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As I’ve written before, it seems as though Rafa Benitez likes Fulham’s Tom Cairney for the Steven Gerrard role. Such a role can’t exist in every team, because every team does not have an athlete like Gerrard!
When a player is capable of such performances though, it becomes a massive bonus to his team. Between 2007 and 2009, the Fernando Torres – Steven Gerrard partnership was at its absolute best. Torres preferred the front line being all his own and so with no need for a second striker, Gerrard was employed basically as the no.10.
Given Gerrard’s athleticism though, he could get up and down the field to such good effect that he was a midfielder when the opposition had the ball (on top of the flat 4 they already had) and a second striker when they were in possession.
Although not as good as Gerrard, Tom Cairney can play in a similar way and Rafa hasn’t had the opportunity to use anyone in that role for a long time. The Torres/Gerrard effect at Anfield was massive. In the aforementioned two year spell, they scored 87 goals between them – an incredible record considering that one of them was a midfielder.
That has clearly never left Benitez’s head. With young and fit strikers like Gayle, and potentially Abraham on the books, bringing in Cairney could be his way of rekindling what he had at Anfield.
In 46 league games last season, Cairney scored 13 goals and made 10 more which for a midfield player is a great record. Much more to the point, Cairney started 24 times in his preferred central attacking midfield role and when he did, he scored 8 and made 9. That’s a record of being involved in a goal once in every game and a half.
The rumours are that Fulham are commanding £20million for Cairney this summer which seems huge, though I’m sure Benitez would eventually sanction the move if haggling doesn’t work, given that players like Abraham and perhaps Lucas Leiva would not cost them a transfer fee.
Mo Diame was asked to fill this role last season and was very obviously not good enough to do it, while Ayoze Perez will be seen in a better light next season in the Premier League but again, is not suited to this particular job. Newcastle need a newbie to achieve this plan and Cairney looks like being the only man on the boss’ radar.