Mon 7th January 2008
A draw away at Luton thanks to John Arne Riise’s own goal and the media vultures are all over Rafa Benitez like a rash once more. I’ve read articles from some suggesting that too many Liverpool fans show ‘blind loyalty’ in their manager and that it is holding us back when clearly we should be looking for somebody else.
Everton were knocked out the FA Cup on Saturday after playing a weakened team. Were there calls for Moyes head in a single newspaper or media outlet? No. Let’s remember Liverpool are actually still in the FA Cup.
The fact is the media can smell their next victim in Rafa, and the American owners of the club have done little to protect the man.
The way I see it Liverpool are a substantially improved side than the team he inherited. Lest not forget the reds have been to at least one final in each of the three years he has been in charge, picking up four trophies along the way and narrowly missing out on another two.
There is no question that the recent run of form in the Premiership has been disappointing – especially when we set the early pace in the Premiership – topping the table for the first time in a long period. The simple fact is that the players have let Benitez down. There can be no excuse for a team of such star studded international to waste an astonishing 17 chances against Manchester City. No excuse whatsoever – certainly no blame can be apportioned to Benitez. Against both Chelsea and Man United in the Premiership the reds were by far the brightest side – effectively dominating both games and those who witnessed those games will appreciate that to only be left with one point from those six was just extreme bad luck.
Liverpool under Benitez are a team in development. Serious football fans who may remember the early days of both Wenger and Ferguson’s managerial careers with their present clubs will be aware that continuity in the management of a club is sacrosanct. It is part of the reason Liverpool were at the top of the game for nearly 30 years – internal promotion of managers led to a level of continuity unknown at any other football club.
In the aftermath of disappointing results people often make snap judgements in the heat of the moment. Just 2 years ago the reds were losing 3-1 at Kenilworth Road at one point before eventually going on to win the trophy. Ten years ago Arsenal also drew their FA Cup 3rd Round at home to the mighty Port Vale. Arsenal had suffered a horrendous number of results from the middle of October that year and had found themselves 13 points off the league leaders. The side went on to win the league and cup double.
While I am not suggesting that Liverpool are about to pull off the ultimate second half recovery (even though they do make that a speciality) the fact remains it would have been incredibly easy for Wenger to have been pushed out of his job. As it is his youth development policy which has been allowed to mature is now reaping huge dividends for the club.
Supporting Rafa Benitez is not about blind faith at all. The man remains our greatest opportunity of winning the title in 18 years of underachievement. The players need to justify their transfer fee and weekly salary, not Benitez.