Meireles Firing, But For How Long?

by Joshua Fowler

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen what was promised to Liverpool fans after the departure of Javier Mascherano, the real Raul Meireles. A great passer of the ball, strong in the tackle and dangerous from long distance, so where was all this under Hodgson? A lot has been made recently of King Kenny finally utilising Meireles and that has resulted in three goals in his past four games, but can we really attribute all that to Kenny? Or more to Meireles taking advantage of a situation?

Signed by Roy Hodgson, Meireles was no stranger to criticism throughout the opening of this season, deemed to be half the player of his predecessor, Mascherano. Slipping in with the signing of Konchesky, Meireles was considered not to be good enough for Liverpool and a symbol of the decline of the Merseysiders. Whatever he did, Meireles couldn’t catch a break, he even shaved his head to fit in with the likes of Reina, Skrtel and Shelvey, needless to say, it didn’t work. So what changed? Well, for a start, Hodgson left. Used as part of a very narrow midfield four under Roy, Meireles was expected to play alongside Lucas and protect the defence with his Argentine team mate, Maxi, on his left and Gerrard in front of him. Wasted in overly defensive duties, Meireles was tamed by his new, restrained position under Hodgson and so lacked the kind of performance that led to him ending his six year spell at Porto.

Enter Kenny Dalglish and as if by magic, the Portuguese central midfielder has looked a new man in recent weeks, with everything finally coming together for a player who cost the Reds £11m. However, how much of this can we attribute to the Scot? In perhaps his finest performance this season, against Wolves, Meireles took over duties from Steven Gerrard, supported by two defensive midfielders and just Torres ahead of him. The result? A scorcher of a goal from his trademark long distance and the bossing of a midfield that had looked shaky under Hodgson. It was only one game, but this performance must have left Kenny with a dilemma, as Meireles had performed so well in the absence of the suspended heartbeat of The Kop, Gerrard. However, these initial fears were quashed last night by another good performance from Meireles, including a goal, but this time alongside his captain. Now then, we begin to see the real problem that Meireles surely must realise himself: with the signing of two, high profile strikers, what happens to the five man midfield that accommodates Meireles?

Thriving in the role either between Lucas and Gerrard, or replacing Gerrard behind the striker, these positions are lost in a 4-4-2 formation that is necessary to make room for the £50m+ worth of attacking force signed in January. Meireles is playing extremely well at the minute and a lot of reporters are eating their words, but they may want keep a few to one side. When we look at the facts, Carroll and Suarez will start for Liverpool, as will Gerrard and two wide players to provide attacking threat, presumably Maxi and Kuyt. That leaves one midfield role, the defensive cover for the ever meandering Gerrard, previously occupied by Mascherano and now the property of the Brazilian, Lucas. Though Raul Meireles has played well in recent weeks, attributed to Kenny or not, the role that he is currently thriving in is endangered. Expect more outstanding performances from the tattooed midfielder, because the central role at Liverpool is undergoing a Darwinian battle, the fittest will survive, but who will it be? Gerrard embodies Liverpool as much as Dalglish himself and will never be replaced as long as he can walk, so Meireles better keep scoring and hope that his new boss finds a place for him once Carroll is fit.

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  • Martinmarx

    You’re presenting your dilemma as if by law of nature Lucas is a cornerstone in our XI. Based on those premises it’s hard to take this article seriously.

  • James

    Once Carroll is fit, and if we line up under the formation you’re assuming, I don’t think maxi will start. It’s much more likely Suarez will take up one of the wider positions, either replacing Maxi on the left (I think this) or Kuyt on the right. He wouldn’t be out of place there as he had a similar role at Ajax.

  • Dale Marlow

    Have you not been paying attention, Meireles was perhaps the only “Hodgson” player that has been considered as success, in addition to this, Dalglish went out of his way to name a quartet he said he couldnt wait to see play together Carroll, Suarez, Gerrard and Raul?

    Suarez is quite likely to play as an attacking midfielder supporting the striker and as he did last night foraging around when we don’t have the ball.

    I can easily see a similar approach to the way we approached the Wolves game, with three attacking midfielders supporting a main striker. In addition I don’t think we should underestimate Kennys approach of picking horses for courses, he played three centre back with wing backs last night because we were playing Stoke City, don’t expect that to be the approach on Sunday.

  • Joe

    strong in the tackle?? who have you been watching? the reason he is playing well is quite simple he is being played in his proper position, behind the striker not on the wing.

  • Bob Williams

    Solution is simple for me. Put Gerrard on the wing (he’s not disciplined enough to play in the middle) where he can whip in his dangerous crosses and leave Lucas and Meireles in the middle.

  • Voland

    Lucas is a mainstay for the Liverpool team as we witnessed with his 89% pass completion yesterday versus Stoke. As for fitting Suarez, Carroll, Meireles and Gerrard in the same team, trust King Kenny to find the right formation (as he did yesterday, even if it is reminiscent of our great tactician of recent times, Rafa Benitez).

  • Joshua Fowler

    Like it or not, Lucas has played 20 of Liverpool’s 25 Premier League games this season. Without the presence of the defensive midfielder that is the trend in football today, the central midfield area of Liverpool would be exposed if ‘Pool rely on Gerrard and Meireles to defend as well as attack. Whether it’s Lucas or, less likely, Shelvey – Meireles is in danger of losing his place

  • RoyK

    “Used as part of a very narrow midfield four under Roy, Meireles was expected to play alongside Lucas”- Last when I checked, he was used by Hodgson on the wings and not in CM
    “Used as part of a very narrow midfield four”- How big is the field bub?
    “Meireles was expected to play alongside Lucas and protect the defence with his Argentine team mate, Maxi”- Whoz the Argentine team mate of Maxi here, cos neither Meireles nor Lucas are Argentine!!!
    Get your facts rite, before writing a article!!!!

  • Terry Venebles

    RoyK are you an editor or proof reader ? because clearly the reference to an Argentine team mate is to Maxi if you are a proof reader may i point out that the correct spelling of something correct is right and not rite you muppet.

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