Photo from fOTOGLIF
Yesterday’s win over Wolves was hardly a vintage performance, or atmosphere, at Anfield but it was notable for the full league debut of Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani.
The £18m summer signing made his second start for the club, his first coming in the Champions League against Fiorentina earlier in the month, lining up alongside Lucas Leiva in the centre of midfield in Javier Mascherano’s absence.
Signed as a replacement for Xabi Alonso after his departure in the summer things haven’t quite gone to plan for Aquilani thus far. Having suffered a longer recovery time than first expected, combined with finding his new team in a nightmare run of form and a confidence of crisis, he will no doubt be pleased to have made his first Premier League start at Anfield and to have got 85 minutes under his belt. With Mascherano suspended for the next 3 domestic fixtures this could provide him with an opportunity to force his way into the side.
One thing we have missed since Alonso’s departure has been a mixture of creative passing from the middle, the ability to switch the ball quickly and get the wide players into the game faster, something which Aquilani can hopefully bring to the team and displayed glimpses of yesterday. One pass in particular stood out when he hit a cross in for Benayoun which he was unfortunately unable to control. There were a couple of stray passes particularly later on as he tired but on the whole the performance was definitely promising.
Looking at the positions he took up, he often came deep to receive the ball from the centre backs but once he got the ball he wasn’t afraid to carry it, play a pass and then, crucially for me, advance ahead of the ball to receive it again. Back in the summer Rafa described him as being more mobile than Xabi and capable of playing ahead of the defensive midfielder and behind Gerrard, I think this was clear yesterday and bodes well for the future.
Below you can see his passing stats, courtesy of Guardian Chalkboards, and a video montage of his passing, courtesy of MilanKakaBaros.