Americans: Don’t be too hasty

It’s not even Christmas and already I am cheering on Chelsea on the TV. Let’s face it we have not a prayer of winning the league so better Chelsea or Arsenal do than the Mancs.

Yet another unacceptable performance on the pitch from Liverpool and it really is becoming a bit of an embarrassment. We were not only beaten but outplayed by the team in 20th place in the league.  If you didn’t know the 2 teams you’d have thought it was us who was relegation fodder.

The knives are out for Rafa and more and more fans are now supporting the view that he should be sacked. I fear that our American owners will seriously consider sacking him in a desperate effort to save the overpriced value of the club whilst they consider cashing in on their investment.

In May last year however, when we had just lost out on the title by 4 points there were precious few calls for Rafa to get the sack. Does less than half a season really justify such a turnaround? There are plenty of reasons as I have tried to summarise below, both for and against our Spanish manager. If he is to justify his position beyond this season there is no doubt we have to see a bigger change than Rafa may be comfortable with. It has however reached the time where he has no choice. He either needs to make drastic changes quickly or I don’t see how he will still be in charge when the World Cup comes round.

Tactical Awareness

There must be some improved understanding of the English game if we can beat Manure 3 times in a row. I mean 4-1 at Old Trafford does not come about through pure luck. It is clear that at times Rafa has out-thought the other managers of the big 4, particularly the sour-faced Scot and orchestrated a great team performance against our main rivals.

It is however the performance against lesser sides that gives us the most cause for concern. Though I have watched football avidly for over 30 years and naturally picked up a little knowledge of the game, I am not a football manager and my tactical awareness should be a fraction of Rafa’s or any other top manager. Why is it then that even I can see such obvious flaws in our current tactics, all of them said by many others before me.

–          2 Defensive Midfielders. Against Chelsea, Barcelona or Manure maybe but against Portsmouth, Blackburn and Debrecen!

–          We play no wingers! Whatever the qualities that Benayoun and Kuyt may have they always want to cut inside. This immediately makes us more predictable than almost any other team in the league.

–          Defenders playing as midfielders will naturally be less attack-minded. Why are we playing Dosenna and Aurelio in that role when we have Babel and Riera?

–          Torres is crying out for another striker to play off. He looks so frustrated up on his own. Yes, the Gerrard support role has worked in the past but it’s not now so is 4-4-2 not worth a try? After all, what can get worse?

Transfer Market Success

Okay we can’t afford David Villa or Samuel Etoo but what was the point in blowing £20M on Alberto Aquilani if he’s no better than Lucas Leiva? Rafa’s reluctance to play him is now making us think that it’s more a case of a lack of ability than lack of fitness.

Glen Johnson (apart from the last few games when he has had a shocker) is a good player. After all, he is England’s 1st choice right back now. But did we really need to spend so much on a defender when there were other positions (right winger and striker in particular) crying out for some improvement.

Rafa’s previous successes,Torres, Reina, Mascherano, Alonso and to a lesser extent, Agger, Benayoun, Kuyt show that he can pick some reasonable players but as a manager of a club like Liverpool you simply cannot afford to pick up £30M for one player and then waste it on 2 players that have had no real positive effect.

Add to that the recent failures such as Voronin and Keane and Rafa’s transfer record looks decidedly shaky.

Team Selection

Dirk Kuyt is a worker. Nobody can deny that. Neither can anybody deny that his form of late has been very poor indeed. At Fratton Park he was appalling, winning hardly anything and then giving it away when he did or making nothing of any opportunity he was presented with. The same could be said for Glen Johnson, Insua and as always Lucas. Why is Rafa so afraid to drop players who are clearly out of form and bring in 1 or 2 others every now and then? I’m not talking about squad rotation, simply dropping players who are not performing.

We’ve reached the stage of our season now that Rafa has to change something very quickly. He might as well take a few risks because what he’s doing at the moment is not working at all. Why not pick Pacheco for the occasional game? Or Spearing or Darby or El Zhar? Maybe they’ll do great, maybe they won’t. Could they do any worse than we’re doing now? What’s worse than getting no points against the bottom of the league side?

Man Management

Has Rafa isolated players during his tenure or perhaps not got the best out of them? Modern footballers are wealthy, often arrogant and can therefore be difficult to manage. Does Benitez have the personal strength and management skills to deal with this?

Xabi Alonso didn’t come across as the typical modern type footballer in terms of his flawed character and clearly loved his time at Anfield. Yet, something clearly went wrong in his relationship with the manager and though various reports obviously blame Rafa’s pursuit of Gareth Barry, we may never know who was entirely to blame for this sudden breakdown in relations.

Ryan Babel may be the nicest, most humble of men or he may be a manager’s nightmare. He is however a player with enormous talent and potential that has never fully be realised. He is quick, skilful, has a great shot and should be one of the first names on the sheet each week, either on the wing or as a supporting striker. Why has Rafa not found a way to manage him more effectively and turn him into the player he should be, especially when he’s been with us from a relatively young age?

There is little doubt that in Gerrard and Torres we have 2 of the top 20, perhaps even top 10 players in the world. How many other teams can say that? Certainly not the Mancs at the moment who perhaps only have Rooney who could claim to be on that list. Add to that the other players we have that are in the top few in Europe in their position, Reina, Mascherano, Carragher. Wouldn’t we rather have that trio than Van der Sar, Ferdinand and Carrick? How can we not be performing better with such a strong spine to the team?

Summary

Liverpool and Rafa are massively underperforming currently. Does this however mean we should sack him? Who would we get to replace him mid-season that is notably better and more importantly available?

Being one of the only managers in recent years to break the Barcelona/Real Madrid duopoly in Spain, Benitez must have the ability to still bring more success to Anfield. In what is now his 6th year at the club though, we cannot afford to let our current performances continue at this level.

We probably can’t buy our way out of the problems in January but if Rafa is to stay we need to see a change very quickly, not only in our results but in the tactics, team selection and a demonstration that he is getting the best out of the quality of players he has available.

If we fail to make this improvement would someone please send George Gillett a text with Martin O’ Neill’s phone number.

17 comments on
Americans: Don’t be too hasty

  1. It’s the SCOUSENESS that’s missing this season!
    Most that’s been said here is relevant, and we all agree that our club has many problems that have to be sorted out, but short term ( like now ), it must improve on the pitch. The rest of it will take longer to resolve and then there will always be other problems to take their place, and we will have to deal with them as well. All these matters should not be used as excuses for poor performance. Players should never be allowed to use “off-field” problems as reasons for not doing their job.
    But, more importantly, we shouldn’t trot out these problems every time that we loose.
    Let’s get the will to win back into all of the squad, and if Rafa can’t do that, then we have to find someone who can.

  2. We are all LIVERPOOL here, even some who are missguided in there opinions and we all comment because we care so let’s just do what we do best and that’s support the REDMEN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Y.N.W.A.

  3. Rafa is full of excuses, Rafa must give us a game a game plan or get out. It is not RAFA’s fault that the players are not performing as they should but start playing attacking football and we might win some games.

  4. Simon – You cannot in one sentence imply success will be achieved ‘by the people in charge AND the fans AND the players all together’, and then in the following sentence state ‘Moan ALL you like but YOU cannot make a difference’….. That is a blatant contradiction…… You idiot.

  5. Wenn did Benitez spent over 200 milion pounds? I’ve been folloving Liverpool for years and I never heared of big spendings from Liverpool under Benitez, exept when Torres came for 26 mil. or so, (to compare, Berbatov costed United 30 mil.).
    Most of the money spent by Benitez was earned by selling players – when Owen left Xabi Alonso came, when he left Aquilani came for less money, and there are many more examples.

    If you say Babel is waste of money you need to take a look at other top teams that have players who costed more, and they are also sitting on the bench, providing cover for the first team but not being labeld as wasters. Even Tottenham has players who were worth 15 mil. or more on their bench.

    Liverpool need to invest more in signings to be able to compete at the highest level. So far players were willing to come for less money becouse of CL and the clubs stature, but now is in danger of losing that plays and it will be even harder to get players. Owners need to find a way to invest now to prevent even bigger damage.

  6. more money,, get rid of the yanks, get rid of fans wanting rafa out…. now f**k off with gillett and hicks,,,, more money and more ownership,,,,

  7. I could write an equally longer pile of garbage on why we should sack Rafa.As for his transfer policy being classed as a reaso to keep him, 229 million spent on a squad that is no neare winning the prem than when he first took over.

  8. Utter Trash and TOTALLY symptomatic of the current pathetic attitude of both footballers AND fans (i.e. idiots like the write here) – ”’Oh I can’t have what I want – WHY should I wait for it/work for it – I’m off somewhere else (or to someone else as would be manager in the hope that THEY will give me it on a plate and IF they don’t? I reserve the right to moan at them to” (see players like Harry Kewell, Andrei Kanchelskis, even Ashley Cole for examples of this sort of trash and of course THIS sad excuse for an article) ;

    An utterly pathetic piece for a prat masquerading as a Liverpool ‘fan’ to write and if that’s the best you can do? Don’t bother supporting us – we’re better off with REAL fans who realise it doesn’t always come on a plate and has to sometimes be fought for by the people in charge AND the fans AND the players all together – which we’re patently not if we’ve fools like you writing bilge like this on the ‘net. Well guess what idiot? Moan ALL you like but YOU cannot make a difference, nope not one jot – nor can I or any other Reds fan – why? Because we’re not in charge and I doubt as such the owners will ever listen to us unless by some miracle we succeed them. So moan and cry ALL you like as the spoilt child you are but guess what? No one’s listening and to rubbish like THIS article? Nor should they…………………………….

  9. Good overall assessment as someone has mentioned. You touch on the same things I have been thinking about along with pretty much every Liverpool fan out there. I do question Rafa´s man management as he seems like turning quickly on player if they seem not to be doing the same things he wants them to do, instead of trying to guide them further on the right path. The way he treats Ryan Babel has been something similar to the Robbie Keane saga which I will never forgive Rafa for humiliating as he did. We can talk and talk about the situation but this situation is what Rafa has done on his own through his extremely strange way of handling the team. Why Rafa puts Aurelio/Dossena – two of the most useless players that have played for Liverpool for the last 30 years – in the team instead of Babel who provides more attacking options, really is mind boggling. Babel must either be injured or Rafa had enough of him. This childish kind of thinking along with rubbish post-game interviews have angered me. I want that Spaniard out.

  10. Interesting article Nick.

    While I agree with some of the points you raise, I actually think that Johnson was a great buy – and I think Aquilani will show his worth too. Although they still need to improve, Lucas and Insua are very promising players who can play a vital role in the Liverpool team in the future. As for Kuyt, I am a big fan of the hard-working Dutchman, who never gives up – although I would agree that he needs to be rested once in a while or give way to a different kind of player. From what I have seen so far, Pacheco, Kelly and Eccleston in particular (and Spearing, Ayala and Darby to a lesser extent) have the qualities to challenge strongly for the first team this season – and I hope Rafa gives them more opportunities to demonstrate their talent on the big stage.

    Aside from the need for more funds for Rafa to be able to dip into the transfer market, I would argue that the problems faced by Liverpool are more on the injury and selection front – with knock-on effects on the self-confidence of players and the fighting spirit of the team as a collective unit. While I might not agree on the details, I would agree that Rafa has all too often chosen teams that lack bite, with Mascherano and Lucas providing insufficient linkage between midfield and attack.

    I hope Rafa will draw the same lessons from the team’s performances and play a more balanced, offensive line-up in games, esp. against teams that like to sit back and wait for mistakes. At the same time, it is clear that Liverpool needs to improve in the defensive department, whether that means improvement in tactics, defensive skills of existing players or acquisition of new ones.

    It is also clear we need reinforcements in our forward line. I like N’gog, but I cannot see us improving significantly with only two out-and-out strikers in the first team. Kuyt is an important team member, but he has not been convincing in this position; Eccleston is promising but still young; Nemeth is on loan and also not quite ready; and Babel has failed to convince when given the opportunity (I do not buy the argument that the latter’s failure to impress is due to poor management skills on the part of Benitez).

    I trust Rafa to get us out of this mess, but it is clear that he will have to improve on team selection tactics and re-instil the team with the winning spirit of last season to do so.

    • wake up for god sake if you want to play in the championship keep supporting raffa.. First thing in january sack benitez get rid of the rubbish ie lucas mashcarano…kuyt..THat is why we are in this postition because those keep playing every game..he droped kuyt at wolves and mash was band we won 2.0 so there you go now drop lucas and we will win villa if not we will lose

  11. I agree with the title of this article, but the points are flawed to say the least.

    Firstly, the obvious point that we are a defensive team (the 2 defensive midfielders, wingbacks as wingers). We were the top scoring team last season, and the fourth highest the season before. But in both seasons, we were the first to hit 100 goals in all competitions. This debunks the theory we are defensive. In fact, I think it was Mascherano’s interview early on, that he claimed Rafa’s strategy when he first came was to work on the defense, then the midfield, then the offence. This is clear to see as season after season we have improved attacking wise. This season is the exception.

    Secondly, the 4-4-2 have been obsolete since Rafa and Mourinho came to the scene 5+ seasons ago. All the teams who want to nullify it has to do is change to a 4-5-1 system and squeeze out the midfield. ALL lower teams play this formation at Anfield against us

    Thirdly, transfer market success? All the players that Rafa has been backed fully, have been successful bar Morientes. When you are talking about Babel, Keane etc you are talking about second or third or even fourth choices. What do you expect? If we could afford a budget that a team who is expected to win trophies, we would be sporting Villa, Silva and Mata by now instead of Voronin, Babel ang N’gog. Look at how many free transfers we have in our first team.

    Fourthly, man management. All top managers aren’t buddies with players. Look at the real ones that win medals, ie the Capellos and the Hiddinks. They are professional to the hilt. Not your Harry Redknapps . The reason that Rafa isn’t a “father figure” to the players, unlike Wenger or Ferguson is because he is 40+ years old. The other two are 50-65. With only a 10+ year gap, you won’t see Rafa being a father figure to any of these players, neither will you see Sparky or any of the other 40+ year old managers

    As for Kuyt, in the top leagues, he is the top scoring and assisting “winger” besides C Ronaldo, Messi and Silva. Thats saying alot. NO other fancy winger have been doing the business as well as him lately. He might not look fancy, but name any other “winger” who will score 10 goals a season?

    Xabi has stated in interviews that he left because of the tax changes in the UK. Furthermore both Rafa AND Barry have said in quotable interviews that the intent was to play him in the left side of midfield, not the centre. So Barry to replace Alonso is all paper talk, period. Using this to critisize Rafa is as good as making up stories

    As for Babel. Yes, all the talent in the world. But there are tons of players out there with talent who went nowhere. He wasn’t exactly a hit in Ajax either. Same inconsistency, same frustration.

    As for the comment above, unfortunately the truth is that the Bootroom days are over and obsolete. Yes we destroyed teams in our hayday. But we also had the pick of the crop on the best players available. Our training was nothing more than 5 a sides and letting the team express themselves.

    Guess what? That is exactly what Souness, Keegan etc have been critisized for. No real tactical imput. In fact, none of our former players have gone and made a name for themselves as top managers since Dalglish retired.

    Short term or long term replacement, no top manager will come without being given a large enough budget to make changes. The fact that we have had less to spend than Villa and Spurs will put off many top managers.

  12. My issue for some time has been those that continue to blame the yanks … like them or hate them, they are not the issue here. I do believe we have enough in the team to be top, as you state, the spine is excellent and the support players are good. NO team has 11 superstars, they have a good strong spine, which we have, it’s then down to the manager to raise the motivation of each and every player.

    This is no different in lots of other businesses, the manager is often the foundation for success. I could not and would not suggest Rafa is not a quality tactically based coached, and in other countries this would make if the top manager, in the EPL we have a different situation, I’m not suggesting better but certainly harder then other leagues and this requires a strong and determined will, the willpower to succeed, this needs a great deal of inner strength, a willingness to look inside and change yourself, a belief in your team and a drive so strong the manager becomes the first wall of your fortress.

    This would be my only issue, i do not see inner strength with Rafa, the inner strength needed to win the EPL and then win it every year! Can he become that strength for LFC, yes but that would need him to accept rotation in the EPL is more about natural rotation (injury etc…) you must always play your best 11 in there best positions, this gels players and builds a healthy competition between all the players. For me Rafa either needs to have a good look inside and adopt some changes to his approach/tactics or let someone else…
    Does Rafa have the quality to take LFC back to the top, yes he does, does he have the willpower and determination to accept change to his tactics are needed to achieve the EPL title, thats a question for Rafa, but please no more play ground excuses about money ..it doesn’t stick anymore, we have a quality team and should be a top 2 team, each and every year, not just once in 5 …
    Some suggest he needs time, this is his 6th year and I’m still hearing the same excuses, please, as a fan for over 40 years I understand loyalty and I’m pleased we are a team that doesn’t change our manager eaver couple of years, but this seems to be groundhog day again. For those who suggest we support Rafa, please consider the risk .. if we don’t achieve 4th, we might lose players, and if some of those were the spine of the team the club would be in a very difficult situation for the next few seasons, so the board, Rafa, the players and us the supporters have a difficult few months ahead. I just hope those in a position to make a good call, make it for all the right reasons not for personal pride or blind loyalty …

    I believe in my team and hope they can find that inner strength needed to move them up the table and in the summer, i hope Rafa has a really good look at himself, the league he manages in and the man-management tactics he adopts … to be a successful manager in this league he will need to become the boss of the team, the first line of defence, the first line of attack, the wall surrounding the fortress, the fortress known as “ANFIELD” then the players will know they have a leader and become his warriors …

    RR

  13. Good assessment of current position, excellent piece.

    To pick up on a couple of things, “act in haste, repent in leisure” – sacking Rafa for the sake of an investment is obviously wrong, keeping him when performances are so bad is equally questionable. He was once a great tactician of the “one off European” game, but even that has now deserted him. In simple tones, Rafa has the quality of player at his disposal yet fails to realise their potential.

    Yes players need to perform on the pitch, they also need to be coached to perform, otherwise why bother with a coaching staff, Liverpool’s coaching staff simply is not good enough to yield results from some of the best players in the world. The maths don’t add up, we need a coaching staff that can work players to produce their best. Any less than their best simply isn’t good enough.

    I have no problem with Liverpool playing a predictable game – as long as that game is a predictable win, we just don’t do that anymore, Liverpool haven’t become inconsistent in one season, we have had season after season of predictable play, stringing good wins together then the inevitable “bad patch” which throws us once again out of contention. Inconsistency has been our byword for far too long.

    Want to learn from history?Look at the championships we reeled in when we played simple 4-4-2 football, 2 wingers… solid defense, play coming through the midfield, goal scoring options from any one of a number of players.

    As for management change, we may need two options. A short term change (from our current coach?) that will bring simple good football back to Anfield and a longer term option to build on this. We need to stop looking to Europe to set our standards and look to home based/focused football.

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