Wednesday, 30 December 2009

LIVERPOOL FC: Alberto Aquilani is a flop...after 203 minutes


SO, after just 203 minutes of Premier League action, Alberto Aquilani is a flop, a dud, the worst signing of the season.

Rafa Benitez may as well come out and tell the world he got it all wrong, that the Italian will be sold in January, because after just over THREE HOURS of football in England, he simply can't cut it.

Yes just two Premier League starts and three substitute appearances (two of them less than 10 minutes) is plenty long enough to pass judgment. And so, the media has spoken, the branding iron  has been heated, and Aquilani has 'flop' scorched into his forehead. Welcome to the Premier League, Alberto.

Ignore that he's looked neat and tidy in possession. Ignore that the partnership between him and Lucas looked infinitely more balanced than Lucas and Mascherano. Ignore that he can clearly pass the ball, exactly what he's been brought to the club for, and ignore the fact he is only 25, has over 100 appearances for Roma under his belt and has won 11 caps for Italy.

Because that's exactly what Oliver Holt from the Daily Mirror and Ivan Speck from the Daily Mail did after Liverpool's 1-0 win at Aston Villa.

Amongst the lowlights of an appalling piece, Holt wrote:  

"The signs last night - the ones that could be glimpsed through the driving snow anyway - were not particularly promising. Sitting deep in midfield alongside Lucas, Aquilani sprayed a couple of decent passes out wide to right and left.

"But mostly, he was anonymous. His influence was strictly limited, his contribution peripheral at best."

So he is not allowed any time to settle? To find form and fitness after so long out with injury? To adapt to the Premier League from Serie A? 

Bear in mind that even some of the biggest stars in England in recent years, players including Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo, took time to get to grips with the game here.

After claiming Aquilani's passing is not as good as Jamie Redknapp's was (?), Holt adds:

"And he also has the most difficult job of any midfielder in any team in the Premier League: trying to fit into a side ruled by Steven Gerrard."

Well it didn't hold back Xabi Alonso when he was in such fine form in his final season at Anfield did it?

Holt goes on:  

"There is immense pressure on him, of course. Liverpool fans waited for his debut for so long that by the time he finally ran out for the club, they had built him up into a cross between Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness."

So not only does Holt know a player inside out in less than three hours, he has also spoken to the millions of Liverpool fans across the globe? Did anyone make this ridiculous comparison? I've never once heard Aquilani mentioned as someone who loves a tackle (like Souness) or was a great finisher (like Kenny).

On to Speck:  

"The Roman did at least partly qualify for foot-soldier status in that he decided against wearing gloves in the blizzard. His failure to don a short-sleeve shirt, however, meant that Liverpool lost the hard men count by seven to six."

Great start. So you've made up your mind on the strength of his shirt selection? After questioning his ability to tackle, he adds:

"...he meandered off and stood in whatever place you could guarantee would be the last place to see the ball. No goal threat there."

Now he's avoiding the ball?

But fear not, Speck does thankfully offer us Liverpool fans a crumb of comfort..

"The boy can pass. At 25, he is entering his prime years and his ability to spin the ball off either foot to a team-mate is obvious. The trick is to make it count." 

Phew, not all bad then. But wait for it.. 
"A gorgeous 40-yard curling pass to the feet of Yossi Benyaoun (sic) was sent out at such pace that no defender had a hope of intercepting it. Had it gone even 10 yards forward and not to the far touchline, it might have added purpose to its unquestionable beauty."

Well done, Ivan, you pulled it back from the brink there, thought you were offering a positive for a moment.

And let's finish with Gary Lineker. The man who at the weekend was even doing impressions of Benitez on Match of the Day.

Gary's got the edge on even Oliver and Ivan. Why? Because he knew Aquilani was the "worst signing of the season" on December 21! That was after three substitute appearances in the Premier League, some going that.

In his Daily Mail column, the former Grampus Eight striker revealed: "He was meant to replace Alonso but spent the first three months injured and hasn't been pushed into the team by Rafa Benitez now that he is fit. It suggests the Liverpool boss is not confident about his ability to fit into the English game."

Gary is so good he knows what Rafa is thinking. And as for the worst buy of the season, where's the bullets flying at Chelsea? Yuri Zhirkov arrived at Stamford Bridge for pretty much the same fee that brought Aquilani to Anfield.

And Zhirkov is setting the world alight in west London isn't he? After struggling with injuries, he has made two Premier League appearances - LESS than Aquilani.

But why let the facts get in the way of a good story? Last of all, Aquilani has started just two Premier League games so far.

Liverpool have won both of them...

Oliver Holt piece here
Ivan Speck piece here
Gary Lineker piece here