Rafa’s Masterplan

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By Liam Randles

As I made my way out of Anfield on Saturday I had to smile. No, it wasn’t
at a fantastic performance in which we swept aside the last undefeated side
in the Premiership after the spineless performance at Old Trafford the
previous week, it was in fact at something much simpler. No sooner had
referee Steve Bennett blew his whistle to signal a well deserved three
points for the reds, Anfield DJ George Sephton sent Oasis’ classic tune
“The Masterplan” blaring over the tannoy. Of course, this could be little
more than coincidence given that Oasis have a Greatest Hits album to plug
but me being me, interpreted this as a comment to the gutless comments made
by an anonymous director the previous day in the Daily Mirror.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that the comments made by the anonymous
director were diabolical. The fact that anyone would even raise a question
about Rafa’s management of the club is outrageous. Not only are the
comments grossly unfair on the man but are also an insult to everything he
has achieved at the club so far and his future ambitions. I struggle to
think of a man who could have achieved so much in such a short space of
time with a squad which when he took over, was short of genuine quality and
direction.

Many fans on This Is Anfield and other forums have quite rightfully
condemned the anonymous director for his comments and have said how they
contradict the Liverpool way. However, the truth is that this is nothing
new. Bill Shankly endured many battles with the boardroom during his time
at Liverpool and frequently handed in his resignation only to withdraw it
when sanity resumed. Shankly revolutionised Liverpool FC through his first
disagreement with the board room in that he demanded complete control over
first team affairs including first team selection and often accused the
directors of a lack of ambition in failing to back him sufficiently in the
transfer market notably with the failure to recruit Dennis Law and Howard
Kendall from Huddersfield and Preston respectively.

Effectively what I’m trying to say is that like Shankly, Rafa should do it
his way although I’m sure he doesn’t need me to tell him that. Like Shanks
previously, Rafa has introduced some revolutionary new ideas to the club
which have drew criticism notably from the national tabloids and of course
the anonymous director. Rotation is accepted as Rafa’s way of doing things
by fans (whether they agree or disagree) and it currently stands at 99 not
out (before the Bordeaux home game) since the same team was picked twice.
The old adage of playing your best team and letting the opposition worry
about you has also been abandoned by Rafa, evident in how he shapes his
team to exploit a chink in the opposition’s armour. Zonal marking has also
become a feature under Benitez’s reign at Anfield, as has the role of a
sweeper- keeper.

Like Shankly before him, Rafa has incorporated some revolutionary ideas
into Liverpool FC and like Shanks, Benitez has had to take unjust criticism
from the powers that be but it is clear from these radical changes, Benitez
has a vision for this club. Back to back trophies in his first two years
(something which no other manager in the history of the club has achieved)
justify many changes to an extent. It is also worth remembering some of the
fantastic signings the man has made despite that in the years since he has
been at the club, we have been outspent by Man Utd, Chelsea and Spurs and
let’s not forget that Everton, our neighbours from across Stanley Park
spent more than us in the transfer market during the summer of 2005.

There really can’t be too many managers in the modern game who would have
the audacity to come into a club as big as Liverpool FC and implement so
many changes (despite somewhat unjust criticism from the media during his
first season in charge) and have silverware to show for it.

Finally a word of caution to the anonymous director. The reason why Rafa
Benitez left Valencia was due to persistent boardroom interference in first
team affairs and a failure to back him sufficiently in the transfer market.
Let’s not make the same mistake as our Spanish counterparts.

Liam Randles

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