When Iago Aspas signed for Liverpool, he was joining a strike force that was widely regarded as one of the most prolific in the Premier League. Daniel Sturridge, who ended the 2012-13 season with 6 goals in Liverpool’s final 7 games of the season, and Luis Suarez, with 30 goals to his name during that same campaign. The task for Aspas to dislodge one or either in the first eleven was going to be one of the toughest challenges of his career. It was a task that had already proved too difficult for one of Brendan Rodgers’ first signings, Fabio Borini, who was sent on loan to Sunderland after scoring just one goal in his first season at Anfield.
Aspas himself had a relatively successful season in 2012-13. Despite his club Celta Vigo avoiding relegation on the last day, he scored 12 goals in 34 games; a handy return. The season before he scored 23 goals in 35 games, albeit in the second tier of Spanish football, but another solid return on the field. A £7m move to Anfield, on paper, looked like it should be a success, but with no goals in his Liverpool career so far, the Spaniard has already got fans asking questions about the signing.
Liverpool didn’t buy an Aspas who was out of form. His record for Celta Vigo in 2013 reads 18 games played and 6 goals, a goal every three games this calendar year. So why exactly hasn’t it worked out so far?
When Aspas signed for Liverpool, many took to the Internet to find out exactly what the player was like. He was a name a few had heard of, probably for his goal against Real Madrid last season, but he wasn’t one of the stellar new names coming through La Liga. The initial reaction however, seemed positive.
As Guillem Ballague tweeted in May earlier this year: “I hope Liverpool fans are happy with the arrival of Iago Aspas for €9m. Pace, goal, commitment. Key – adaptation to England.“
“Aspas: forward that can play wide and striker. Fast running with ball, great finisher. One of top youngsters in Spain. And soon will be confirmed.“
“I think Aspas is ready for the Liverpool lineup. I can picture instant impact. He’ll have 2 find consistency. But I’d be happy if Lpool fan.“
So far, so good. At the time, rumours surrounded the future of Luis Suarez, so the arrival of Aspas was seen as a positive step. Business getting done early and no repeat of the dismal July/August 2012 transfer window.
Aspas started the first friendly of the summer against Preston and scored. He also scored against Melbourne Victory, Thailand and Valerenga in pre-season for the Reds. 4 goals in 7 friendly games. An impressive start to his Liverpool career.
In his league debut against Stoke, he was subbed off on 72 minutes. In his second league game, he lasted 69 minutes, and then in the third league game against Man United he lasted 60 minutes. A pattern is emerging.
In his fourth league game, he came on as a second half substitute. Then in his fifth league game he was dragged off at half time against Southampton.
His last appearance lasted just two minutes against Crystal Palace. Then, last week, he suffered a thigh injury ruling him out until December. The stats so far to date read – 283 minutes played and 1 assist.
Understandably, fans took to the phone-ins to talk about the player, and ultimately, the comparisons between Aspas and last year’s signing Borini started.
Borini scored one goal in an injury-hit campaign and was loaned to Sunderland when Suarez decided to stay at Anfield. He was highly regarded by Rodgers, who worked with him at Swansea. For the Swans, he scored 6 goals in 12 appearances in the Championship, followed by 9 goals in 24 appearances at Roma before Liverpool paid £11m for him.
You can see why the comparisons would start. Both men came to Anfield with great potential and both were ultimately looked at as the backup should Luis Suarez get injured. The worry was and still is – if Liverpool lose Suarez for whatever reason, are Aspas or Borini good enough to fill his boots? The answer is a very firm no.
The genuine worry with Borini is that he may have played his last game for Liverpool. His move to Sunderland looked ideal, an Italian manager and a squad with several Italian players. If he had finished the season at Sunderland with 10 goals, then he would’ve done well. Confidence back, he may have been able to force his way back into the Liverpool team.
The manager switch at Sunderland isn’t an ideal one for Borini and you have to wonder if the move is still beneficial to the player. Gus Poyet will no doubt want to input his own ideas into the squad, whether that includes Borini remains to be seen.
From Aspas’ point of view, you would imagine that the Borini situation would motivate him to make the most of his opportunities at Anfield. It’s important that he gets over his latest injury setback and hits the ground running in December. The games come fast over the Christmas period, therefore making it vitally important that Aspas is fit and ready to be called upon. The new formation (3-5-2) will also give Aspas more opportunities, as his limited starts on the right wing and as the secondary striker/playmaker haven’t suited his style of play in the 4-2-3-1 formation.
There is no doubt that Iago Aspas is a good player and he can have a massive influence in this Liverpool team. It is still an early start to his Liverpool career, and there have been plenty of other Premier League strikers who have taken months (and in some cases - a season) to get their shooting boots on. Let’s hope that he can show his goal-scoring touch next time he pulls on the Red shirt.
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