23 Dec 2013

LFC Hero insists: Benitez's '08 team 'stronger' than BR's current LFC XI. Agree...?

If Arsenal fail to beat Chelsea this evening, Liverpool will top the Premier League at Christmas for the first time since the 2008-9 season, a year when Rafa Benitez's team went on to finish 2nd in the league. Brendan Rodgers' team is is in top form at the moment, but which is the better side: 2008 or 2013?

According to Alan Hansen, there's only one answer. In his column for The Telegraph today, he writes:

"The team which led the Premier League on Christmas Day 2008 was a really good one.

"Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher [were] in their prime and top-class players such as Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Pepe Reina [were] at the peak of their powers.

"They ultimately finished second to Manchester United, but it was a stronger team than the one exceeding all expectations under Brendan Rodgers".

Let's look at the respective teams:

2008: Reina, Arbeloa, Dossena, Hyypia, Carra, Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano, Benayoun, Kuyt, Torres

2013: Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan, Henderson, Allen, Lucas, Coutinho, Sterling, Suarez

On a purely statistical basis, here are the relevant stats:

 photo ScreenShot2013-12-23at111250_zps09112c5e.png

Based on the stats:

* Brendan Rodgers' team is slightly more effective, beating Benitez's team in 7 of the 12 categories.

* Rodgers team performs better at home; scores more goals (home and away); has more home wins, and better goal difference.

* Benitez's team loses fewer games; has a better away record; is unbeaten in more games, and concedes less.

* Both achieved the same points per game total.

Rodgers' team is (arguably) playing a superior brand of exciting, attacking football, but Benitez's team really upped the ante in the final three months of the 2008-9 season, so it remains to be seen if the current team can top that.

Defensively, however, Benitez's team rules the roost, and with Hyypia and Carra at the heart of the defence, that's not really surprising (though Skrtel and Agger also played quite a bit that season)

As for player-for-player comparison (Just my opinion):

* Reina vs. Mignolet: At this stage, I'd have to choose Reina. As Hansen states, the Spaniard was in his prime, and regularly won the Premier League golden gloves award. Plus, he conceded fewer goals than Mignolet.

* Arbeloa vs. Johnson: At times, Johnson is a defensive liability for Liverpool, but I'd take him over Arbeloa because of the added attacking threat down the right.

* Dossena vs. Flanagan: Flanno is not massively superior defensively to the Italian, but he brings heart, passion and a never-say-die attitude, and that's worth so much to the team. I'd also take Enrique over Dossena.

* Hyypia vs. Sakho: Absolutely no contest. Hyypia is a legend, and one of LFC's all-time great defenders.

* Carra vs. Skrtel: On current form, it's a tough one, but in 2008, Carra was immense.

* Gerrard vs. Henderson: Hendo is in fine form right now, but he's not even close to Gerrard in his prime.

* Alonso vs. Allen: The Welsh Xavi he may allegedly be, but I'll take the Spanish Alonso any day of the week (!)

* Mascherano vs. Lucas: I'm not the biggest fan of Mascherano, but he was/is far more mobile than Lucas, and that makes all the difference.

* Benayoun vs. Coutinho: Benayoun put in a lot of good performances for the Reds, but Coutinho is by far the more exciting player, and he effects the team far more overall.

* Kuyt vs. Sterling: Kuyt is the ultimate workhorse, and although Sterling is playing well right now, Kuyt consistently did great work for the team, and regularly chipped-in with goals and assists.

* Torres vs. Suarez: For the most part, Torres played brilliantly for Liverpool, but Suarez is on another level, and scores far more consistently.

Combined team based on the above: Reina, Johnson, Hyypia, Carragher, Flanagan, Mascherano, Gerrard, Alonso, Kuyt, Coutinho, Suarez

-------------------- Reina

Johnson ------- Carra -- Hyypia ----- Flanagan

----------------- Mascherano

------------- Gerrard --- Alonso

------ Kuyt ------------------ Coutinho

------------------- Suarez

What do you think? Which team is better: 2008 or 2013? Which players were better on a like-for-like basis?



  1. Definitely 2008 a lot of real quality there but Flanagan is not the best L.B in this team let alone 2008 and the comparison should be Gerard v Gerard after all he is still first choice when fit.

  2. What about this one?

    Johnson - Hypia - Sakho - Flano
    Gerrard - Alonso - Mascherano- Couthino
    Torres - Suarez

  3. Based on your player - player comparisons as individuals ( with a lot of emphasis on individuals ) the 2008 team has more quality, however this year I would say the players perform much better as a team than the 2008 one, I remember hearing on match of the day every weekend "this Liverpool team is all about Gerrard and Torres" and that is correct, you could say it's all about Suarez now however the team has proven that they can play and win effectively without him, due to the way Rodgers has implemented his style of play, quick pressing attacking football

    I would also like to bring up the point when Torres got injured, on many occasions, the striker that came in to replace him, the team has that bit more depth now , and I remember crying in frustration when Ngog continually got into the team... Dark days.

  4. I think I completely agree with your player by player comparison.

  5. Yeah, that's a tough. I don't think having either Dossena or Flanagan in the combined team would change things too much. There's also Aurelio to consider from the 2008 squad...

  6. i vote for G.Houllier team...pls add on the comparision together

  7. Oooo excellent article. The 2008 team was an extremely good one, so this is tough but...

    GK- Reina
    RB- Arbeola
    CB- Carra
    CB- Hyppia
    LB- Flanagan ( I would put Aurelio, shame about his injuries, he was solid)
    MC- Mascherano
    MC- Alonso
    AMC- Gerrard
    LW- Coutinho
    RW- Kuyt
    ST- Suarez

    What a team...man. I miss the 2008-09 squad.

  8. I would go with:-
    I agree that 2008 Carragher and Hyypia were immense, but neither are very mobile and good as they were, I think I would go with our current pairing. Of course, your list doesn't take into account squad depth, including injured players like Enrique, Sturridge, Gerrard and benched players like Agger, Toure, Moses, Kelly etc.
    The modern game requires mobility, either with real pace/acceleration or at least a quick brain leading to intelligent movement. I loved Kuyt as a player, but on very recent form I'd take Sterling ahead of Kuyt. As for goals, Sterlings got, what, 3 in the last 4?
    Therefore, your selection in numerical terms favours Benitez' team and mine Rodger's. That said, I still favour the 2008 team slightly, because I think the midfield were awesome and count for more. I wouldn't have Alonso back now though, because he's too slow for Rodger's style of play.

  9. Yesss...That's what I thinking too! So injury prone though. I hope Kelly is not Aurelio MK2.

  10. Can someone please inform me of some statistic regarding hitting the woodwork by LFC in that 2008 season?Thanks.This year it's 11 till Cardiff match.

  11. This team is exceeding ALL expectations, 2008-09 team were expected to perform since we had at least 4 world class players. Our current team is still not good enough, we have hit the purple patch which can fade away very soon if we not capitalize in transfer windows. Hopefully, we can built up world class team in next 3 windows.

  12. Who would win a match?

    LFC 2008-09 or LFC 2013-14?

    Tough huh?

  13. 2008 better keeper, backline and midfield. 2013 better frontline. All that said, they're both better sides on paper than the 2005 CL winners yet neither side won that tournament :-) The 2008 side also completely peshed away the title whereas finishing second would be an overachievement for the current side. In 2008/2009 it was ours to lose, now if we win it it would the upset of the 21st century.

  14. Arbeloa and Aurelio walk in

  15. Who would I rather have as manager?

    Let's see...

    Rodgers all day long.

  16. Alonso over Allen! Aren't you gonna dispute that? ;)

  17. Gerrard (2008-9), Alonso, Torres and Suarez and then pick any other 7. I'd match that team against any.

  18. It's difficult because most players in that 2008 team were at their peak. If the 2008 team was assembled now and played with current form, our 2013 team would win IMO.

  19. Yes Sir!

    Was Riise still there in 08-09?

  20. I am a massive Alonso fan. Rafa cut his nose to spite his face when he was chasing Barry. The midfield fell apart in 2009/2010.

    Would I have Alonso back at the age of 32 though? Still a great player but not in a system that requires mobility and pressing so i will happily go with Allen ;-)

  21. Down to earth - most people would expect us to be behind everton come boxing day - the point is whatever happens in the next two games (even 3 points from spurs manc city and chelsea away would be acceptable and weve got them) if we push on all out from there we can certaily make the top four.

  22. Pardon me while I choke with surprise...

  23. Top 4 is the aim, it's important we all don't get carried away. Soon enough the top 6 group will break away and make a gap so we could potentially still not qualify easily.

    The only good thing is that apart on United away (which I think we can win) all other direct competitors have to come to Anfield (City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Everton).

    If we getting anything out of the Chelsea and City game then it's a bonus really.

    This is the year we need to qualify as the BT TV rights start from next season, if we miss out the gap will become bigger.

    We need to capitalize on our good form and spend in January, I am hearing Salah at the moment.

  24. Cop out...so how about this

  25. Very hard to say but both teams have class no doubt about it!!!

  26. The best team is this:

  27. The main driving force of this season's team is the utter relentlessness of Suarez's drive to win games. We did ok when he was banned when Sturridge lead the line but that was it, just ok. When he comes back, if we're still sniffing around the top, then we will be a force to be reckoned with and combined with who we sign next month - if we sign one of two gems, then the sky would be the limit.

    The main problem, and I'm going off topic here, with any new signings, is who they replace? We need a creative, fast and powerful central attacking midfielder, now whether it's Pastore or Cabaye, is still to be seen but we need someone who can improve the first XI by a big way, not just someone on par with who we have, we need someone in the mould of Ozul, a player who will come in and have the rest of the squad rubbing their hands together. Whether we will/can get someone with that effect in Jan remains to be seen.

  28. what if we compare the 1st team without injuries, including Sturridge and Enrique

  29. you still think liverpool should sell suarez? cause all you did in summer is moan that they should

  30. What have Coutinho done exactly to be called better then Banyoun???

    I want to a make a point. Rafa's last season was the down slip, a season in which he chose the wrong players every game, which to me seemed as if he is deliberately destroying our club. Gerrard, was sh!te that season, and Benayoun haven't got games, also Gerrard was selfish with the ball when they played together (Harsh but the complete truth) - every time he played he made the team better. Never minding all his goals, assists, CRUCIAL goals - Coutinho needs some time and development to even challenge Yossi - One of the most underrated players ever - But hey that tough-to-spot-quality is what made him so good.

  31. Must say though the league was MUCH easier in 08-09 than it is now. I wonder how well the 08-09 team would be doing if they were up against the same level of competition as the current squad faces.

  32. JK .... This is not our best team in 2013 ... mig..joh..skrt...sakh...enriq...lucas..hendo...gerr...cou..strud...suarez then compare with 2008 and lets see

  33. To answer your initial question, what did Benayoun ever do?

  34. He whored himself to Arsenal and Real throughout the summer and obviously wanted to leave. So of course people wanted him gone.

    His quality was never doubted or questioned.

  35. I'm not even going to bother responding to such a simplistic question. You clearly don't get my view on Suarez, so there's no point.

  36. just checked because I cant rem that far.... Citi was managed by Mark H. Chelsea had Scolari and Hiddink. And tottenham had Ramos and Harry R. Very tumultuous time for those competitors. I don't recall a strong Everton then. I just recall ManU running even with us then. Don't recall a strong Arsenal either - just checked RVP finished with 11 goals and Adebayor had 10.
    Def stronger now at the top half.

  37. No he went to Roma after the 07-08 season.

  38. I would choose the 2008 team over the current one, but with Rodgers as manager. He is clearly performing better with a lesser squad than Benitez and it makes me wonder if he could have won the PL title that year.

    I would pick Henderson over Kuyt, though they have a similar workrate, Henderson has better passing accuracy/range and he's faster. Torres instead of Coutinho, because he's a bigger goal threat. The combined squad would look like this based on the players respective performances in 08/13 and with Rodgers as manager:


  39. Of topic, a local newpaper claims Lfc scouts have been spotted at the Villarreal-Sevilla match watching Rakitic.

  40. With Aguero out, I expect City to start as they did against Fulham. Can Lucas handle Toure'? Maybe put Kolo on his brother?

  41. that is not a fair comparison put sturrdidge,enrique and gerrrad in

    sturridge vs torres equal
    suarez vs gerrard 08/09 suarez
    henderson vs kuyt kuyt
    gerrard now vs alonso equal
    lucas vs mascherano masch
    coutinho vs benayoun couts
    johnson vs arbeloa johnson
    enrique vs aurelio enrique
    skrtel vs carra equal
    sakho vs agger sakho
    mignolet vs reina equal

    hyypia was not a regular nor was dossena

  42. Your right i dont, you vilified him that he was a terrible person that he brought team nothing but grief that liverpool better off without him, you hung him out to dry and took, the side of evra, in actual fact he is meant to be a total team player, really good to youth team players, helps out team as best he can has an excellent work ethic and i have not even started on his qualities as a player, all you did was throw him to the wolves and say to sell him

  43. and then the bench
    aspas vs keane both bad players equally
    sterling vs babel just sterling / moses vs riera riera wins hands down
    allen vs lucas 09/09 allen is a lot better
    aslberto vs el zhar alberto

    toure vs hyypia equal
    agger vs agger agger
    flanagan/ vs dossena flanno
    degen vs kelly both inury prone
    cissoko vs insua both equally bad

  44. Jamie K was looking him out long before this

  45. Keane was not a bad player

  46. and why should he not whore himself to madrid, he is a fan snd they are top team in world football

  47. Gerrard on the right?

  48. Complete and utter nonsense. You have no idea what you're talking about. Any further posts misrepresenting my views on Suarez will be deleted. Get your facts right, or don't bother posting about the issue at all.

  49. Not a big difference to me but one thing I liked at rafa is we used to smash big teams in derbys but very poor vs average teams, rodgers is the way opposite, if i had to choose is rodgers because you will play more games vs average teams than top teams so there you could win the CL or even the title but no doubt winning vs top teams its a big lift to beating them in the table, if rafa had not drawn too many games sure he would win the league with us

  50. Back in 2008 Gerrard had the legs to run at opponents and to track back, combined with his knack for goals and superior crossing ability I think he would've done well there. Rafa played him often in a similar position.

  51. in terms of purely paper no doubt rafa had the better team. perhaps the league was stronger as man utd,arsenal and chelsea all had strong teams.

    for sheer excitement factor br team is special - but maybe that all hinges on what suarez brings to the table.

  52. 2008 team was probably one of the Premier League's best, I still scratch my head at the fact we didn't win it.. We bottled it. Also, the midfield trio of Alonso-Mascherano-Gerrard was probably one of the leagues best ever, also.

    Dossena barely played for us?! Fabulous Aurelio was our first choice LB!

    Arbeloa (for me hugely underrated)
    Fabulous Aurelio (dat marauding, dem set pieces)
    Suarez (Right wing to accommodate...)
    Torres (at the time he was a sensation)

  53. I don't think this team (2013) would be able to defeat the 2008 Man United 4-1 (a lot superior than 2013) and Real Madrid 5-0... not yet at least. The 2008 team, IMO, had better players in defense and midfield, and a lot weaker attack (torres + Ngog vs Suarez + Sturrige...). I mostly agree with player comparisons, except for Benayoun vs Coutinho. Benayoun, perhaps not as exciting, but his finishing product was better, with 8 goals in 2008/2009, a lot more than Courtinho's 1 (so far).

    Besides, the 2008 team had a busier schedule, being in champions league (which IMO, negatively affected premier league performance and resulted in too many draws).

    This year's team regularly outclasses teams from outside top 6, but the 2008 were winning games against big name teams.

    In the end, I believe that 2008 team is a better team (in terms of, player talent, mentality and tactics). I don't think this year's team would be able to perform well with busier schedule and with higher expectations.

  54. You forgot Sturridge

  55. I feel like Aurelio was ahead of Dossena in the pecking order, JK. He was excellent that season. Probably the season he made the biggest impact and was able to stay fit the longest.
    I think the 2008-9 vintage would win comfortably, simply because of the defensive solidity. They had that edge in the big games that I think this team lacks. We'll find out if they really do lack in the next 2 games. I always expect us to score, but never to keep a clean sheet. More variation in the Benitez team too. Reina's long balls to Torres, Gerrard and Torres' interplay, Kuyt and Benayoun's unconventional wing play, crosses in the box or even possession football with Alonso pulling the strings.
    I'd agree with Jaimie's player by player selections, but would put Aurelio in for Flanno.

  56. He looked like the kind of guy who'd try and deceive Indiana Jones.

  57. I can't help but wonder were you a bit young in 2008-9? I'm not having a go, but I think some of these selections are hard to justify. It feels like you're not realising how good some of that class were and are only remembering how good the current lot are (which they are).

  58. I think you're wrong on the Agger vs Agger one.
    You went for Agger but I'd go for Agger.

  59. I'd agree with most of this, but I'd put Johnson in for Arbeloa, because with Suarez and Coutinho our wide, you'd have no natural width. Need some attacking full-backs,

  60. Permit me to tell you a story of old, from the second of two times I've had the fortune to visit Anfield in my short time on this Earth.

    'twas a rainy May afternoon and a successful Rafa Benitez side had booked their place in the following year's Champions League. One Alvaro Arbeloa, on loan at the time, was in the midst of another sturdy performance in what was a dower first half of football. When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a courageous Spaniard marauding his way into the Charlton penalty area. On and on did this Spanish man run.. When six yards from the goal should he receive the ball! And with a stretch of his right leg did he make contact with a fizzing cross... Where he inconceivably turned the ball past the far post of ye goal.. Surmounting to a disappointing goal kick being awarded.

    Let me tell you, that boy could get forward when he wanted to... ;)

  61. Sakho over 2008 Carra? Carragher was still one of the best cenre-halves in Europe back then.

  62. Lovely story, but I'm afraid we never had Arbeloa on loan old bean!
    He was good going forward, but more the type to offer a reliable option, like Finnan, rather than some additional quality, like Johnson.
    I remember Arbeloa's first goal for us was a lovely mazy run though

  63. You're quite right.. I was fifty/fifty on whether he was initially loaned and then signed permanently or not... And with a shitty Windows phone I decided it wasn't worth looking up and then having to wait for disqus to reload.. I figured it was better to not let the truth get in the way of a good story!

    I hugely miss Arbeloa, I think it took Johnson a long time to get anywhere near his level defensively and we've struggled on occasions because of this.. I think a lot of LFC fans have undervalued quite how big Arbeloa's contributions were to the team!

  64. No European football for the current side with all it's extra commitments, i agree with most of the article but feel Reina was lucky to have a stronger defence in front of him

  65. Nah, that's nonsense. I'd go for Agger.

  66. Agree 2008 team, who were unlucky. Benitez would b the Shanks II, but instead he is in Napoli

  67. The team in 2008 had better centre midfield, The team now has better attack.

    Both Goalkeepers are evenly matched
    Both Defences even themselves out

    Alonso, Gerrard and Mascherano at their peak went to any ground and dominated games.

    The same cannot be said about Allen, Lucas and Henderson

    That is why i am hoping and praying the owners back Rodgers well with 60-70m and to bring 4-5 players to club this January

    These 4 are a must:

    1: DM: M'Vila(23) Of Rubin Kazan for 10-12M to compete and Cover lucas( Mascherano type player we have been missing)

    2 AND 3: CM and LW / LWF: Y Cabaye(27) Of Newcaste and B Arfa(26) should both be brought to club for 30- 32M

    4: M Salah(21) Of Basel for 10-14M to compete and cover Sterling

    5:Back Up and Cover as Sturridge will be back at end of January:
    FD: L Remy(26) Of QPR should be brought outright for 6-10m , then Newcastle will be paid back whatever loan fees that they would have paid for whole season.

    Coutinho, Sterling have more class, creativity,mobility, pace and speed than Bennayoun and Kuyt. And I think Coutinho and Sterling offer club more in attack than Bennayoun and Kuyt did.

  68. Agree to disagree. I still think that Agger's a fair bit better than Agger.

  69. Yep, Arbeloa was an absolute bargain. Johnson used to be a major weak link, but since Kenny took over, I think that on balance he is more of a benefit than a liability.

  70. We're a fair bit shy of Rafa's standard of defending at the moment and as good as Mignolet has been, Reina was probably the best goalkeeper in the world 2008-2010.

  71. LIVERPOOL4LIFESUAREZ2:33 am, December 24, 2013

    Johnson - Hypia - Carra -Enrique Subs: Sturridge
    Alonso - Mascharano Kuyt
    GERRAD*C* Agger
    Suarez Coutinho Benayoun
    Torres Mignolet

  72. LIVERPOOL4LIFESUAREZ2:36 am, December 24, 2013

    Johnson - Hypia - Carra -Enrique
    Alonso - Mascharano
    Suarez - Coutinho

  73. How quickly people change there tune. I don't remember this support for Rodgers last year.
    Well done Mr Rodgers.............. No matter what happens this season.
    The next transfer window will make or break this season in my opinion. We lose Suarez we are in big trouble.......... We need cover.
    For me Michu is still the player we need. He can play up front or midfield and he brings goals and a physical pressence . A player who can cover 2 positions and still get goals.

  74. Just want to point out he is injured and out for 6 weeks so he would be a summer target.

  75. Defensively we have been not so good because we have no real class quality cover for our full backs, Enrique has and is a vital part of side. Cissokho seems now to be have waste of loan, Flannagan has played well in games but is average at best and against Noone at weekend. Noone skipped past Flannagan with ease every time, that is why he was brought off.

    Johnson has been out of form since his injury and has not stood out for ages. But Skrtel and Sakho have been immense whenever they have played. And they will only get better.

    In the Summer, Rodgers will need to bring in two class quality young full backs to compete and cover Enrique and Johnson.

    1: RB: Montoya(22) Of Barcelona
    2: LB: S Umtiti(19) Of Lyon

    And two players to replace and take over from S Gerrard for next 3-6 years:

    3: Koke(21) Of A Madrid
    4: A Lallana(24) Of Southampton

  76. take out torres from '08 and suarez from '13..it becomes apparent our team now is not worth serious consideration... we owe suarez a great deal.. we have a long way to go... lets trust rodgers...

  77. Since you state your opinion, I'll state mine:

    RAFA....all day long. Over ANY manager.