Ayoze Perez has revealed that Rafa Benitez has offered him a key new role in his side following our promotion back to the Premier League, with the gaffer now focused on seeing his number 10 defend from the front – a role that has made him an ‘important’ part of Benitez’s system.
Perez has started every one of our seven games this season, and whilst his running stats suggest he does cover a lot of ground for the team (only Matt Ritchie has ran more), there’s been a lot of fans questioning his place in the team, feeling he doesn’t offer enough offensively.
Ahead of Sunday’s trip to Southampton, Perez has opened up about his role in the team, revealing that his hard work is difficult to be seen, but something of vital importance to Benitez’s system:
“The manager tells us all the time that we have to start our defending with the strikers. He tells us that we are really important for the shape of the team.
“We have to be in good positions, and make their players feel uncomfortable. That is something we have spent a lot of time working on and trying to improve.
“It is the kind of work that is sometimes hard to see.
“It is not as obvious as when you are scoring or making runs into the box, but it is just as important. It is work that we have to do because it is important for the team.”
Ayoze then touches on his relationship with Benitez, revealing just how he has given him some much needed confidence by trusting him in his side each week this season:
“I’m really happy to be able to have been involved with the team so much,”
“The gaffer has given me a lot of confidence and that’s been really important for me. I think every player needs it, but maybe I think I needed it specifically, a little bit more.
“It makes me feel more comfortable on the pitch and the ball. It’s been massive for me, really important, and now I have to look after that confidence and give it back to the gaffer as well.
“I’m feeling good on the pitch, and trying to help the team as much as I can.
“I’m happy to be part of it, and thinking about working hard and getting good results.
Interesting here to see Perez say he needed a confidence boost more than others this season. Unsurprising really given his disappointing season in the Championship last year, but perhaps his confidence problems are a factor in his decline over the years and vice versa.
I appreciate Perez’s efforts to follow Benitez’s tactical plan, but I do feel he must offer so much more offensively in a position of this importance.
The issue currently is perhaps our lack of alternatives in that role. He could have a stinker and still get in the team. With this in mind I’m glad to see Benitez state he’ll look to bring in competition for Perez, with last seasons alternative Mo Diame not being suited to the role – with the ageing midfielder being a deeper central midfielder by trade.
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