After a dominant start to the game and a brilliant early goal by Ayoze Perez, things were going smoothly at one stage on Saturday – but Benitez then made a change I’m still struggling to get my head around.
Ayoze Perez was clearly unable to continue, so seeing him go off was inevitable, but I was scratching my head to see Kenedy come on in his place ahead of Muto.
We didn’t exactly have a whole host of options, with Almiron injured and Atsu already on the pitch, but when Benitez has to choose between his £9.5m summer signing or an out of sorts loan player set to go back to Chelsea in two weeks time, it seems bizarre that he’d pick the latter.
Rafa will have had his reasons. Maybe Kenedy had enjoyed a decent week in training or maybe he wanted to give him one last chance before sending him back to Stamford Bridge, however this really did feel like the perfect time to give Yoshinori Muto a proper run out.
The Japanese international has looked sharp at times when he’s been given more than 10 minutes to show what he can do, but the same can not be said about Kenedy. Both have endured extremely disappointing seasons, but it felt to me like this was a chance to give Muto some confidence and reward him for his patience. After all, Rafa has regularly said how well he trains, so it seems he just needs a run in the side to prove his worth.
He came on and was poor, offering little going forward and failing to track his runner at the other end at times, but he can’t be expected to hit the ground running when coming on for 5-10 minutes in a league he still hasn’t had the chance to adapt to.
What’s all the more frustrating is how poor Kenedy was. He played 60 minutes and, aside from a nice one-two with Fabian Schar, was incredibly wayward and wasteful, with him losing possession more than any other player after he came on. His decision making and final ball was atrocious.
In a week where Almiron got inured and it was confirmed that Chelsea would demand a staggering £30m for Kenedy this summer, it seems a little bizarre (and worrying) that Benitez opted to play the Brazilian over Muto.
It seems I’m not the only one who thought this way either..