Liverpool’s first pre season match of Brendan Rodger’s maiden season in charge can be looked at as encouraging. There were signs of the passing game that Rodgers is looking to implement and the emphasis on keeping the ball was clear to see. There were efforts to press the game high up the pitch but this still obviously still needs to be worked on a lot more.
One criticism that was levelled at Swansea last season was that for all of their possession they, at times lacked a cutting edge and did not create a lot of chances. This was also evident in Liverpool’s match vs Toronto but obviously with 23 different players being fielded – many of them being kids and reserves – and it being the first game of the pre-season, you cannot read too much into this.
A player that did look to make things happen in the first half was Dani Pacheco, Liverpool’s young Spaniard who spent last season on loan at Rayo Vallecano via Atletico Madrid, although he did not get the minutes he was expected to due to an unfortunate injury which kept him sidelined for 3 and a half months. Much was made of Pacheco after he was crowned top scorer at the UEFA Under-19 Championships in 2010.
Considered to be a very bright prospect amongst many Liverpool supporters, Pacheco is a player who great things were expected of but who has yet to deliver any of the promise he has consistently showed for the reserves and for the Spanish youth teams, at the highest level.
When asked about his struggle to break into the first team, he answered:
I think I never got the chance to break through, not a real chance to impress. I’m trying to work hard and impress and hopefully my chance will come, I can’t wait to play for Liverpool and hopefully my chance comes.
He also made clear what his ambitions were whilst on tour:
Trying to impress the manager, and work hard. Try to play a few games and do my best. To enjoy the experience and show the fans we are ready for the Premier League.
Against Toronto, Pacheco displayed many of the skills that he has in his arsenal. Technically he was very good – as you would expect from a Spaniard, comfortable in possession and he linked well with Jose Enrique as well as being on the receiving end of many passes from Charlie Adam and Alberto Aquilani. He also showed some creativity from the left hand side and a willingness to run at his fullback, going past him on a number of occassions before crossing the ball in. Pacheco also doesn’t shy away from hard work and much of the effective high pressing from Liverpool came from his willingness to run and close down the defence.
But where will a player whose favoured position is central just off of a striker in a 4-4-1-1 play in a 4-3-3 system?
This is the position that Pacheco played vs Toronto, occupying the left hand side of a three pronged attack with Nathan Ecclestone central and teenager Jordan Ibe on the right. Pacheco impressed in this role but did he show enough to suggest he could be relied on to play this role in important matches? He lacks the pace that is usually associated with players who have previously played this role for Rodgers such as Scott Sinclair, however this did not stop him from beating his fullback and he showed quick feet and the ability to change direction quickly. Pacheco, as well as having a high work rate, also displays good movement off the ball, something that is very important in a tika-taka system as it creates different angles for passes and creates openings for players to receive passes. Pacheco’s ability to score goals was evident at youth level but it’s has not been evident during his senior career and his lack of a consistent quality final ball may restrict his ability to be effective in this role.
Pacheco has rarely played as the focal point of an attack and it is a role that he is not very well suited to. He is too easily knocked off the ball as he does not have the upper body strength to hold the ball up and lacks the pace to be an option on the shoulder of a defence. He is much more adept at being the player who slots the ball through. He does however have a great awareness of other players and were he to be flanked with intelligent players such as Luis Suarez, it is possible the Pacheco could do a job in this role as his movement would compliment the players around him.
Were he to be played centrally, this is the role that would be better suited to Pacheco as he would have the freedom to drop deep and try to link up play, giving the wide players the option of coming inside. This creates a lot of movement and in a team who are comfortable with the ball at their feet, it could cause havoc for opposition teams. However, playing as a false 9 is a very different role and only the very best can do it effectively. Lionel Messi excels in this role, but give that he is arguably the best player ever, this is not a surprise. Spain attempted to recreate this role for Cesc Fabregas and although there were occasions where it looked like it was working, there would other times when it appeared to be disjointed and the attack looked toothless. It remains to be seen whether Rodgers will attempt to deploy a false 9, and were he to do so the likely candidate would be Suarez but Pacheco is an intelligent player though and it would be interesting to see if he could adapt in the role as he does possess many of the skills that are needed to make this role work.
Given that Liverpool’s front three next season are likely to be players who are versatile enough to play anywhere along the front line, Pacheco’s versatility could give him a chance in the first team. However, it is up to Pacheco whether or not he takes this chance as for all his talent, none of the roles that Rodgers could offer him are roles that he excels in and he would have to adapt his game. It is also possible that Pacheco could go out on loan or even possibly be sold, likely to a lower league Spanish team who offer him the game time that he so desperately needs.