Should Rafael Benitez be given more time? Yes and here’s why:
I have compared the so-called ‘œBig Four’ silverware and league positions during Rafa’s time, during which we have won 2 (major) trophies and reached another 2 finals. (As well as the European Super Cup or Charity Shield which I cannot bring myself to describe as ‘œmajor’ trophies.)
Compare this to the Gooners 1 trophy and the Mancs 2 then this does not seem a bad return. Admittedly, the Mancs have a title to show for that but our tally shows of fifth ‘˜ole big ears’ which the Manc’s would chew off their right arm to get a hold of again.
Rafa lags well behind the Chav’s, however this is blatantly to do with the disparity of spending power between the clubs which I address below.
2. Lack of comparative spending power
What Rafa would give to be able to spend Â£30m on two youngsters and a further Â£50m on a striker and midfielder such as the Mancs did this summer or be able to spend like money is going out of fashion on players such as Drogba, Essien, Mikel, Carvalho, Shevchenko, Wright-Phillips et al.
Ok, he was allowed to splash out last summer on Torres and Babel, however much of this was funded by selling other players. Look at the struggle involved (and the trouble which followed) in trying to bring in Mascherano, not to mention the alleged failures to bring in Kahladze and one other free transfer in January.
In recent years, financial constraints have meant we have been left to sign players of the calibre of Voronin, Benayoun, Pennant, Bellamy, Crouch and Aurelio. We have also been left to field such players as Kewell and Riise due to a lack of quality in the squad.
Now I accept that squad players are required and I am a fan of Benayoun and Crouch, however compare our bench on Wednesday to that of Inter Milans. We had Crouch, Pennant, Itandje, Riise, Benayoun, Alonso and Arbeloa compared to Viera, Burdisso, Toldo, Figo, Crespo, Maniche and Suazo. See any difference?
Until we are spending at an equivalent rate to the Manc’s and the Chav’s it is difficult to see how the gap at the top is going to be significantly closed.
3. Recent History and Slight Improvement
Liverpool as a club have significantly under achieved since last winning the title in 1990. Taken as an average since 1991, our position would be 4.24th. Prior to Rafa taking over this would have been 4th.
Although this seems to have slipped, Rafa’s average finish would put us 3.67th. Although this is a small margin, it is still an improvement. In Rafa’s second season at the club, we secured our highest points total ever in the Premier League.
I feel that sometimes we as fans are blinded by the success which we enjoyed for so many years. Any steps in the right direction should be welcomed. To ask Rafa to remedy 15 years of failure in 3 years may be to ask too much.
4. Comparison to Wenger and Ferguson
Ferguson took over the Manc’s in 1986 and did not win a single trophy until 1990. He did not have win the league until 1993. He was allowed time to learn his trade and make mistakes and was on the brink of losing his job at one stage but was afforded the chance to revolutionise the club from top to bottom which Rafa is attempting to do with us. Hopefully we can look back in 10 years time and speak of the time when Rafa was on the brink yet managed to turn it all around.
Although Wenger won the double in his second season, he arrived to a club which already possessed the talents of Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown, Dennis Bergkamp and Ian Wright. Not quite Biscan, Traore, Diao, Riise, Cheyrou, Diouf and Cisse found by Rafa at Melwood.
Rafa has proved more successful than Wenger since arriving at the club with 2 higher placed finishes and more trophies. No-one at Arsenal dreamed of questioning the position of Wenger and look at the dividends that is paying this year.
5. Recent Signing and Youth System
The recent signings of Torres, Babel and Lucas have been a step in the right direction. Admittedly there have been some mistakes but which manager has had 100% success in signing players. Lest we forget Taibi, Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson, Jeffers, Stephanovs, Wright, Huth, Shevchenko, Ballack (need I go on?).
One thing that pleases me most about Rafa’s regime in comparison to the Houllier years is that Rafa is quick to see where he has made an error in the transfer market and ships them out.
He has also been trying to develop a youth system akin to Arsenals by bringing in young talent from around the world. This has been reflected in the recent successes of our youth and reserve teams. We have the likes of Lucas and Babel along with the potential of Insua, Anderson, Hobbs and others.
Surely he must be given the opportunity to see the frutition of his labours by having another year or two to develop this talent.
6. Who else?
Finally, if we are to get rid, who would we get in to replace him? Remember all the talk last time round of the choice between Rafa and Alan Curbishley? Please! Who will it be this time? I have seen Mourhino, Mark Hughes and David Moyes mentioned in circles! We are Liverpool for crying out loud, we do not need Chavs, Bluenoses or Mancs running our club.
I have a lot of time for Martin O’Neill and the job he has done at Villa is tremendous but do we really think he can take the extra step and push us on toward the title? Would he being the European Cup back to Anfield? Are we prepared to take the gamble and to start all over again?