Friday, January 16, 2009

Bring me the head of Lucas Leiva

My daily Stoke therapy sessions continue this morning with the player who has been in my sights since about, oh, 52 seconds into Saturday's match, or as I've now dubbed it: The Day The Laughter Died. I've got a Dr. Dre-inspired, red-laser gunsight pointed at you, Lucas.

The thing is, ever since the derby at Goodison last season when Rafa brought him on at the end to keep things under control, Rafa has included Lucas in that group of players he develops a great big, diamond-cutting hard-on for. Top of this list is Kuyt, who can do no wrong for Rafa Benitez. This season, Benayoun has crept onto that list. A couple years back, Sissoko was on and off it, seemingly at random but mostly depending on how often he lost his head and fancied himself a playmaker.

With Alonso out against Stoke so those seven stitches could do their work and heal the best player this season in the side, Rafa turned to Lucas, the boy Brazilian who looks like he's from Poland. There's no question Lucas has the ability to sit on the ball in an Alonso-like fashion and direct traffic. His breathtaking through-ball from midfield to a breaking Gerrard against Newcastle is proof of that. But he's still young, and Lucas is struggling with the same thing a lot of 22-year-old guys are: self-confidence. From thousands of miles away and watching on TV, it seemed like the Stoke supporters got to him. Combined with a dodgy pitch that made control difficult, Lucas displayed a first touch that would have made Sissoko circa 2005 proud. His performance was abysmal.

So what to do with him then? Well, until I see otherwise, Lucas should be selling pies at halftime. This is a big boy league, and Lucas hasn't grown up yet. Unfortunately, his growing pains are raising my blood pressure and forcing me to express the erosion of my mental health on the Internet. I can't take much more of this, kiddo. Get your act together.

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