What’s Kenny’s Problem With Maxi Rodriguez?
Maxi Rodriguez was Liverpool’s second highest goal scorer in the 2010-2011 Premier League season, but this season he’s only played 275 minutes out of 1260 possible minutes of competitive football, and only 13 of those minutes came in the Premier League.
Anyone who watched Liverpool in the second half of last season knows that along with Suarez, Maxi was one of the standout performers as Dalglish guided the side up from mid table mediocrity. A player who’s good work often went unnoticed on Merseyside suddenly developed an uncanny knack of ending up in the right place at the right time to tap in a goal.
In three consecutive games against Birmingham, Newcastle and Fulham, the Argentinian scored seven goals including two hat-tricks. The more memorable of the two came against Fulham where he scored a stunning 30 yard drive. Unfortunately, that three match spell seems to also be the main argument used by his detractors against him. Three good games do not a quality player make, they say. That would be true if ‘good games’ were only measured by goals scored.
On a purely subjective basis, I would argue that when Maxi plays Liverpool seem to be more fluid in their attack and careful in possession. He rarely tries to take people on himself, opting instead to make a usually simple pass and move into space to receive the ball again.
From a statistical viewpoint here’s a graph from a really good article I read on Anfield Index showing his effect on the side.
As you can see, in the 18 league games in which Dalglish was in charge last season, Maxi started in 10 and didn’t in eight. In those 10 games Liverpool had a win percentage of 70% and in the 8 he did not start their win percentage was just 37.5%. Even though Maxi only managed 1 assist in 2010-2011, Liverpool won more and scored more when he started in the second half of the season.
It’s those kind of statistics that make you wonder why he can’t get a game anymore. Indeed, before the Summer transfer window Kenny Dalglish said,
“If we’re bringing anyone in they’ve got to be better than what we’ve got – and that’s going to be a big ask.”
Stewart Downing, his replacement, started off very well. But in starting 11 games he has managed a grand total of 0 goals and 0 assists. In one of the three games Maxi has started this season (against Exeter in the Carling Cup) he managed a goal and played a significant part in the Suarez’s opening goal.
Of course, people need time to gel with their teammates but as Noel of the Liverpool Offside quite succintly pointed out in his article “Has Buying British failed?” the whole point of paying a premium for Premier League proven players was that they could join the club and hit the ground running. Of course a lot of people will disagree with this assessment, but is Stewart Downing really an upgrade from Maxi?
It seems only logical that you build your team around your best player, and that player is universally acknowledged to be Luis Suarez, and quite clearly (along with the now departed Meireles, the bench warming Kuyt and Lucas Leiva) Maxi is the player who seems to get the best out of the Uruguayan.
At times, although there have been small improvements, Downing, Carroll and Henderson don’t seem to quite click with Liverpool’s number seven. Again, wasn’t a significant point of paying over the odds for British talent supposed to be that the learning curve was smaller?
So while the better players of last season and the ones who were/are capable of getting the best out of Suarez (Meireles and Kuyt) have either been moved on or are spending a significant time on the bench due to the arrival of players who are in Dalglish’s own words, “better than what we’ve got” poor old Maxi has become a Carling Cup player and most matches doesn’t even get picked in the squad.
It seems a tad ridiculous and definitely unfair, but you won’t hear Maxi complaining about it.
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