So yet again its more of the same from Rafa, 1-0 up, sit back, defend, and watch the other team get a late equaliser yet again.
It’s the same old story, we haven’t progressed, and the few lucky breaks we got at the start of the season against Man United, Wigan and Man City seem a long time ago. At that stage we were raving that Liverpool and Benitez had finally got it right and that we were winning games late on that in previous seasons we would have drew or threw away completely, we were well on the way to having a real go at the league title for the first time in over 18 years.
Fast-forward to the draws at Anfield against Stoke, Fulham and Hull City, we should be burying teams like this by knocking three or four past them like our title rivals have done. It’s all fair and good to say that they put up a fight but a team of Liverpool’s quality should only see this temporary inconvenience and goes on to outclass them and get the win. It’s what title winners do and so far its were we have fell flat on our faces, while the rest of the Premiership laughs at our vain attempts at calling ourselves title challengers.
Then comes the Christmas period were we come through on top with a respectable draw at Arsenal and emphatic wins over Bolton at home and Newcastle away. Some of our best football was played in this period, with Rafa being in the stands as a result of his kidney stone operations, with Sammy Lee being the man on the touchline. I don’t think its any coincidence that this is the case, with a motivator like Lee down there encouraging the players and relaying Rafa’s messages we seem to play better. Of course it could just be a coincidence but if you were a player would you not get a little distanced by Rafa’s almost constant arm flapping from the sidelines, Jermaine Pennant may have had a point when he said half the players don’t understand Rafa.
Now to the man himself, Benitez the so-called man to restore league glory to Liverpool, has he gone crazy? Many would think so given his recent behaviour, team selections, substitutions etc. He is such a stubborn man to admit his mistakes, he is effectively costing us the title. Take his new contract, he wants more control over transfers, therefore rejects a contract offer, fair enough but there’s no reason to drag his personal issues with the owners into the dressing room. It seems to be that Robbie Keane wasn’t Rafa’s choice and was made by the board, still, that’s no reason to treat someone as badly as Rafa has treat him. Rafa needs to take one for the team and rather than behaving like a child, to me his treatment of Keane is underline his desire to be in full control of transfers (something he as the manager should be in charge of). In other words he saying ‘˜Ok seeing as you signed Keane here is how I’m going to treat him and it is what I will keep doing until I get my way.’ Keane obviously has to take up some of the slack too but his confidence must be shot pieces by Rafa, as a player who thrives on confidence its ridiculous what Rafa has done, its like asking someone climb up a mountain to get a prize only to kick them back down again half-way.
Looking at the Wigan game is were it has finally been the nail in the coffin for me and Benitez. Complete lunacy would pretty much sum up Benitez’s management of this game. Let’s start with the line-up, no Robbie Keane but Lucas Levia is on? Give me a break, the lad has done effectively nothing since coming to Liverpool more often than not he makes wee five yard passes to the left or right rarely does he look to make a forward pass or take a shot on, and he’s supposed to be a box-to-box midfielder. People make the comments that he’s only young but there are players the same age and younger who are a lot better than him and played in the Premiership for less time.
Why on earth not start our consistently best player this season Xabi Alonso? Play him, get the game won then put Lucas on leaving Xabi well rested for the next game. We need to play our best XI every game Wigan is just as important as Chelsea, Benitez must surely have to realise that.
Now, I’m not using Lucas as a scapegoat as he gave away the penalty, he should never have had to be making that challenge, the defence wasn’t organised enough, and they were all too close together and diagonally placed rather than straight. The same goes for the foul that lead to the Everton goal in the previous league game, Yossi Benayoun should have never been made to make that tackle had the defenders been doing their job.
As for the wingers in the game Benayoun and Babel, cant really complain to much about Benayoun as he got the goal and looked about the only player up for the game, but Ryan Babel, I hoped for so much more from his the fire that he had last season seems to have gone, that or defenders are just wise to his ‘˜run, step-over, cut inside right and have a crack’ method. Totally ineffective, and what does Rafa do? Keeps him on and brings off Torres who was off the pace but still the only man bar Gerrard who could come up with a bit of brilliance to secure the points, and to follow Rafa brings off Gerrard for Keane once Wigan levelled it up because ‘˜Steven was tired.’ I don’t know about you but if I was a professional footballer getting paid thousands of pounds a week I think I could find it within myself to stay on the pitch for another seven minutes. But yet Rafa throws on Keane expecting a miracle, which isn’t going to happen. And thus concludes an evening of despair, United sit pretty at the top two points clear with a game at hand, Chelsea leapfrog us and Aston Villa creep within one point.
People may see this as a knee-jerk but have had these views on Benitez for a while, since late last season when I really started to ask major questions of him. Liverpool should have been sitting comfortably on top of the pile had Benitez got it right, the sickening thing is Alex Ferguson got it right, Liverpool will buckle under the pressure, it wont last, Utd will win the title. So far, he’s right and Rafa’s ‘˜rant’ only served as vehicle for Rafa to make a fool of himself, of whom I’m sure Ferguson duly enjoyed.
Still its early days and we are still very much in the mix, but its time Rafa owned up to his own shortcomings and that of the team, he says he is happy with the squad, how can he be? Our rivals all have better squads and can make changes without damaging the strength of the team something which we are desperately lacking. I’m not calling for Rafa’s head just yet, hopefully he can turn it around, no time for messing about time to go for the jugular every game from now on in, either that our find ourselves resigned to battling it out with Aston Villa or Everton again for the last Champions League spot. There’s too much negative energy round Anfield at the minute and it needs to change ASAP before our season is completely ruined, cup runs and all.