Rafa shouldn’t go, but he should be accountable

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I’ll cut to the chase early on, I completely support the manager and the bigger picture is that there are two other people in the club who need removing as a matter of urgency rather than Rafa.

I’ve supported Rafa’s spending in the past, his transfer record and numerous other media-produced criticisms which are thrown his way.

Some of the less intelligent fans seem to be moaning about the following things today;

a) that Aquilani didn’t come on earlier last night; We were winning, why would you take off a defensive midfielder to replace one with an attacking midfielder for their European debut for the club when 1-0 up in a must-win match?

b) that Dossena came on for Aurelio; Seriously, get a grip. It was a time-wasting tactic, as was Aquilani coming on when he did, and was like-for-like. Those who think Aquilani should have come on instead would have been well justified if we’d have gone and conceded after changing our shape to accommodate him.

I’m not saying Rafa shouldn’t be accountable for our ‘demise’ though and there are a few things seriously wrong.

The biggest example of what I feel is wrong with Benitez and his mentality is the deployment of two defensive midfielders against the likes of Debrecen – a team who have never won in the Champions League and struggled to string two consecutive passes together on the night.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

I’m not having a go against Lucas here either, who has been improved this season, but as well as he may have played lately, he adds nothing positive to the side – especially going forward. He doesn’t actually create anything or inspire the team, and on the odd occasion he does get in the box he either fluffs a header or a shot. He doesn’t add anything to the team. He isn’t required against a team of Debrecen’s quality (nor against lower sides in the League).

Rafa needs to show some some guts and actually make some ruthless decisions – something he was so good at in his first few seasons at the club. Thesedays even the under-performing players (Kuyt) are assured of their place. The Dutchman has been undroppable despite adding nothing, much like Lucas, in the shape of goals or assists. Our side has too many grafters, waterboys, call them what you like, we simply lack creativity in every department. Our most creative player last night was probably Agger – our bloody centre back.

Looking at the Aquilani situation, I can understand why he hasn’t started yet, but I just don’t agree with it. He’s not going to gain match fitness any other way. Fair enough, a game as important as last night (could have been) isn’t ideal to give the lad his first start.

It’s the derby on Sunday, another tough match I doubt we’ll see Aquilani start in. Although I’d be pleasantly surprised if he did start, it would send out a signal not only to the opposition but also our players – give some of them some inspiration and maybe the kick up the backside others need.

It seems Rafa, given that he won’t drop Kuyt, cannot accommodate Aquilani at the moment as he is too scared to drop Lucas or Mascherano and leave our fragile back four even more exposed. The solution for me would be to drop (rest) Kuyt, move Gerrard to the right – with the freedom to interchange with Benayoun on the left – and Aquilani in his natural position behind the forward. That attacking trio inspires me much more than those we’ve been fielding of late.

I’d also like to see Insua rested and give Aurelio back at left back but that’s another story.

I don’t expect any of that to happen though, Rafa’s stubbornness is becoming his ultimate downfall so he’ll continue with Kuyt and two defensive midfielders. Hopefully we’ll grind out a win against Everton, that’s all we can hope for thesedays – grinding out wins as we won’t be dismantling anyone until Torres returns and Gerrard gets his act together.

The thing is though, even if we won the Europa League, the FA Cup and finished fourth – it would still be the first time under Rafa we hadn’t progressed from one season to the next.

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