During the Anfield Wrap transfer committee special there was one thing both groups agreed on (actually there were a few, but let’s pretend otherwise).
Iago Aspas had to go.
In the case of the committee I, as a blag Dave Fallows, sat on, it wasn’t necessarily because we didn’t like the player (Ben Johnson would make him captain), but because it seemed unlikely he would be used by the manager in any meaningful way.
Cash in, take a loss, reinvest the remaining money on some other lad, preferably one who’ll get a game.
But maybe we were wrong – given Aspas started the first three league games of the season and has been used in each of the last three, perhaps there is still a chance he will form part of Brendan Rodgers’s plans post-January.
We know Rodgers, although often seen as an unchanged-team zealot, loves a leftfield selection decision. The constant emphasis on “the group” (derided by some of the same people who loved Rafa Benitez saying “squad” in a funny way) is about ensuring players can go long spells without games but never truly be frozen out/out in the cold/feeling even slightly chilly.
There is a chance – just a chance – Aspas has been lightly raced in part due to the injury he suffered in October, and in part to give Liverpool a chance to refresh things as the games pile up in the early part of this year.
Roberto Martinez saw Gerard Deulofeu in similar terms, resisting calls from some to throw the young Spaniard straight in to the team. Martinez openly discussed Deulofeu as a major factor in his plans for the second half of the season, and has been unlucky to see him injured just as he was beginning to make his manager’s case on the pitch.
So anyway, as Aspas is looking marginally more likely to stick around, and even actually play a few games, I’ve tried my best to think about him a bit.
The problem is, it’s hard to know where to start. Nothing about Aspas makes sense within the context of the Premier League. He is, by some distance, the most ‘foreign’ – in its secondary meaning, denoting strangeness and unfamiliarity – player I can recall in a red shirt.
Even when, say, Gerard Houllier signed genuine weirdoes, you could usually see something – pace, for example, or massive Dutchness – to build your dreams and visions around. I can picture even now the 43 goals Erik Meijer would have bundled in in 1999/2000 had he only been given the chance.
But nothing about Aspas’s physique, running style or general demeanour tells my resolutely untrained eye what to expect. There’s nothing to suggest he’ll end the careers of full-backs with his pace, like Mark Gonzalez didn’t, or mesmerise Anfield with dazzling footwork, like Paul Anderson didn’t.
His previous career is also something of a puzzle, with a comparatively late flowering of his talent suggesting a player who’s worked on, and thought about, his game. Similarly, YouTube footage shows lots of technical competence and the odd flash of magic, but no consistent pattern, no standard means by which Iago Aspas makes goals happen.
As a signing, it’s not really what you expect from a committee, the very idea of which conjures up indentikit James Milners covering every blade of glass as fast as the word Lilleshall can circle round and round in your head.
It’s incredibly hard to pin down exactly what it is that Aspas is supposed to offer, but performances like the one he put in against Real Madrid last season suggest it might be worth having a go.
In terms of Liverpool displays, he’s appeared more comfortable and sure of his position when employed in a central role, either as a striker or behind one. Against Hull, in his first prolonged period on the pitch for months, he at times looked uncertain where exactly he should be playing. This can perhaps partly be explained by a lack of games, but it also reflects the difficulty of playing as a vaguely drifting inside-right when your positional reference points in the centre are Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho.
With Suarez operating as a complete forward in perpetual motion, and Coutinho finding a variety of positions from which to drag a shot tamely wide, Aspas (and to a lesser extent Raheem Sterling) looked left out for long periods. Yet late in what had been a frustrating first half, his assist-in-all-but-name for Jordan Henderson on the edge of the box was a demonstration both of Aspas’s ability and his potential to influence a game without having had huge amounts of prior possession.
This latter quality could explain his influential role in keeping Celta Vigo afloat in the Primera Liga, as well as Rodgers’s decision to throw him on in Liverpool’s toughest two away games so far this season.
Aspas may not play against Oldham. He may never play for Liverpool again. But if that’s the case there might come a time when we reflect that it wasn’t him that was missing something, but us.
He doesn’t look like a footballer to me full stop. And by that I mean he just looks like a full kit wanker plucked from the crowd. I agree, cut our losses
Aspas is one of those players who you know is actually alright at the football and all that, but most of the time looks like a giraffe with skates on. Doesn’t seem to know where he is, how he got there and what to do with himself on the pitch. Little instances like the lay off for Hendo’s chance against Hull are promising, but not nearly enough to show he’s good enough for Liverpool. Letting him have the number 9 is a farce even if he comes remotely good
I saw enough pre-season to suggest he’s inventive and a decent player, at times the pace of English football seems to catch him out, but Robert Pires had a shocking first season till he adjusted.
Where he fits is the big puzzle, it gets a bit weird with 3 roaming forward players and you get the impression he needs to settle in via a run in the team, which seems pretty unlikely … but in summary, I think it’s too early for him to be given the “Spanish Fiddler” just yet…
i’m saying this without having seen any of celta vigo’s matches last season.
but considering aspas was scoring goals for a team fighting to stay up, i assume he was playing in a team that mainly was playing counter-attacking football. which of course is kind of what liverpool is not doing and most definitely not are aspiring to do.
but also, since the committee probably are not totally bonkers, they knew what kind of player he was when they signed him.
don’t know what i’m trying to say here other than i kind of like aspas, in theory at least – maybe just because he’s so much of the underdog here, and hope he can come good.
Give him time. I know Rodgers says we’re building the aeroplane as we’re flying it, and therefore we don’t have a surfeit of time, but Aspas is worthwhile. Let him find a role, let him get used to the English game, his team mates and the “plan”. He’s barely played in the League at all.
He doesn’t look like he’ll ever be a Liverpool No. 9, but he may be a worthwhile No. 39 – a Craig Bellamy type. I think we should get behind him, as poor as he has seemed in his limited time on the pitch.
To be fair to the lad he wouldn’t be the first player from abroad who hasn’t taken to our league straight away. This season alone I could name at least half a dozen players who’ve joined other teams for decent money and are yet to perform to their potential.
That said we are seeing a trend with the players we are bringing in from abroad. With the exception of Couthino they’ve all been a disappointment so far. Maybe we need to look closer to home at proven premier league performers than taking a risk on foreign players.
Said something similar the other day. That lay-off to Henderson showed what he can do, and he grew into both the game, and the position. People forget he’s only played about 20 mins of football since September.
Hope to see him start on Sunday, Alberto too.
First three games were interesting…he ran his arse off against Stoke, did generally ok as one of that front three and came off to a decent reception, the next two games were dogfights where he looked a bit out of his depth, If he could get back to the level of the first game he’d be a useful squad member. He just looks completely drained of any confidence at the moment, reminiscent of Joe Allen around this time last year. In defence of keeping him a bit longer, remember everyone was struggling to see how Raheem was fitting into this side even in a bit part role a few months ago…Rodgers was playing him at right back for a bit.
If Aspas was a barman I wouldn’t trust him to pour me a pint. Useless, utterly useless
There’s a danger that we’ll fall into the Lucas/Hendo trap and condemn a good player before he’s had the chance to prove himself. I’m in two minds about Aspas: our performance declined when he was replaced against Hull which suggests that he was doing something right but….if we keep him any longer without playing him his market value will fall. It looks like he was a moneyball signing to me, not one of Brendan’s, and I’m none too keen on such a stats based approach; the committee should be giving Brendan what he wants. I think we’d recover full value if we sold him now, but it’s only worth selling if we can get someone better in to replace him.
Saw him in Dublin against Celtic in preseason and I was shocked at how bad he looked. Maybe we are all wrong but just cannot ever see him make it in the PL