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.
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.
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?
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?
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.