Post-Wigan Press: Rafa going “crazy”

This is what happens when you don’t kill a game off. Last night’s late equaliser by Wigan was the second time in as many games we’ve left a Premier League victory slip through our hands, and now, instead of sitting top of the league, we’ve dropped down to third. Questions will be raised as to whether Robbie Keane should have been brought on earlier, why Torres was taken off at 1-0 with no out-and-out striker brought on to replace him, and as this morning’s papers testify, whether Liverpool’s season has fizzled out completely’¦

Oliver Kay of The Times looks at the match and realises that it is the sort of game a Championship winning team should be winning. A win even when you’re not playing well. But he sees weaknesses in Liverpool’s ability to hold out for the vital extra two points. And it’s becoming consistant.

This was Liverpool’s seventh draw in their past ten Barclays Premier League matches and, as Benítez made the bewildering decision to take off Steven Gerrard moments after Mido’s goal, it was easy to wonder just what has happened to them over the past couple of months. Benítez has been talking and behaving increasingly erratically, his calm exterior serving only to compound the impression of a man who is feeling severe pressure under the surface, but, as in the previous league match at home to Everton nine days earlier, his team would have won ‘” won ugly, but won all the same ‘” had it not been for fundamental lapses of concentration and errors of judgment in the closing stages.

Jon Culley of The Independent looks at Rafa Benitez’s post-match comments, describing the game as ‘˜crazy’.

In an extraordinary outburst, punctuated by his repeated use of the word “crazy” in a way that will not help the popular perception of his current state of mind among fans of Liverpool’s rivals, Benitez refused to be specific about who or what he perceives to be undermining his team, although in a cryptic reference to Sir Alex Ferguson he appeared to be revisiting his recent gripe about what he feels is the Manchester United manager’s excessive influence.

Culley casts his doubts over whether Benitez does actually have what it takes to lead Liverpool to Premier League glory this season.

It raised more questions about Benitez’s judgement and tactics yet the Liverpool manager, clearly feeling the pressure as another attempt to secure the side’s first title for 19 years threatens to unravel, insisted afterwards that forces beyond his control were conspiring against his team.

Alan Nixon of the Daily Mirror also emphasises the importance of Benitez’s post-match slur, questioning whether Rafa’s lost the plot.

The Spaniard has been a target for chants of ‘he’s cracking up’ since his blast at Sir Alex Ferguson and last night that seemed to be the case in a bizarre press conference after Liverpool dropped to third in the title race.

The Kop chief was unhappy with some refereeing decisions and hinted at Fergie’s influence over officials still being a factor. But he made little sense at all in his latest outburst.

Chris Wheeler of the Daily Mail suggests Keane might as well have stayed at home and watched it all on the telly.

Not quite enough to give Wigan that long-awaited win against one of the Big Four clubs, but more than enough to inflict another damaging blow to Benitez and his beleaguered players. ‘Crazy’ was how the Liverpool boss rather curiously described it afterwards. Keane would surely agree.

All these questions over Benitez’ credentials are ridiculous. He is the man to lead us that long-awaited Premier League title. But we need to keep the faith. Yes, there’s plenty of reasons to be negative right now, but there’s also just as many reasons to be positive. We’re by no means out of the title race. We sit two points behind the leaders with a long way to go, and a chance to rejuvenate the season on Sunday with the visit of Chelsea.