Opinion: Insua fits the bill

The festive period is full of gifts, righting wrongs and looking forward. With the onset of 2009 Liverpool Football Club can be hugely anticipant on a number of levels, but those three traditions have all come in the shape of one particular area, or namely Emiliano Insua.

The reds currently top the division and do so with a degree of panache. There is a real style and belief about our performances, confidence born out of a string of impressive results. Another aid to this, a somewhat unexpected title charge, has been the relatively consistent selection of key players. Quite simply, for the first time in his stewardship Rafa Benitez has compiled a team drilled to the maximum, each aware of their individual responsibilities and moreover, he trusts them, as they do each other. This in turn creates resilience, Liverpool are more than a top footballing side, they mirror a functioning machine – and a good one at that.

The most recent of cogs to join the ranks is ‘Milly’ Insua. Believe it or not, he has been lurking in around the first team for quite some time. Along with Nabil El Zhar, the Argentinean full-back has been on the periphery for three years or so without ever fully establishing himself, until now. I remember watching him at Fratton Park back in 2007 and viewing him as one of few positives in an otherwise turgid display.

Indeed his recent emergence has come as an aforementioned gift. A combative defender, he provides the cheapest solution to a problematic area. Furthermore, his selection corrects many a wrong. Since John Arne Riise’s tragic implosion, we have been subjected to replacements of makeshift standard. Fabio Aurelio flatters to deceive. Alvaro Arbeloa did reasonably well against Barcelona but his future always lie on the opposite flank. The weakest pretender yet has to be Andrea Dossena, a £7 million imposter. Hopefully, Insua can buck the trend in this respect and offer future stability.

ImageDossena’s failings have been plenty, his contribution crystallising the lead-balloon effect. They also serve as a reminder that simply throwing cash at something does not always fill the void. Insua is the cheap but effective alternative.

Of course room for improvement remains. Defensively he is committed alright but against top opposition he will need to be a tad wilier, erasing a tendency to occasionally get caught wrong-side. But to be fair this is nit-picking at a player whose turned-in accomplished showings at Arsenal and Newcastle.

In the final third he is competent enough, always offering the overlap, firing in some inviting crosses and even popping the odd pot-shot at goal himself. His tenacity can be likened to that of fellow countryman Javier Mascherano, a key component if you’re to succeed in the Premier League.

Infuriatingly, such is the promise showcased he has today been called-up to Argentina’s under 20 squad for a month-long tournament in Venezuela. This stokes the flames of that age-old Club/Country debate but I just hope Benitez cherishes the impact made to date and entrusts him with an immediate return once home.

Insua also symbolises a flicker of hope for those hopefuls plying their trade at the academy. Transitions from Kirkby to Melwood and finally Anfield have been as frequent as a Jack Dee smile in recent times. Indeed this is perhaps the only bugbear of Benitez’ premiership. Admittedly, Insua is an import, but his journey can act like the proverbial yellow-brick road for the likes of Stephen Darby, Jay Spearing and Adam Hammill. The lack of breakthrough talent became so scarce it forced Steve Heighway out the door and in truth threatens to blur the rich bond between supporter and player. For this reason any graduate must be welcomed, encouraged and honed.

I must guard against sensationalism as of course these are merely the tentative steps of a career but the early signs are radiant. If he develops as hoped the club could have another South-American worth lauding.

imageA brief note on current affairs; Drawing Everton in the FA Cup fourth round has sparked much excitement and I for one cannot wait for this tantalising double-header. Neither game will be easy as, ironically, the Bluenoses appear a tougher proposition away from Goodison just now. Let’s just hope we can turn the clock back to those glorious triumphs of ’86 and ’89, paralysing their season in the process.

One of the enduring images of Saturday’s defeat of Preston was the travelling Kopites sheer expectancy of Fernando Torres’ return. The anthem was bellowed, bounces n’ all and the main man didn’t disappoint, with a goal-scoring comeback. With heightened fitness he could prove invaluable in the second-half of the campaign.

ImageAnd finally a mention for Sami Hyypia who, as customary in recent years, seems to be receiving greater game-time than expected but again, as customary, excels. The most studious amongst us will tell you Sami was our player of the month for December. Strong, decisive, reliable – a true legend. It would be fitting if, in his tenth year at the club, he could land the one prize to so far elude him.