7 Days, 7 Guests - "Two Man Team"

Today's article takes us back to that fantastic season of 08/09 and back to that old gem of a phrase "Liverpool are just a two man team." Written by Michael Owen who you can follow on Twitter @mfowen91. He also runs a top #LFC blog called The Anfield Opinion which you can visit here.

If you believed the media at the time, Liverpool’s side of 2008/09 was a “two man team” to quote a seemingly never-ending list of Sky Sports pundits who graced our television screens throughout the season.

According to the tabloid press Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres were the only players in the side worthy of the world-class title, whilst the rest of the squad, seemingly, was seen as a mere hindrance to our numbers eight and nine over the course of the season.

Of course as the next season came around, and Liverpool’s fortunes changed for the worse, hindsight was the word of the day, as many players who were rarely mentioned by the ever-so-knowledgeable pundits became world-beating superstars whose departure was a hammer blow to the Reds’.

There were, of course, a number of crucial players in Liverpool’s side which were unsung heroes of what is considered by many to be the Reds’ best campaign in nearly two decades. Here’s a look at some of the players the pundits didn’t acknowledge.

Alvaro Arbeloa

In many respects Arbeloa was the exact opposite of his replacement Glen Johnson. He arrived at Anfield a relative unknown and for a low fee, he wasn’t an international footballer with a string of major clubs behind him and he was far from as ambitious going forward as his successor.

But the Spaniard was as solid as a rock throughout the 2008/09 campaign. Whilst he may not have picked up many man of the match awards he rarely made any mistakes, either. He was the prime example of a model professional that got on with his job in a no-nonsense manner and was certainly a key part of the Reds’ watertight back line.

Due to his contract drawing to the close Real Madrid signed the full-back for a bargain basement price, and due to Johnson’s defensive frailties it is only in recent months, with the emergence of Martin Kelly and John Flanagan, Liverpool that have found a solid replacement for Arbeloa.

Yossi Benayoun

There were question marks over Benayoun when he arrived from West Ham in 2007, but the Israeli midfielder showed the fans his purchase was justified in the 2008/09 campaign, playing all across the midfield and chipping in nine goals along the way.

Throughout the season Benayoun was often likened to Liverpool legend Peter Beardsley, and at times it was a fair comparison. Benayoun made quick and clever moves in and around the box, not scared to take on a player, he was, and still is, a rare breed in that he is an intelligent footballer who may be accused of lacking a little pace, rather than the other way round.

One of the highlights of Benayoun’s time with the Reds was his last-gasp goal against Fulham at Craven Cottage, which was met to a chorus of “We’re going to win the league” from the travelling Liverpool faithful as the midfielders goal put the Anfield side back on top of the Premier League table.
But Benayoun’s strength was to be his downfall. His positional versatility meant he often found himself playing out of position and due to a prolonged injury the following season the former West Ham man only found himself on the fringes of the Liverpool side, resulting in a move to Chelsea in the summer of 2010.

Xabi Alonso

It may seem strange to include Alonso in a list of unsung heroes of the 2008/09 campaign, but despite it being arguably the Spanish internationals best season at Anfield the “two man team” line was still being spouted as the midfielder placed perfect balls into the path of Gerrard and Torres.

It was a dramatic turnaround for Alonso. After putting in hit and miss performances in the previous campaign Alonso looked to be heading for the exit door in the summer of 2008, with his move to Juventus set to fund a deal which would bring in Gareth Barry.

But when the negotiations broke down Alonso found himself still on Liverpool’s books as the season kicked off. Clearly feeling he had a point to prove Alonso had a near perfect season for the Reds, placing picture perfect balls, in his trademark fashion, up to the front men and controlling the play in the middle of the park.

The Spaniard also formed a great partnership with fellow midfielder Javier Mascherano, with the two of them being the perfect balance of creative flair and endless determination. The two of them, coupled with the more advanced Gerrard, made for a menacing midfield only made worse for the opposition by the fact it was spearheaded up top by Torres.

Alonso was arguably the biggest loss of the three when he headed to Real Madrid for £30 million, the last two seasons have been dominated by people wondering how different it would be with the Spaniard back in the side.

But Liverpool, thanks to Fenway Sports Group and Kenny Dalglish, have a bright future with some immensely talented players on the books, hopefully a side good enough to achieve, and improve upon, what that “two man team” did in the league in 2008/09.