Most of my close friends will already know of my dislike of Liverpool as a team, not any major reason just a series of incidents over the years has grown to my dislike, so to see them struggling this season does bring a little smile to my face, people blame zonal marking at set pieces, some people blame the injury situation, to me those things do exist but there is one clear reason that Liverpool are struggling and that is Rafa Benitez.
Before I go into the reasons behind my thinking, I want to make it clear, this is not a biased opinion, being a admirer of Valencia for a few years I was a Rafa fan while he was in charge of Los Ches, this is purely based on his decisions as manager of Liverpool.
I don’t want to hear about the Champions League trophy that Rafa won, that team was not his, and without Harry Kewell getting injured, Dietmar Hamann would not have come on and Liverpool would not have won, that’s my opinion, a stroke a luck perhaps, that team that won has now been ripped apart by Rafa.
If we have a quick look at the team that started that night.
Jerzy Dudek – was hounded out, now playing 2nd string at Real Madrid
Steve Finnan – would walk into the Right Back spot at anfield just now
Sami Hyypia – Liverpool struggling in the air, Sami starting for the Bundesliga table toppers Leverkusen
Djimi Traore – Probably had to leave after the mistake against Burnley was under-rated in my eyes
Xabi Alonso – A Big loss to Liverpool, irreplaceable
Luis Garcia – Big performer in Europe hasn’t achieved a lot since leaving
John Arne Riise – Again would walk into the left back spot even rumours of him coming back
Harry Kewell – Injury prone, doing well now for Galatasaray
Milan Baros – Never really reproduced his international form.
So out of that 11, easily 6 of those players could play a major part in the Liverpool team now and improve the starting 11 and the squad so much, players like Riise, Dudek, Hyypia, would have easily stayed if they had felt wanted.
On the bench you had, Scott Carson, Josemi, Dietmar Hamann, Antonio Nunez, Igor Biscan, Djibril Cisse, and Vladimir Smicer.
Carson had to leave, Hamann and Smicer would be too old for the team now, Biscan never lived up to expectations, however Nunez and Josemi sum up a lot of Rafa’s transfer work, POINTLESS, Nunez was a very poor player, 63 games for Real Madrid B, not exactly Premiership quality, and Josemi did ok for Liverpool but they had better players already there.
Of the starting XI only 2 of those players were Rafa Benitez signings, It was not his managerial genius that won that trophy, Liverpool had good luck on their side, played some good football at times, but in the end, Milan threw away that trophy.
I could easily spend the next few minutes writing and discussing every player Rafa has bought and sold, however that would take far too long, so here is a quick list broken into 4 sections
Jose Manuel Reina
Andrei Voronin (I know a freebie but you still have to pay him wages)
Mark GonzalezBAD SALES
John Arne Riise
From making that list the little good buys he has had have turned out great Torres and Alonso say it all, but there are so many people that you see come in and go straight back out, and have added nothing at all to the team.
Then there are players like Ryan Babel who have big reputations and a lot of potential but in my eyes had it stifiled by Rafa, played constantly out of position and made to feel worthless, many managers would have love to work with Babel’s raw talents and could have made him much much more, Rafa tried to turn a Centre Forward that liked to drift and play left, into some kind of Left or Right midfielder, to me this is bad football management.
The man has baffled me with so many decisions that it’s hard to remember all of them, I remember 2 seasons ago, they had a tough away trip to Portsmouth then a relegation side at home, and Rafa rested people like Gerrard for the away trip and played full strength at Anfield, of course they won the home game but dropped points away, In my opinion, the home game is much easier so an ideal situation to rest first team players and still win, and play a stronger team away against a tricky opponent, the constant rotation of players never helped anyone, made the players unsure of their position, players like to feel wanted, and if you get dropped, even if your told it’s rotation, it will still hurt your confidence.
This leads onto my next point, the criticism of Zonal marking, I am under no illusion that this system hasn’t worked this year, but I’m sure teams not playing zonal marking at set pieces have lost goals aswell, so it’s not fully to blame and this is one thing I will back Rafa up with, however he has not helped the situation, in the zonal system players need to attack the ball, and the Liverpool defence have not done this all season, players are just watching the ball leaving the responsibilities to others, this needs to be addressed by the manager.
Zonal marking works when the people involved do their job properly, and only the manager can see this and then address it.
The last point I will make concerns the squad he has at his disposal this season, for a top 4 team and on of the biggest in Europe, they squad is unbeleiveably thin, They can’t even fill a first XI with quality players, Lucas, Degen, Krygiakos, Dossena, Riera, have all been used recently and all 5 would struggle to find a place in Man Utd, Chelsea or Arsenals squad nevermind the first team.
Benitez has been in charge since 2004 and has spent £228 million and in that time he has effectively built a 2 man squad, without Gerrard or Torres, Liverpool struggle to trouble any teams and will never win or challenge for the league with 2 quality players, Look at Man Utd, with the strikers alone, if Rooney gets injured they can still play Berbatov and Owen upfront, not the same at Anfield, when Torres gets injured it’s Andrei Voronin or David N’Gog not exactly the same level of cover.
Any manager that has spent that kinda of money needs to have a stronger squad, and it comes down to bad decisions, now they sit on the brink of elimination from the Champions League and look as if they could finish outside the Top 4, which was unthinkable years ago, and what can the Liverpool chairman and board do about this, Nothing, they can’t afford to sack Rafa as the compensation is more than they can afford, so it would take Benitez himself to announce his resignation and walk away, and that might be what it takes to save the club.