Rafa Benitez has jumped to the defence of Ayoze Perez ahead of tonight’s game, saying he has read comments from fans about the Spanish ‘number 10’ and admits that he didn’t play well in his last game, but remains adamant that he is doing a ‘great job’ for the team.
Perez has earned praise for the work he does for us off the ball, however several fans have grown increasingly frustrated by his lack of his offensive contribution, with the lightweight attacker having had a shocker in the 1-0 win over Palace last time out.
Benitez has started Ayoze in each one of our nine league games so far, and whilst that may be partly down to a real lack of alternatives, it’s clear he is a big fan of the Spaniard.
Here’s what he’s had to say about Perez in a detailed interview about his situation ahead of tonight’s trip to Turf Moor:
“I can read the comments and some people say this or that.
“He’s doing well. He’s a clever player. He has good movement. He didn’t play well the other day. He knows. We know.
“He had two or three situations where he could do better, and he was wrong. Still, he’s doing a great job, and the understanding between him and Joselu and the midfielders and the rest of the team is quite good.
“When I talk about a clever player, it doesn’t mean he has to control and put the ball in the top corner.
“No, he has good movement. He knows when he has to go, press and regain or when he has to attack and do runs behind the defenders. He stays between the lines.
“He’s giving us something that maybe we needed.”
Good to hear Rafa acknowledge the fact Perez had a poor game against Palace last time out. As fans, we appreciate his efforts off the ball, but I often question if his great defensive work is worth it if he is so wasteful and ineffective on the ball?
Benitez then went on to discuss Diame – his other option off the striker – also addressing fans demands for a ‘proper no.10’ to be brought in:
“Some people can talk about Diame. He’s a great worker, and, physically, is bigger and stronger, so he can give us something different.
“I’ve heard (people say) ‘we need a proper No 10’. We knew from the beginning that we needed to improve some positions, but not because the players we have there are not good.
“It’s because we wanted to bring better players to be sure we had the competition.
“This position, the No 10, is a player, normally, that…and I will give you an example – Silva, a player that understands the game and is always on the ball. He can see the pass and the assist.
“They don’t see Ayo as this kind of player, but he’s not this kind of player. But he’s clever enough to do a job and he’s doing a great job.
“Sometimes playing better or worse, but doing a great job.”
Finally, Rafa then explained just why Perez is a valuable asset in our system, stressing the importance of us playing as a unit.
He admits how he’d love a David Silva at NUFC, but accepts that it is all about us working with what we have to get points as a team:
“He has some good movement and is creating space for the others and is doing the runs that will give the others more time on the ball.
“In football, the good thing is that you have a team. Depending on one, maybe the others are doing well.
“I was reading some stats about keepers in Europe. If your team is playing deep, maybe the keeper is the best, because he has a lot of clean sheets. But maybe he’s not making any saves.
“So teams that are playing really, really high, maybe the keeper is really good but is conceding goals all the time. Then people will criticise the keeper. It depends on the team.”
“I think we have a good team because we work as a team.
“(David) Silva made his debut in Valencia when he was 17 with us. Since then, I know him. He’s a player that you know is very clever. Do you need a Silva? Yes, but, because you cannot get this player, what you need is a team around your players so you can get the points.
“That’s it. We have a team, because the players realise that we have to work as a team, as a unit.”
Let us know what you make of Rafa’s defence of Perez. Do you agree with his assessment or do you still believe he isn’t doing enough for the team?