Lucas Leiva has been the driving force behind Liverpool's resurgent form, according to Jamie Carragher.
Since the Merseysiders' 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace in November the Brazilian, who has been linked with a move away from Anfield, has been ever-present in the heart of midfield, starting nine of their last 10 Premier League games.
Lucas is completely different from Gerrard, he is a destructor in front of the defence and that’s what Liverpool need. He’s always thinking defensively and is aware of what’s going on around him. Their results have improved massively since his inclusion. He has had a big effect on the team and he’s got to stay there.
The Reds are unbeaten in the games he has started, a run which has seen them recover from their worst league start since 1992/93 to climb to eighth in the table.
And Carragher believes it is imperative Liverpool hold on to Lucas to reap the benefit of his tireless performances in the middle of the park.
“If we go back to Liverpool’s defeat at Crystal Palace, where we were really critical of them, we said things had to change,” he told Monday Night Football.
“Liverpool are a different team this season, Steven Gerrard is the playmaker. They needed to get someone in midfield who could shield that defence, and from that day, in the following 10 league games, Lucas has been brought in.
“If you look at the stats, the influence he has made has been noticeable to say the least. The one game that stands out is the Manchester United game, not because of the 3-0 defeat but because it was the one game Lucas didn’t play. Brendan Rodgers made a few changes and brought his technical players back into the team.
“He has had a big effect on the team and he’s got to stay there. There was talk of Inter Milan making a bid, or other clubs looking at him and I’m not sure how long he’s got left on his contract. He’s not only got to stay at the club but he’s also got to stay in the team because, at this moment, they are getting victories on the back of his performances.”
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Gerrard missed Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa through injury, with Lucas and Jordan Henderson combining in midfield as Liverpool sealed a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert.
And Carragher highlighted Lucas’ different style of play, leadership and awareness for others on the pitch as the force behind the recent upturn in form.
“Gerrard is the playmaker," he added, “and Lucas is completely different. He is a destructor in front of the defence and that’s what Liverpool needed.
“He’s always thinking defensively and is aware of what’s going on around him, telling players to fill in for him when he vacates an area. He hasn’t got the passing ability or range of Gerrard but he breaks up play, makes simple passes forward and initiates counter attacks.
“He was in midfield every time and, in the first half, Liverpool should have scored three or four goals on the break at Villa.
“That is what he has brought into the team, and the results have improved massively since his inclusion.”