Last night’s match against Aston Villa saw almost our strongest 11 on the pitch, bar Mascherano being in there somewhere, so provides a decent opportunity to take a look at the contrasting styles and qualities of our two wide-players Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun.
In all honesty though, we looked very narrow in attack for large spells and our width was provided by full backs in the shape of Glen Johnson and Emiliano Insua who both did well getting forward and supplying crosses into the box.
I’ve had many a debate over the merits of Kuyt in recent years and these last few months his place in the team has been questioned by everyone except the man that matters, Rafa Benitez. He was rested against Wolves so we all hoped the Dutchman would come back and show us a bit more of the Kuyt from last season. For me, it just didn’t happen. You see, the problem with Kuyt is he has energy and workrate no matter when he played last, what he lacks is any creativity, that bit of skill to unlock a defence.
I’ve often said that teams playing the 4231 which we allegedly play need the 3 behind the 1 to be creative players and the 2 holding midfielders offer defensive cover. But Kuyt is out on the right because he offers cover for the full back, but he doesn’t offer much going forward and that’s why Torres looks so isolated at times. It’s strange though because last season he was seemingly a lot higher up the pitch and was often doubling up in the middle to create problems for defenders and getting to the byline, this season it’s rare for him to get past the edge of the 18 yard box.
Take a look at the chalkboard below and you’ll see where we lacked that final ball and why Torres, up until the 93rd minute when a Villa player inadvertently played him in, had nothing to go on. Yes, just ONE succesful pass inside the box and not one from outside into a forward.
You can also see how Kuyt’s passing was very predictable, short and inside. Safe 5 yard passes aren’t exactly what are needed in the final third when you are looking to stretch the defence.
[table id=31 /]
Interesting too that Benayoun made more tackles and interceptions.
The massive problem with Kuyt is that there is really no competition at all for his place, only if Rafa plays a left back (Aurelio or Dossena) on the opposite wing and Benayoun on the right is Kuyt’s place under threat, and bringing in a full back in an attacking position brings similar problems. The only right midfielder at the club is Nabil El Zhar.
I’d like to see Gerrard moved out to the right, Aquilani through the middle, Benayoun on the left and the three of them given licence to interchange. Much the way Chelsea used to play when they used this formation with creative attacking players like Cole and Robben occupying the wide spots, until then we’ll have to settle for grinding out results rather than playing attacking football.
I’m not suggesting this is something that should definitely be changed midway through a season like this, I’m pointing out a weakness in our attack and why it should be looked at at the end of the season when reinforcements are required.