With the season barely over we have the first of what I suspect will be many movements in and out of the squad.
Yesterday it was announced that Fabio Aurelio would be leaving us. Aurelio had the potential to be one of Rafa’s better defensive signings, especially as he came to us from Valencia on “free”, however, it’s a picture that will never be clear because of his constant problems with injury.
Perhaps the writing was on the wall before we had even signed Aurelio? Prior to arriving at Anfield he had broken his leg while with Rafa at Valencia. After that there was barely a season that went by without him ending up on the treatment table. However, Rafa remained loyal to his man. Whilst others, Gonzalez, Kewell, Pennant etc, succumbed to injury never really got back into the first team, and then found themselves on the list, Rafa gave Aurelio more than one chance to re-establish himself in the side.
This persistence was admirable but I guess, in the end, it was misplaced? Just as the Brazilian began to establish himself in his first season he did his achilles in the Champions League against PSV, out for the rest of the season. The Champions League struck again in 2009, this time against Chelsea, again out for the rest of the season after clash in the semi final with Joe Cole. Worse was to follow when he had a set back playing beach football with his family! He then did his thigh almost as soon as he got back and once more the season came to a premature end
In between we saw glimpses of defensive ability combined with attacking guile. This was a balance that perhaps Glen Johnson, despite his terrific goal the other night, has yet to get right? Mistakes were made in defence however a lot of this could be put down to getting back from injury? It took a long time before we could see what Aurelio could do at the other end of the pitch. All too often he was passed over with free kicks in favour of Alonso or Gerrard and when he did get a chance they were often wide, high or into the wall. However, he broke this jinx in the sweetest way with the cheekiest of kicks at Chelsea in the Champions league semi final second leg. Remember him bending the ball into the Cech’s bottom corner when everyone, including the Chelsea keeper, thought he was going to cross it? It was a superb, opportunist strike whilst, at the same time, achieving the rare feat of making the opposition rather stupid?
There were other goals, a great volley at Bolton and good free kick at Portsmouth. However just as things looked to be finally coming good, injury always seemed to strike. I guess with Aurelio’s record you can’t blame the club for trying to put him on a “pay as you play” contract? Equally I don’t blame Aurelio for refusing to agree to it.
So once more Rafa will be in the market for a full back. What of Insua you ask? Earlier in the season I defended him against Alan Hansen’s over the top and unhelpful criticism (click here for post) however, the Argentinean still has a lot to learn. Something Rafa admits
“With Fabio being out so much, it meant that we had to use Insua more than we would have liked and that was not easy for him”
I guess the extended run in the side won’t have done Insua any harm and, who knows, it may be the catalyst that makes him come good next season? However, I suspect this is a risk Rafa won’t take and that he will be adding a yet another full back to his shopping list this summer. It appears that he has been as “unlucky” with his choices in this position as much as Aurelio has with his injuries?