Looking after your ‘bread and butter’

A great man once said you must look after your “bread and butter” – that being your league form and that man was of course Bill Shankly and he was, as ever, correct with his statement.

Despite this season’s only chance of success now being through the Champions League, I find it hugely disappointing that our bread and butter has been put to the side for a more savory European dessert.

It has been far too long since we even came close to a title challenge, let alone winning that elusive number 19, that it has to be the manager’s top priority for success. Even though we are not going to win it, or come close to winning it this season – we should be aiming to start getting into the habit of winning league matches, especially away where we are so often lacking of ideas and creativity.

Since the title has been lost so early on and domestic failings to Arsenal in both cups, Benitez has used league matches to plan and build for the Champions League matches. He did it against Man United, at home, employing the same team and tactics which he later used – albeit to good effect – against Barcelona.

Then today, against Villa. Seemingly he was playing against a bottom half of the table side with tactics he will use against PSV in a Champions League quarter final. Either that or he is quite possibly more defensive than his predecessor Gerard Houllier.

I’m not sure there is any Liverpool fan alive who thinks Aurelio is a better left midfielder than Riise. I certainly don’t think so. I’m most definitely in the Riise is a midfielder brigade and believe when he plays there he adds a goalscoring threat from midfield which we severely lack, pariculalry without Garcia and when Gerrard is not on form.

So, just why was Riise playing left back today, and the ineffective Aurelio in midfield? I have nothing against Aurelio but just think a very simple switch between the two would have been to great effect. Aurelio quite clearly isn’t a midfielder, and never has been.

If you looked at our line-up today, there was absolutely no flair, no creativity, nobody to get you excited. Arguably only Gerrard would fit into that, and when he is pushed out wide he hardly ever produces these days. And I have to say, I can’t blame him. He proved he can do it in the middle, he is Europe’s best central midfielder, yet Benitez moves him out wide to accomodate two defensive midfielders – seemingly the only decent reason could be with the PSV match in mind and the tactics being practiced for that.

It’s bit like signing Ronaldo and playing him at left back because he does a good job there. Yes he might do a good job, but not as good a job as if he was used in his strongest position. You have to play to your strengths and use your strengths to their greatest effect, it’s a simple rule of coaching – at any level.

Subsitutions today were again a head scratcher; Bellamy being taken off early on for one. I can see why this might happen if we had a few games in quick succesion but our next match isn’t for a week – and we hadn’t played for 12 days! Yet the out-of-form Kuyt remained on the pitch. And speaking of Kuyt, who was made to play right midfield despite having a right winger on the bench in the form of Pennant. I just don’t get it.

It says a lot when the only moment of attacking note was a Fowler header with two minutes remaining, from a Pennant cross. Just why both weren’t introduced earlier to give us two things we needed – width on the right and creativity and attacking threat.

It’s all good and well having a team of solid players but we desperately miss a creative midfielder. Christ, Id rather have had Berger come on for us today we were that lacking.

Watching Man United yesterday, and in particular the goal which saw Rooney and Ronaldo tear Bolton apart in 3 passes from inside their own box to a goal. We have nobody capable of that.

I’m sure Benitez knows where we are lacking but please, please may he realise we need to sort the Premiership form next season or we are going to be even further behind the Mancs and Chelsea.

I’d actually be happy to give up a Champions League spot if it meant us giving the Premiership a bloody good run next season.

Matt Ladson