10 May 2009

Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt: Rise of the Anfield footsoldiers

Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun have been subjected to seemingly endless criticism over the last year and a half, but now both players are proving their worth. And then some.

During a soul-destroying 1-1 home draw with Wigan last January, the rather large man who used to sit next to me in the Lower Centenary Stand opened his huge mouth and vented his spleen in the direction of Yossi Benayoun.

When he’d finished it was almost possible to see the fans in the front few rows, Benayoun himself, and even those over in the Main Stand picking out flecks of pie, chips and lung from their hair, such was the hot air and lifetime of hot meals blown in their direction.

Thankfully this season that large man has gone, and the only thing being showered on the little Israeli is praise. Similarly, much of Dirk Kuyt’s Liverpool career has flown in the face of adversity.

Initially optimistic hopes that his arrival would bring about the Red rebirth of the genuine out-and-out goalscorer were short-lived, then Fernando Torres arrived and reminded us all what one of those was supposed to be, and Kuyt was marooned on the right-wing.

He could have complained, he could have asked to move, he could have found the nearest television camera, waved his arms about and shouted ‘Disgrace!’, but he didn’t. He just got on with his job.

His transformation from square peg in round hole to top class midfielder/striker was completed this campaign, a season in which he’s hit the heights and hit more goals for Liverpool than he ever had before.

Now here comes the science part: Going into the West Ham game, Liverpool had scored 99 goals this season, with Benayoun and Kuyt chipping in with over a fifth between them (22).

Throw in the assists (Benayoun five, Kuyt eight) and that means that one, more or both have been involved in over a third of the goals that Liverpool has scored this season.

In other words, without the silky Israeli and the workhorse Dutchman, Liverpool’s involvement in the title race would have been over faster than Michael Ballack chasing a Norwegian.

Bar a spectacular Manchester United cock-up of Devon Loch proportions, the league title looks beyond Liverpool, and so this season will have to be remembered for something else.

Don’t expect that old ‘two-man team’ line to disappear soon amongst the uninformed masses, but the performances of Benayoun and Kuyt have to go a long way towards establishing Liverpool as much more than the team of just the Scouse powerhouse and the Spanish superstar.

So far, Gerrard and Torres have lined up together just twelve times out of 36 possible league games, so there must be some reasons why Liverpool are just three points off a team considered ‘invincible’ by the media earlier this campaign and three ahead of a club with pockets so deep they can afford to pay any forthcoming UEFA fines with their spare change.

Two of those reasons for this campaign’s improvement can undoubtedly be found in Benayoun and Kuyt.

Every General needs his foot-soldiers and the performances of both this season will ensure that they’ll remain a vital part of Rafa Benitez’s plans when the new fight for honours begins in August.


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  1. Excellent subject matter and had the potential to be an excellent article with a bit more care but just fell short.

    No matter, what is important is the sentiment and it is spot on.

    As someone who loved Kuyt before he signed, when he signed, then had an indifferent attitude to him until he proved himself again this season I am delighted to see how he has carried himself and the rewards it has yielded for both he and the club.

    In stark contrast Benayoun has not always been of the same mindset and a lot of the vitriol that was measured at him was as he himself would probably know now warranted. The past few months he has sorted his head out big time and become a player that I honestly thought he could never be.

    What Liverpool have now is a SQUAD. Sure you can hear people talk about how ours is not as strong as United and I would probably agree but we have certainly closed the gap and deservedly so thanks to our squad players.

    Insua is the next one I believe who will make a HUGE difference next season and another underrated "footsoldier" is the much maligned Alvaro Arbeloa who the odd dodgy moment aside (and they all have them) has grown in importance to this side once again.

    Benitez has a firm handle on his squad, he has finally ditched the negative approach that had us tearing our hair out and he is getting the most out of near enough every player.

    Benayoun and Kuyt are a shining example of how Benitez despite what some might think (myself included) can man manage as good as any of them. Steven Gerrard is another!

  2. Paul of The Shire12:09 pm, May 11, 2009

    Completely agree. I've always liked Kuyt for his work rate and professionalism. And I've always had a great respect for Yossi as a great squad player. Both have stepped up this season when we needed players to do so and really proved their worth. The new contracts for both have been well earned!

  3. I've been a staunch critic of Dirk Kuyt for a while now but I have to concede that he is definitely doing the business at the moment.

    I still think we could do better on the right - I'd like Rafa to spend the bulk of this summer's budget on the best attacking right sided player available. Let's not forget that Kuyt has had a couple of long barren spells this season.

    Having said that, Kuyt has great experience of the premiership now and even if we buy a dedicated right-sided player, he will still play an important role for the club.

  4. for me, Kuyt is at best a DECENT player. He is not world class and for me would not get into any other of the top 4 teams.

    He is picked for his "tirelesss running" but he has to run around as he often chases the ball he himself has lost. He is then applauded for it. He lacks outright pace, doesnt score enough goals, fails to cross enough from ideal goal making chances and watch carefully enough and u will notice he hardly passes to Torres.

    He did the same with Keane and even Voronin... he wants to credit and plaudits but he hasnt even got his own song yet!

    Sell him and keep Alonso. Tevez gives you the work rate of kuyt but the goals, pace and strength too. 10-15 m For Kuyt I would take it. Babel needs the same run in the side and he will prove a more flying dutchman