this club. Often, the pressure is unjust, misguided and over-zealous. Lucas Leiva’s treatment among fans is a prime example of a player being almost driven out of a club by the treatment of supporters.

I feel as though Aquilani’s introduction to the English game may be similar to that of Lucas - technical, tactical, ball players seem to fly or die in the Premiership and although most people are beginning to understand Lucas’ game, a price tag 3 times the Brazilian’s 6m fee will probably not do Aquilani any favours.

It may be a month before the judgments come flooding in on the Italian international but I hope that people will understand why the problem of great expectations need to be nipped in the bud now.

Hopefully Liverpool’s title challenge will be well and truly back on track by the time we have our man back to match fitness. If we are still struggling for form then it may not be a case of Alberto Aquilani ‘Save our Souls’, but Alberto Aquilani ‘save yourself’.


  1. Well said mate. Judge Auilani once he played for not for tag price.

  2. I dont expect us to challenge for the title this season abd whatever people want to say about Lucas, he is total crap without a creative bone in his body. No team in this world will ever win their respective leagues with either Lucas or scum's Anderson in the middle of the park. And he has been there what 2 or 3 seasons? We needed creative nidfielders who can get past players when games are tight and not the pass and run routine we tend to play ad nauseum leaving Gerrard with a heavy burden to live up to game in and game out.

    We should have got a decent winger to replace Kuyt. I will admit he is industrious and loyal to the bone marrow but he is not as creative. And we should have got a creative midfielder like Van Der Vaart when he was available on the cheap leaving Lucas as a squad player, Then things might have looked optmistic for us hallenging the scum for the title. But no, we got the incognito Lucas to play our engine room pulling the strings.

    Aquilani though looks a touch of class. I think we may see our fair share of some 20-30 yard raspers and i clearly look forward to those. But will he be the creative spark in the middle of the field we so desperately need remains to be seen.

    On Aquliani's injury issue, Rafa has gone on record to state that this issue will be solved where Roma chose to procrastinate. I am hoping he is right considering Rafa went for Degen who cant survive Reserve games.

    i am not particularly fond of some of Rafa's acqusitions like Nunez, Josemi, Zenden, Dossena Degen etc and I still have my doubts on Benayoun producing big game mentality performances but he was spot on with Torres, Xabi, Masch, Skrtel and Johnson. I am still hopeful on Babel. I really love Babel though he just cant seem to produce that first season gem of a stint. Can anyone forget that goal against Derby?

    My 2ps worth.

  3. Alonso was loved by many but though last season was his best since his first, he proved not able to win games without Gerrard in the team and could not hold the midfield like Macherano. His passes are great in a league that gives more time on the ball.  Four or five assists is not title winning performances and I welcome the mo0re skillful and subtle Aquilani.

  4. <span>"The unfortunate crux of the matter is that many Liverpool fans will not give him that time."</span>

    Very unfortunate indeed. Some fans written him off already:


    See? A waste of money he is, the Italian. According to Jamie Kanwar of course.

  5. Lucas is not good enough like world cup winner Kleberson at Man U. Why cant this be accepted going on 2 years of mediocrity from the lad. Its amazing his limitations are ignored rather than Rafa admitting reality.

    As for Aquilani, how long did Rafa give Keane 2 bed in at Anfield; so maybe he can be impatient like fans eh.

  6. Wow. I can see the headlines now: "Kanwar in talking sense shock".

    The first and possibly only time I'm ever going to say this - good article, I totally agree with you

  7. Good article for once, i hope he does get the time he needs.
    The reason Keane got the boot is because he was always moaning insted of just getting on with it. and in a nutshell he was crap and isn't half the player Torres is.

    Ps don't listen to Jamie Kanwar he hasn't got a clue

  8. "The first and possibly only time I'm ever going to say this - good article, I totally agree with you"

    You will have to wait for your first time, i'm affraid... Its not Kanwar's article. Check its bottom line and discover the author :)

  9. Sorry - I didn't write the article.   I'm sticking to talking nonsense :)

  10. I believe the key to Aquilanis success  lies in how he is brought along. If thrust into the fire then it will be really difficult for him and the pressures that you mentioned in the article would really come to bear. If he starts off in a similar veing to how Alonso was intorduced to the EPL then I think that would bode well for everyone.

    The key is for us to stay near the top. If we could do that then Rafa would have the leeway to bring him along slowly and give him time to find his feet.

    Regarding the Lucas comments - I think he has done ok so far this season. Too many times when one player replaces another fans automatically assume that the incoming player must play exactly the same as the outgoing player. Lucas is no Xabi Alonso - they are VERY DIFFERENT players. My only real complaint with lucas is that when he has possession he doesn't look forward nearly enough. He's always looking for the lateral pass. I'm not saying that he has to hit the 50yd pass or stuff like that.I think if he looks to play forward more often we'll be alright.

  11. Thanks for your comment, I have to disagree with you however on a number of points.

    Firstly, the point on Lucas Leiva. What is it that you actually want from Lucas? Lucas is very good at keeping a move going, he is useful in the air and now that we are seeing him get a run in the side I think we'll see him more composed on the ball (including a cheeky 360 against Villa that left Petrov for dead in the middle). I agree that his tackling needs to be better however, but it seems that when Lucas plays well nobody will take notice, but when he makes any mistake at all it's pounced upon. I've written an article that you can find here ( http://www.liverpool-kop.com/2009/05/lucas-leiva-why-liverpool-could-regret.html ) if you want to explore my reasons for supporting him.

    Secondly, Dirk Kuyt. Dirk Kuyt is an extremely almost indispensable member of our team in my opinion. He is very effective in the air, with goals and assists. His skills and touches may not attract much attention from the press but the statistic on him per season make briliant reading. With Glen Johnson on board now, I think we will see even more from Kuyt. It's almost a cliché to mention his work-rate/ Dirk-rate but it's valuable when we're pressing teams high up the pitch.

    My last point on your comment is I think you shouldn't expect your 'fair-share' of raspers, not that fly into the net anyway. Aquilani's goal-ratio is not very good, we may bring even more out of him and he may flourish in our system but for the time being we cannot judge in expectation until we see for ourselves!

  12. "We should have got a decent winger to replace Kuyt"

    No, we shouldn't. We just bought Johnson who compliments Kuyt, remember? A "decent right winger" would duplicate job Johnson does so it would be waste of money. Kuyt's positioning, tactical awarness, and attitude/work-rate are irreplacable.

  13. Garvin, you're right about Lucas and the forward pass - to an extent. I find he does actually look, but nobody shows for it. And as long as that goes unnoticed, he will always get the flak.

    For me, it's a sad indictment of the current generation of fans, who seem to have little or no knowledge of football. For all Alonso's qualities - accurate passing, and switching play, with time and space on the ball - most of his sprayed-passing was a sort pressure relief when we were under a bit of pressure.

    They were never typically be the kind of passes that would crack the code of a well organized defense. He hardly ventured forward enough to deliver that final ball, that was done mostly by Benayoun, Gerrard or Kuyt.

    Alonso's free-kick delivery was ok, as were his corners - not exactly what  you'd expect if you'd only heard of his repertoir, but had never see him play. He was very avarage, and non-commital during '06/'07 and '07/'08 - how many times did you see him in space with Riise on the ball, only for him to not show for the ball, and just point upfield for Riise to launch one into Crouch or Torres.

    Last season however, he left us with a lot to chew on, it wasn't totally representative of his time in total. And most of his time was as CM in a 4-4-2. It was only during the second half of Torres first season that we settled on that 4-2-3-1, so let's not assume that we're always going to be playing that system.

    But what negates my point, is the fact Benitez is persisting with 4-2-3-1, when the personel isn't suitable i.e. we don't have Alonso anymore. But let's put away the red-tinted specs.

  14. Alonso was the best player over the whole season for Liverpool last season, period. People have a blindness in thinking that Gerrard and Torres can win us the title. You can't score goals if you can't get the ball to them! By the way, you obviously didn't watch the Liverpool games against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last season when Alonso dominated the midfield for long periods of the game. Hmmm, Gerrard didn't play in either game if memory serves me right.

  15. It certainly is boring at the moment, that's for sure. Expectation is at a high for Aquilani, but i believe that his lad, will settle in quick, barring his fitness. It will bring alot of attack and movement which will have teams on the back foot. It will be a tough season, but i'm not writing the lads off, it's a tough league, but i think we'll be up there though..

  16. Hope LFC not MU to win the championship.

  17. Lucas is a decent player, I was pretty curious about him during his first season, but lack of first team opportunities and being rebuffed by fans didn't help his cause I guess... Even now he is a useful squad player ostensibly a part-time replacement till Aquilani takes over... Personally, I'd have preferred if we had sold Javier-"I want to go to Barca"-Mascherano for tons of money and given someone like Spearing more of a chance till Aquilani is fit...

    Re: Kuyt, I feel like I am almost being brain-washed into believing he is indispensible to our squad by our fans... Hearing about Dirk-Rate is more irritating than hearing about how Ronaldo/Ibramovich are the best out there... Agreed, the chested ball to Torres was nice, but those are the few times he has done something good... More often than not I see him losing the ball and chasing after it arms flailing...

    I hope Aquilani fits well into our system, but I suppose he plays more up front than Alonso, I hope we play a more attacking formation such as 4-1-3-2 :


    Johnson    Carra/Agger      Skrtel      Aurelio/Insua


          Benayoun/El-Zhar    Aquilani      RIERA



  18. thought it was too weird to be true :)

  19. Jamie Kanwar is a tool. My gran knows more about football than him....

  20. I agree with you, A Red.  I'm sick of hearing how great Dirk Kuyt's work rate is.  As I illustrated in an article recently, every season he has barren spells of between 10 and 15 games where he doesn't score or assist.  Last season, it was between November and February if memory serves.  The season before, there were two such spells. I just refuse to accept that of all the players available in world football, Kuyt is the best we can do on the right.

  21. Until Aquilani starts playing aon contributing, it is a waste of money.  how is the cash outlay benefiting the team right now? It isn't, therefore it's a waste.

  22. Hahahaha no way Jaimie

    <span>"With the lack of a proper pre-season and recovering from his latest injury, it’s going to be at least a season before Aquilani adapts to the Premiership and starts to play at a decent level"</span>

    Your words or mine?

    You have written him off for this season, mate, you cant change it.

  23. Last season Ronaldo played his first game on September 21th as a sub. He started first time on September 27th.

    Imagine we bought him this summer (or someone of else like him with his ability - just imagine). You would say the same: waste of money, wouldn't you? As he couldnt contribute to the start of the season...