Gillett & Hicks – Benitez’s saving grace?

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I’ve been pondering writing this article for some time now, whether now is the right time ill never know, but I’ve completely lost my patience and faith in the man who I used to believe would finally lead Liverpool Football Club to that elusive number 19.

Not any more he won’t. Not in my eyes. No matter what happens.

The common opinion is that Tom Hicks and George Gillett are Liverpool’s biggest problem right now – rightly so. But from Rafa Benitez’s point of view, they are his saving grace, because had our ownership situation been more stable the pressure on Benitez would be at least double fold and he’d have been long gone under a good ownership.

I wrote after the Reading match that I doubted he would ever be able to ‘turn it around’ and nothing I’ve seen since has made me think otherwise.

Let’s face it, we’re talking about a man who failed to motivate his players (no matter the financial restraints, these are his players and his squad) to beat a struggling Championship side over not just 90 minutes, not just 180 minutes but 210 minutes. Scoring only from a cross that luckily went in and a deflected own goal.

A manager that has led his team to defeats against some of the most struggling sides in the league at Portsmouth, Sunderland and Wigan, and trudged away with draws at fellow strugglers Wolves and Stoke. Add in defeats to Fulham and in Europe to Fiorentina (twice), Lyon and Lille.

For all I wish Rafa could turn things around, there’s no chance of it happening. Nothing that happens on the pitch has inspired me to think otherwise and clearly nothing Rafa has done has inspired the players to think otherwise, or for them to behave otherwise.

Whether it be Rafa’s handling of the Aquilani situation, his failure to blood Stephen Darby or Martin Kelly in Glen Johnson’s absence, his insistence in playing Carragher and Mascherano out of position in Johnson’s absence, his persistence with Insua (even when Aurelio has been fit), his treatment of Babel by dropping him after he’s been one of few players to show any desire, his blind faith in Kuyt… the list goes on and on.

Back in the good old days Benitez used to mock Jose Mourinho for throwing Robert Huth up front in the dying moments of a game, nowadays (Wigan on Monday) it’s Rafa throwing Kyrgiakos up front and pumping long balls up to him.

Back in the old days, the fans had faith in Benitez because he’d showed tactical acumen by outwitting the best teams in Europe, nowadays he can’t outwit a team in the Europa League never mind the Champions League.

Back in the old days Benitez would be ruthless by dropping (even selling) players who didn’t make the grade, nowadays it’s the blind faith in Dirk Kuyt, Lucas Leiva, Emiliano Insua and failure to provide adequate back up to Fernando Torres that has seen his squad so poorly exposed.

Back in the old days, Xabi Alonso would pull the strings while Javier Mascherano would eliminate the threats, thus complimenting each other perfectly. Nowadays it’s sideways passes that look great in statistics but fail to show the lack of cutting edge and lack of ability to get the ball forward at pace and before the opposition have time to react.

Some may say we overachieved last season, but the truth be told we actually missed our best opportunity to win that elusive Premier League title due to the manager’s reluctance to go for a win. This season that has doubled by settling for a draw before the game has even started – aiming to avoid defeat ahead of aiming to go for the win. No wonder Spurs, Man City and Villa are rubbing their hands.

At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky… not that we will be seeing it any time soon.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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