Is it time for Alberto Aquilani to get a run in the Liverpool team?
28th October 2009, and Liverpool fans were more excited than they usually would be about the 4th round of the Carling Cup. On the long trip down to the Emirates Stadium, buoyed by the two nil victory over Manchester United three days earlier - the travelling Kop couldn't wait to see Alberto Aquilani in the first team.
It was always said that it would take a while for the first glimpse of the Italian playmaker and, although it took longer than first imagined, his gradual introduction to Liverpool Football Club began against a second string Arsenal side.
The last quarter of an hour was all he got but was still enough to whet the appetite of the supporters looking eagerly for a saviour to their already disappointing season. Comparisons to the departed Xabi Alonso were inevitable and a couple of beautifully weighted passes out wide didn't do anything to remove the probably unwanted and highly pressured tag of 'Alonso's replacement.'
There is no doubt that Liverpool's poor start to the season increased the desire for the new number four to be thrown in as soon as his ankle had recovered. The central midfield partnership between Javier Mascherano and Lucas wasn't proving too fruitful, particularly in games against lesser sides, and change was needed.
Boxing Day's victory at home to Wolves was Aquilani's first Premier League start and although largely unspectacular, the home faithful were satisfied with his close control and quick passing and a better judgement could be made of him than his only other start - the dead rubber against Fiorentina.
The Christmas period is a demanding time in the football calendar and Rafael Benitez probably wouldn't have wanted to throw him in three days later at Villa Park. Mascherano's suspension made this necessary and again he was fine as Liverpool snatched a crucial win against one of their rivals for fourth place.
The manager, pundits and past players warned the supporters not to expect too much too soon from Aquilani, but it seems some are losing patience already.
The Reading result would have been a turning point for some, but the victory over Bolton at the end of January was when the odd voice of disapproval at a mistake, turned in to a more congregrated groan that usually meets a misplaced pass from Lucas.
Although it was refreshing to see a central midfield player getting into the box, he actually set up the crucial first goal for Dirk Kuyt, it was a total role reversal as people were relieved to see the much maligned Brazillian replace him after the hour mark.
His frustration must have increased this month as he didn't start massive games against Everton and Manchester City, and although illness ruled him out against Arsenal, he probably wouldn't have started anyway. The largely forgettable home win over Unirea Urziceni was the only match where he was in from the off, but it wouldn't have given him much confidence when Daniel Pacheco, the man who replaced him, shone and made the only goal in a brief cameo appearance.
Of course he needs time and there have been flashes of what is to come. One attempted back heel against Spurs might not seem a lot, but it showed that he is on a more creative wavelength than the majority of the team, he has something different that is required in the final third. The Tottenham game was his best so far, and he seemed more comfortable in a more advanced role. Perhaps that would be better for him whilst he is still adapting to England, it is totally opposite to Serie A.
With Blackburn, Wigan and Portsmouth the next three league games, could it be time for Aquilani to finally get a little run in the team? It's certainly worth a go, but up for debate as to whether he will play on the awful Wigan pitch.
The best of Alberto Aquilani won't be seen until after this strange season has finished, but this next month could go a long way to seeing the Roman properly start his Liverpool career.