The Future Of Rafael Benitez & Liverpool Football Club
Well, as a Liverpool supporter this is an issue close to my heart and after the last 2 defeats (to Chelsea & Atletico Madrid) as I write this my team have virtually no chance of finishing anywhere above 6th, which for a great club like Liverpool is, in all honesty, a disgrace. This season may have further ramifications on the future than most people realize. This looks like equalling or at least coming close to being our worst season since 1998/1999 when we had the co-managers (Houllier & Evans) finished 7th in the league.
It is clear that mistakes have been made, and huge ones at that, but in my view, there are a few entities that need to be blamed. Of course, the manager is one of those who has to be held accountable. Mr. Benitez has claimed recently that he hasn't had the financial backing of our owners Gillette & Hicks, although we must remember that Fernando Torres (currently one of the best strikers we've had since Robbie Fowler) was brought in during their tenure and also over Rafa's 6 years in charge he has spent around £200m. Buying the right players is crucial in this day and age as people expect progress instantly, and that includes chairmen and owners. The manager is the person who sorts out the tactics and is under immense pressure to get things right, but that's why he's paid good money to do what he does, and in Rafa's case this rings especially true after he negotiated a very lucrative 5 year deal for himself by basically holding the owners to ransom. Now, in my view, if you guarantee things (for example 4th place, which Rafa did guarantee), you have to put up or shut up and this season for whatever reason, whether it be poor man-management, poor tactics, or poor motivational skills, Rafa has not delivered. Let's take a step back in time, the Gareth Barry saga. It was a disgrace when we had a center midfielder as good as Xabi Alonso and Rafa was trying to go for Barry who in my view isn't anywhere near as good. Letting Alonso go along with Arbeloa (both of whom were standout players last season) was a huge mistake. You can't build a successful team by selling off your best players, and in retrospect, it looks even worse. Glen Johnson is a quality right-back, no doubt, but if we'd had him and Arbeloa, we would have been so much stronger at the back this season, and considering we've been blighted by injuries at the back this season, it would have been fantastic to have that caliber of cover. Alberto Aquilani, for me, the jury is still out on him as we've seen flashes of brilliance from him at times when he's played, but a combination of injury and Rafa playing him intermittently when he was fit has made £20m look like somewhat of a waste of money, again, the manager has to take responsibility for this. A manager lives and dies by the decisions he makes and the players he buys but this season when changes needed to be made, our manager seemed like he didn't have the balls to do it. In games such as against Wolves away (0-0), Stoke away (1-1 draw), Wigan away (1-0 defeat) we needed more attacking impetus but we seemed toothless upfront and Rafa seemed like he didn't want to gamble anything to try and get the win, which is frustrating at best. What strikes me as most weird is the fact that we did so well last year (2008/2009) and we've done so badly this year which brings me nicely onto the players.
The players have a huge cross to bear for how things go out on the pitch as they are the ones who perform on it. A lot of our players have underperformed this season, Gerrard being one, Babel being another until his Twitter outburst which resulted in him being transfer listed, which then resulted in him picking up his game, Carragher looked poor in the 1st half of the season and Insua has been shocking at times (vs Man United at Old Trafford being the most glaring example) but in general this season it's been poor. Strength in depth is a problem for us, but the players at the club have to give 100% and a lot of players look like they haven't been doing that. Injury has had its part to play but is not entirely an excuse. On the flip side, as mentioned Babel picked up his game in the 2nd half of the season and Kyrgiakos has been a bargain for £1.5m, but my player of the season, and this is a worrying indictment of how poor our season has been, but my player of the season has been Lucas Leiva. In previous seasons he's been shockingly bad but over the course of this season, he seems to have improved immensely. Against Wigan at the DW Stadium, the team was shockingly bad and as much as i love Steven Gerrard as a player, it was probably the worst performance from him that I've seen in a Liverpool shirt. A lot of people say we are a 2 man team but that would be disrespectful to Pepe Reina as he is a world-class goalkeeper. Players are paid thousands of pounds to perform and we've paid millions of pounds for these players and they need their performances to match their price tags and in the case of guys like Ryan Babel, they need to perform well and live up to the potential they have. Rafa is right that we need 5 new quality players to compete, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that we could do with a new left-back, right-back, 2 natural wingers, and a quality striker.
The owners, now, these guys do have some responsibility for what goes on out on the pitch as they provide the funds to buy players, but it seems like these two haven't done much more than break promises on a constant basis and run the club into £270m of debt. Currently, and it hurts me to say this, but we have a clown show upstairs, and with the turmoil in the boardroom with offers being made for the club and the owners squabbling with each other does not help anything, and another thing that doesn't help is way in which the owners have let these squabbles go public which is distracting to the players, and if you are distracted playing football, you won't be playing at full capacity.
The sale of Liverpool needs to happen quickly and the mistakes of last time need to be learned. We have to sell to someone who loves the club and doesn't just see it as a catalyst for profit. Gillette and Hicks have shown on numerous occasions that neither they nor their immediate family loves the club (especially one of their sons after the clash with the Spirit of Shankly group). On a personal note, I'm glad Martin Broughton has been brought in by Christian Purslow to help sell the club, Broughton (from what I've read up about him) is a shrewd businessman and does not make stupid or ill-informed fiscal decisions and the fact that he has been a Chelsea supporter for most of his life will have conspiracy theorists rubbing their hands with glee, but he wasn't brought in because of his footballing allegiances, he was brought in for his fiscal savvy. As stated previously this sale needs to happen quickly as the quicker new owners are found, then the quicker we can earmark potential transfer targets and the quicker we can get other things done, such as tying down important players down to new contracts, and if Rafa decided to leave, then the quicker we can find a good quality replacement for him.
In closing I'd like to end with a quote which I believe that Liverpool FC must take heed of, 'Those who don't learn from the past are condemned to repeat it
I'm The Straight Shootin' One, And that's my opinion!!!
Straight Shootin' LJA