COS contributor Donovan Ried ponders life as a Anfield supporter during the up and down stewardship of Rafa Benitez.
While it stands true that under Rafael Benitez we have Improved our squad overall, and having reached the dizzy heights of Champions Leagues success in Istanbul I believe the club now stands at a cross roads.
Last season under Benitez we secured second place 4 points off the League winners Man Utd. And although we finish second, the highest placing since finishing 3 points behind Arsenal in the 2001/02 season under then manager Gerard Houllier; many supporters found it a hard and bitter pill to sallow as it was to the old enemy Man Utd..
Still many a supporter of the club was convinced that next season would be ours for the taking. So where as it all gone wrong?….
Last season we were I think; flattered by just how badly Chelsea played without Michael Essein and Didier Drogba; and how much of a change it made once they had these two back as we saw at Anfield and Stamford Bridge in the Champions League…
Man Utd too had their share of problems, but these were more to do with how to play Rooney, Ronaldo,Tevez and Berbatov on the pitch all at the same time.
For a good 2/3 for that season Liverpool approach to each game was a curious one. We would not play free flowing attacking football. Instead the team was set up not to lose the game rather than win the game. (As evident against Aston Villa early that season.) It was not until the last 1/3 for the season once Man Utd had over taken us that Rafa actually took the chains off and allowed us to play. And it was this team that we all expected to see at the start and the whole way through this season
Instead we lost Alonso To Real Madrid, Replaced him with a player that we was promise would be ready for the Man Utd game 25th October Alberto Aquilani, Brought in a player that while very good going forward is suspect in defence, Glen Johnson, While selling Alvaro Arbeloa for about €4 million to Real Madrid.
Alonso went to Real for £30m which is to be paid in instalments. This seem strange to me. Real paid £80m for Ronaldo. No instalments…. Two weeks before paying £56.5m for Kaka it was widely reported in the Spanish media that Real Madrid has secured a £800m line of credit, and yet we are paid in instalments
Injuries have played a great part in our season, But so have the tactics and team choices of one Rafael Benitez so much so that even the normal quite Ryan Babel has spoke out about his lack of opportunities under Rafa…..
Look at the squad Rafa has put together. He as spent some £239m on players. This does not take into account the “Net Spend”. This is not about the money so much as about players in and players out. The team we have under Rafa is a very different one than under Gerard Houllier of whom only Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher remain.
For those who say that he had to replace the players Gerard Houllier signed on a limited budget; he as done so, but has often gone for quantity over quality. With a few exceptions.
We have the largest first team squad in the Premiership. Larger than Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd, all of thom have more money than us. Yet what is it the our Manager does, moans about lack of funds instead of cutting the squad size from 35+ to 28 players saving the club between £10m-£21m a season in wages alone. Plus what we would have from the sale of players.
Some of you may say he did not have control of who he wanted to buy. But this was only taken away from him after the way he shamelessly chased Barry’s signature. Much the same thing happen at Valencia. But at the end of the day way can not be disputed is the Rafa has brought in the players that we now have. So if they lack quality then only one man is to blame ….. Rafa
If he could cut the current squad to 28 and keep it at that level he would have a extra £10 -£21m for transfers and wages It is; I believe Rafa insistence on such a large squad (a great many of whom is never played) that limits our competitiveness in the transfer market. That and limited knowledge of what is out there.
There are many attributes to being a good manager and one of them is humbleness. By this I mean knowing that you are not perfect and that you can not only make mistakes, But be able to own up to them. When has Rafa ever showed this quality?
Instead when we lose we are treated to a whole raft of excuses. Players are blamed, officials. But at least it is not blamed on the new shirts. being tight around the neck.
He has never learnt from past mistake,nor does he wanted to be told how to do his job. Lets face it neither would you. But with so many things going wrong around LFC do you not think that he would start to pay some attention to the people around him?
I will not go on about his “Negativeness” in approach to games, his unwillness to bring the youngster through, his consistently playing players out of position, or I believe his poor man management skills …. It has been highlighted to much in the past. What I will say is that….
We stand at a cross roads and Rafa should if he is to stay, stop moaning about what he does not have and start doing what Big Sam did at Bolton. That is wheel, deal, borrow, get players in on loan, give “Free Agents” a years trail before deciding whether to sign them or not. Pay in instalment where possible
One thing that may or may not help our season is “The African Cup of Nations”. Chelsea will be without the services of Michael Essein and Didier Drogba for that time as will Arsenal and Man City be without key players.
The bad news is that Both Arsenal and City should have ample cover, and by the time we play any of these three the tournament will be over. But the same applies to Arsenal, City, Utd and Chelsea
In truth we have look smooth and pleasing to the eye under Rafa at times and at others we resemble a bunch of ten year old kids kicking a ball around the play ground….The one word that defines LFC at the moment is “Inconsistency”
But with recent wins against Wolves and Villa, have LFC begun to turn the conner? Or are we again flattering to deceive?
From what you have seen of the season so far, and there have been a few glimmers of what could be. Who amongst you, hand on heart can truly say “In Rafa we trust?