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Benitez faces biggest test

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Phil McNulty | 23:47 UK time, Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Rafael Benitez wore the haunted look of a man who had just heard the first sounds of revolt inside Anfield - a loud and clear signal that pressure is mounting on Liverpool's manager.

Benitez, even in his times of greatest turbulence, has always been able to call on the unswerving support of the majority of Liverpool's fans, with many even prepared to take to the streets in a show of loyalty when life got tough.

So it was a moment of some significance and a sign of the times when Benitez was the target for Anfield's anger during the Champions League defeat against Lyon, a reverse that threatens their long-term ambitions in the tournament and capped their worst sequence of results since April 1987.

When Benitez inexplicably removed Liverpool's most dangerous performer, goalscorer Yossi Benayoun, and sent on Andriy Voronin with five minutes remaining and the game poised at 1-1, Anfield reverberated to the sound of patience snapping as jeers rang out.

Lyon punished this flawed logic as Cesar Delgado rounded off a depressing evening by sliding in a stoppage-time winner - to leave Benitez facing the biggest test of his five-year Liverpool reign.

Rafael Benitez substitutes Yossi BenayounBenitez was booed for his decision to substitute Benayoun

Benitez cut a sombre, unsettled figure as he conducted his post-match briefing, looking as downcast as he has at any time during his Anfield tenure. Off the pace in the Premier League and struggling in the Champions League, the voices of discontent will only get louder unless the slide is arrested quickly.

He is not accustomed to the sort of noisy public dressing down he received from Liverpool's fans, explaining that Benayoun was tired and he wanted "fresh legs and quality" - not attributes immediately obvious in the journeyman Voronin.

It was a baffling move and while Liverpool's followers are notoriously slow to voice displeasure against any manager, this time it was understandable - the first serious sign of dissent Benitez has faced and an obvious indicator that all is not well at Anfield.

Benitez has made a habit of pulling off results when his back has been pushed firmly against the wall - and how he needs Liverpool to do it again for him on Sunday when Manchester United come calling at Anfield.

Victory, and Liverpool must now draw on memories of their double over United last season, and suddenly Benitez's status would be repaired. All at Anfield would feel better about the season and themselves.

Defeat, which would open up a 10-point gap between the clubs, would have those of us who tipped Liverpool for the title sticking our heads in the stocks awaiting the arrival of the rotten tomatoes. It would also leave Benitez in the uncomfortable and unforgiving environment of having to attempt crisis management.

Benitez has taken Liverpool to the Champions League precipice before and pulled back, but this defeat lands them in desperate trouble and the consequences of failure to reach the last 16, both in a football and financial context, are almost too dire to contemplate.

Liverpool co-owner George Gillett was in town on Tuesday and he will not need to be told that his chances of successfully wooing new investors will be damaged considerably by a drop into the Europa League.

Benitez can offer up some mitigating circumstances and it would do him a personal injustice not to list them.

Liverpool were already without Fernando Torres even before Glen Johnson pulled out before kick-off with a groin injury and after 25 minutes of ambling around looking patently unfit, captain and major hope of salvation Steven Gerrard limped off with a recurrence of his groin injury.

Johnson's youthful replacement Martin Kelly was excellent, although it is a sad fact that he will inevitably be shunted back to Anfield's margins when the England defender is fit.

And the spirit an under-strength Liverpool showed for much of the evening was commendable. It was not a shortage of effort that undermined Benitez's side.

But Liverpool's resolve waned ominously once Maxime Gonalons levelled Benayoun's opener and the lack of top quality when you scratch beneath the surface of Benitez's main players became painfully obvious.

Lyon grew in confidence and self-belief as Liverpool's drained away visibly. It was not simply a lack of quality, it was a lack of confidence. The pain of defeat, and of this wretched run, was etched grimly on Jamie Carragher's face as he made his way around the Anfield pitch an hour after the final whistle.

This was the season when Liverpool set their sights on ending Manchester United's supremacy after a magnificent end to the last campaign - there is still time but every performance raises fresh doubts.

The cynics who accuse Benitez of spending five years assembling a two-man team are harsh, but no-one can escape the huge reliance on Torres and Gerrard. It is a misfortune on the scale of seeing a beach ball tuck away the opposition's winning goal that they are both struggling again with injury at the same time.

And while it is fashionable to sling mud in the direction of Gillett and co-owner Tom Hicks when looking to locate Liverpool's ills, they should not be used as a permanent shield to protect Benitez from criticism.

Injuries aside, it was hard to justify Benitez's decision to play David Ngog against Lyon. He is a promising youngster who looks short of top class - so why not use experienced international Dirk Kuyt up front or even Ryan Babel, who could not get a look in from the bench?

Has Babel's star fallen so far since his arrival as an £11m player of rich promise? It would appear so.

And when a change was being considered, surely the removal of Ngog would have made more sense than the unpopular withdrawal of Benayoun? This is not an attack on Ngog, simply a belief that Benitez had better options to explore and failed to do so.

It also emphasised Liverpool's lack of attacking quality behind Torres.

Michael Owen will spend Sunday lunchtime being accused of gross treachery and disloyalty at Anfield for joining the sworn enemy Manchester United. Nonsense of course. Owen would have happily joined Liverpool had they wanted him but they did not -and on a free transfer he looks a better bet for goals than Voronin and Ngog.

Alberto Aquilani may get a reserve team outing against Sunderland on Wednesday, but Benitez now faces the unpalatable prospect of finally being able to call on his biggest summer signing, the replacement for the lamented Xabi Alonso, only after serious damage has been inflicted on their prospects of success at home and abroad.

Benitez's predecessor Gerard Houllier was in attendance at Anfield on Tuesday watching two former clubs, looking in good health and being warmly received by supporters.

Houllier knows only too well the weight of Anfield expectation, his past successes meant nothing when he was sacked in 2004 after only finishing fourth in the Premier League.

There is no suggestion Benitez's job is under threat - nor should it be with the season only in its infancy and having been handed a new five-year contract just months ago.

And his escapologist's knack of conjuring up exactly what is required to manouevre his way out of hazardous situations means it would be folly to underestimate him.

Manchester United will be a test for Benitez but also an opportunity - he will know a win on Sunday could spark life into Liverpool's season.

But the outbreak of unrest at Anfield against Lyon, almost unheard of in the Benitez era, must also tell the manager that Liverpool's campaign has already reached a critical point.

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Comments

Page 1 of 6

  • Comment number 1.

    The cynics who accuse Benitez of spending five years assembling a two-man team are harsh.

    Why is it harsh Phil? the man has signed apx 67 players during his reign and has sold apx the same figure there is no question that this is his squad and it just isn't good enough.

    On my accumulator at the weekend i instantly put Sunderland to win (aswell as a side bet at 7/2) as soon as the news Torres and Gerrard were out, i would not have done this had they been fit!!! this says it all about Liverpools team/squad.

    They have the weakest squad of the so called "top four" and at the end of this season everyone will see the result of that as Liverpool will be nowhere near the top four.

  • Comment number 2.

    Cant understand why he would spend such a huge fee on an injured player.
    I can see us getting beaten by man utd on Sunday,but Benitez wont resign or get sacked because of his new contract he signed.So i fear that we will just have to grin and bear a poor season

  • Comment number 3.

    Phil i would like you to answer if you stick by your pre season tip that this was liverpools season to win the league?

    A lot of pundits made the same prediction and are looking very silly!

  • Comment number 4.

    Cue the Liverpool fans slating Phil for talking about their demise.....................

    Phil, I have a question. When are the "pundits" that consistently predict Liverpool will win the title going to wake up?

    Last year was the only time in the history of the Premier League that they have still had a realistic chance at Christmas and they still managed to bottle it. Surely if they lose on Sunday Rafa has to go, despite you saying that his job is not under threat. I think even his biggest fans are starting to accept that.

  • Comment number 5.

    Punched miles above their weight last season, and offered Rafa a big new contract extension which will cost them further debt when he finally gets fired. Amazing they offered him the deal when his decision making cost them the easiest title opprtunity in years...

    Cannot argue with Champions League win but if it wasn't for that he has to go down as one of the most overrated and poor managers Liverpool have had. So much money, so little quality, awful tactics, ridiculous fans who can never admit how poor they are and have been.....

    Hopefully, missing out on Champ League and the rise of Man City will stop the joke of guarenteed big four millions and put this club back a few years in line with the style of football they play...

  • Comment number 6.

    There Phil.
    This article looks like you had it written for some time. All you had to do was fill in the blanks. Your glee (either at Benitez or at Liverpool as a club-not sure which) as a fan is quite understandable but as a BBC journalist is less so.
    But hey. Enjoy.
    As a longstanding Liverpool fan since 1961, I can only hope that the American ownership era is coming to an end soon. With proper investment (rather than empty promises) and a new stadium we would have been able to avoid all of the false dawns with G&H.
    The first thing before all of that is to get out of this run of bad results.
    A perfect time would be this weekend.

  • Comment number 7.

    Ulstermax the £5million we spent up front is not a huge amount for a player like Aquilani.

    Yossi off was dumb and the boos should be a kick up the arse which, frankly, he deserves... Voronin on was the right move, Babel doesn't turn up when needed at least Voronin can hold up the ball, the lack of presence up front was our problem. I think we need a strong target man brought in as cover in January. My pick would be Adriano, should be available on loan as he wants to come to Europe to help his World Cup push.

  • Comment number 8.

    Just looks like the team is devoid of ideas and confidence at the moment, was a poor performance again, to be fair Lyon were very good but we made them look like Barcelona at times. It seems that we lack leaders on the field all over and even though the old arugument that we dont play well withour Gerrard and Torres, lets be fair we havent been playing well with them.

    I dont think Rafa will be sacked even if Liverpool lose on Sunday but no doubt the man will be under the most intense spotlight. If they do sack him than its going to be like paying for a major signing as Rafa has a 5 year contract - and we all know the money is not there. Also who would step in - again it would have to be a manager out of work, as again Liverpool would have to pay compensation - more money they dont have.

    Sunday is a major test for everyone at LFC and it in a strange way perhaps we couldnt ask for a better game at home rather than going away to somewhere like Stoke or Fulham. Its a test of commitment and character and will show if the players still back Rafa.

  • Comment number 9.

    As a Lincoln City supporter I regularly have to endure ribbing from so called fans that follow Premiership clubs. I can categorically say that Liverpool fans are the worst. The vast majority are vile and totally blind to the faults of their club and delight at insulting clubs who are less fortunate than themselves.

    So watching a woeful Liverpool team was a pure delight! They looked totally clueless and predictable as they did against Sunderland as well. This is not a blip in form, Liverpool are in real trouble. Their only good results have been against the teams that are towards the bottom of the table. In the Second division this is normally a pre-cursor towards mid table mediocrity something my team specialise in!

    And may I say as a neutral, it could not happen to a better team.



  • Comment number 10.

    Shocked, disappointed and actually upset believe it or not.

    Rafa Benitez,is a very sound tactician but his team selection is the most baffling i have ever seen.

    ok, Johnson was injured so he used Kelly, yes he played well and the gamble payed off BUT the baffling thing for me is, is that he still bought Kelly off for Skrtel to push Carragher right back, Now that is a ridiculous substition.. IF he had started with Carragher right back and Skrtel in the middle of defence alongside Agger from start then Liverpool would not have wasted there sub, it was a pointless substituted bringing Kelly off for Skrtel, it did not nothing, what was the point in that sub??surely a sub is to change games - this didnt!

    And then we come to Ngog, now, i disagree with you Phil, he is NOT a promising youngster, Wayne Rooney at Everton was a promising youngster, not Ngog, he is simply not good enough, especially in a must win Champions League match, where is the logic?? Babel should have started, simple as that, he has pace and is very unpredictable but he has flashes of brilliance and that could have been key, not one dimensional Ngog whgo offers nothing.

    And then, Steven Gerrard, was he fit to start really?? and then again the substition baffled me, he brings on Aurelio, who actually played well, but is NOT a central / attacking midfielder, he is a Left back, if anything why not Spearing who STARTED against sunderland!! its baffling and frustrating!! or bring Babel on for Gerrard and go 4-4-2.

    And then AGAIN.. Benayoun, a tricky, skillful very dangerous player, who can create and make something happen, but nope, lets bring him off, WHY?? and Rafas excuse, he was tired.. tired.. a professional footballer tired after 80mins - shocking excuse..!!!

    Next up we have Manchester United, what will be the team selection i wonder.. im dreading Benitez's thought process from now till sunday.. I hope he plays our strongest 11 available, no 3 at the back or inexperienced youngsters, just our best 11 available. Otherwise i can see us losing comfortably and a certain Michael Owen scoring to add insult to injury.

    As much as ive been a fan of Rafa i think LFC needs a new life, and a new start.

    SORT IT OUT or GET OUT!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Am i loving this,it could not happen to a nicer team and bunch of fans !!!!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    I have never rated him as a top class manager, and when he refused to have Owen back this summer just confirms everything I have thought for a few years now. It is a 2 man team right now.

  • Comment number 13.

    After 12 years of having my season ticket this team is worse than any I can remember. Im not doubting we have good players, if all are fit we have a strong 11 but soon as one or two of them are missing the players coming in are not good enough, these players - degen £0 - Dossena £7M - Lucas £6M (the worse player I have ever seen consistently play for the club) - Veronin £0 - Ngog £1.5M - Babbel £11.5M - Plessis £1m - Kyrigiatos £2M - (does anyone know why he was bought?) and our deadly striking right winger who works hard, Kuyt - £10m. There's £40M spent right there on awful players, Rafa hasa to take the blame for this.

    Even if we were bought out and the new owners gave him £100m to spend and ask him who he wanted to spend it on. I bet 4 out of the 5 players mentioned no one will have never heard of.

    I see he is blaming injuries for the current shocking form, what he might like to think about that all the players in the first team squad apart from SG and JC he has brought to the club. - Enough said.

    Your time is up Rafa, save face and leave, wherever you go next you owe us £6M for the only non footballing Brazilian to walk on this planet - truely truely one of the worst footballers I have ever seen.

  • Comment number 14.

    Of the English teams I have always followed Liverpool, and in the last few seasons tipped them for the title or at least have hoped that they could do it. Even before the start of this season I said there was no way they could win it this year. There's no getting past the fact, that everyone knows, that you take Torres and Gerrard out and there's nothing there.

    Top 4 place is seriously in threat this year. I think Man City are a cert to break in this year.

    I think looking at Benitez's time overall, the only reason he's been given so long was the miraculous win against Milan. His signings are laughable, and consistently makes terrible decisions during matches. His time will be up soon.

  • Comment number 15.

    It was obvious to me last year Liverpool had too many players who were not up to scratch, Babel, Lucas, to some degree Kuyt. From this they loose there best player from last year, get someone injured whois still unproven......and people think they will challenge for the title!?!

    Rafa has long been an average manager and without past heroics, usually from Gerrard, he would have been found out long ago.

  • Comment number 16.

    I am more concerned about our owners than I am about Rafa. Rafa and the team will come good, our present owners never will. As for Babel, he hasn't the heart, brains or the determination to ever make it at a top club, but I have no doubt he has the skill and pace to be a success elsewhere.

    The biggest mistake Rafa made was selling Alonso and replacing him with a player who was injured, and thinking we could manage till he was fit. If we had bought Barry we wouldn't be in this situation now.

  • Comment number 17.

    Last season, rafa hijacked their excellent run in the league to continualy demand a new contract and as soon as he got his wish it has gone down hill. I see now that he new Alonso was off and he wouldn't be able to mount the same challange this season; so good politics on his behalf as it will gain him millions for Liverpool to shift him now. Just the way of the modern managers, sort themselves out first, using the fans faith as part of the bargining knowing fans love a successful manager and will always back him.

  • Comment number 18.

    Why was there any confidence at all in Liverpool pushing on from last season? It was quite evident that the team was weakened by the sale of Alonso, arguably better than Gerrard in the middle of the park last year.

    The confidence seems to be coming from having so many ex Liverpool players acting as pundits. At the start of the season they are simply loathe to criticise their ex club even to the point of defying logic. Thus a head of steam is built up over a side that is basically a media creation.

    It is now patently obvious that Liverpool are in all sorts of trouble and are in real danger of being enveloped by the Villas, Spurs and City's of the EPL. The rate of decay that has beset the defence gives no room for confidence that the challenge from these clubs can be resisted.

  • Comment number 19.

    Benitez deserves to struggle with a transfer record as bad as his. Glen Johnson is a good player, but he's a right-back, he's not going to influence games enough to win a title because that's the nature of his position.

    To spend £18 million on him, then £20 million on an injured midfielder who may not cut it in the Premier League is lunacy. You'd understand if he had an extra £50m to spend, but he hasn't. And now it's highlighting the weakness of the squad. Has anybody seen a top 4 midfield as weak as Liverpool's against Sunderland? Also, people say Liverpool are a two-man team and that anybody would miss Gerrard and Torres, and it's true. But whose fault is that for not assembling a better squad?

    I don't buy the argument that Benitez hasn't had money to spend. His list of poor buys such as Pennant, Dossena, Lucas, Degen, Skrtel, Voronin and his unwillingness to give good players a chance, such as Babel and Bellamy when he was there, show how bad he is at transfers and player management.

    I can't see Liverpool threatening on any fronts this season. They must be seriously worrying about the threat of Man City, Spurs and Villa, who have all looked more accomplished sides than Liverpool this season.

  • Comment number 20.

    Those that know me will tell you I have been crying out for Rafa to go for years & after the last few games I am finally incensed enough to write in. The 2005 CL win papered over the cracks & in some ways has held us back.
    He has bought & often paid a lot of money for average, or at times, even awful players (Nunez, Dossena, Gonzalez, Paletta, Kromkamp, Josemi, Pellegrino, Sissoko, Lucas, Voronin, Aurelio, Ngog, Degen, El Zhar, Luis Garcia), didnt improve good established players (Keane, Pennant, Babel, Riera, Finnan) and sold some (mostly English) potential gems that have done well elsewhere - Crouch, Guthrie, Mellor, Kirkland, Warnock (how did we let HIM go?), never mind the contingent of players he cleared out in the early days (Danny Murphy, Heskey, Owen?).
    He appears to be, in my opinion, stubborn & even in the face of failure will not change (zonal marking?), a poor man manager (people will often do more for praise & recognition than money...), a man who wants to control everything, a tinkering man that constantly tweaks things from the sidelines instead of having the faith in his players to know how to change things, the result of which is we appear to have very few leaders on the pitch.
    In my opinion he is far too cautious & when he finally takes the shackles off (normally when it is too late) we play with the flair & creativity that we should do - witness the end of last seasons Premiership campaign... Oh and where are the young local lads coming through into the first team that has been the Liverpool way over the years? Spearing & Kelly are thrown in at the deep end in huge games with only a few, if any, appearances against lesser opposition. And where are the rest after 5 years?
    What will Rafa's legacy be at Liverpool? We have won 2 major cups but under his management we have not won the jewel in the crown - the premiership title. Winning a cup competition is completely different to the consistency needed to win a league title. Sadly, after over 5 years and millions of pounds spent we are even further away than under Houllier... And now at last some of the other fans are starting to see it - the response to Yossi getting taken off last night has been coming for a while. I always thought that it would be a dark day in our history when he renewed his contract earlier this year and I really hope I am not proved right...

  • Comment number 21.

    I have to disagree that Benayoun was liverpools most lively attacking threat, I dont think he did enough to stay on the pitch, for me he flatters to diseve. He should have been the creative threat from midfield but I think he was/is inept.

    As for N'gog, I though he looked lively, he looks like he has a bright future and will only get better with games, and more importantly big games like this.

    Babel has had his chance and has continually let Benitez down, why give him another chance?

    Benitez's signings are the major issue, the squad has a lack of quality. You can solely blame Benitez, but he has had to work in a difficult situation behind the scenes, he's not had the same financial backing as his challengers (united and chelsea) - City, Spurs & even Sunderland can outspend Liverpool.

    Whenever Liverpool have been in trouble in the past, the manager has been given time, and ive the upmost faith in Benitez - over Souness, Evans, and Houllier - to turn it round and put things right.

    Liverpool fans should recognise Benitez's win record, points totals and fact he has challenged for major trophies every year, compare favourably with Paisley and Dalglish and are far better than Fergusons first 5 years at Man Utd.

  • Comment number 22.

    I keep telling myself to keep the faith. Taking Benayoun off last night was a typical under-pressure Benitez move - and I can live with quirks like this, even when they don't pay off.

    What I am struggling with is that the problems we have could be spotted by a blind man - a lack of options out up front, and a complete lack of width - and they have been problems for a while.

    Last night has to be our nadir for this season - defeat on Sunday will kill off our title challenge - and that is not good enough.

    Sacking him is not an option, I think. Quality managers are not waiting on the sidelines, and this is his team - he is the best person to turn things around. For now.

    This feels like 2002 all over again.

  • Comment number 23.

    I've said my Liverpool supporting mate that Benitez will be gone at the end of the season if not before. He has taken them as far as he can go and he is clearly frustrated by the lack of funds available. He can't even compete with mid-table managers who seem to have more money to spend than him. You would thought after finishing second last year the board would have backed him in getting the players needed to finally win the prem, but, maybe the board fancy a change and that's why they didnt back him. Time will tell.

  • Comment number 24.

    Owen could come back to haunt Anfield and Rafa this weekend.

  • Comment number 25.

    >Rafa Benitez,is a very sound tactician but his team selection is the most baffling i have ever seen.
    -------------------

    It's comments like this by poster 10 that make neutrals laugh. How can he be a 'sound tactician' if you don't have the foggiest idea what he's doing? Talk about having blinders on mate.

  • Comment number 26.

    Rafa really does seem clueless at times, which in Europe is strange as he normally gets his tactics spot on. As a United fan, last nights result bought a smile to my handsome face but I am weary of the wounded animal on Sunday. Don't be surprised if both Gerrard and Torres are both fit. After all, if the are 75/80% fit they are better than the other options and resting them and getting beat would end the season.

  • Comment number 27.

    Phil,
    Lifelong Liverpool fan here going through hell and not enjoying it. Very worried that you say his job is not under threat. He's got to go, he has assembled the biggest squad ever and very little of it is quality and what quality there was, he allowed to go. I feel very sorry for Babel, there is some quality there that could possibly get better if only he played. I will be amazed if he does not put in a transfer request in the new year. Torres is similar to Michael Owen - brilliant when he's fit but of little use constantly in the treatment room. Aquilani has clearly been a brilliant purchase spending his whole time in the treatment room. The whole thing is an utter mess from top to bottom and those responsible should hang their heads in shame. Quite frankly if a loss to Man Utd brings on Benitez' departure, I hope United thrahses us. God forgive me for writing such a thing.

  • Comment number 28.

    Only somebody with red tinted specs would disagree with this article. I can't remember if it is in the article or one of the posts, but there is a lot of truth in the statement about Liverpool fans refusing to see the the fact that the manager or the team are out of their depth in any game or season.

    Long may Rafa rule at Anfield say I, because at this rate not only will they be out of the CL in the group stages, but they won't qualify for it at all next season.

  • Comment number 29.

    Playing Gerrard last night looked like desperation.
    Taking Benayoun off for Voronin looked like folly.

    But was any of this suprising? No.

    At best this season is shaping up to be a failure to build on last seasons modest progress.
    In all honesty can Liverpool fans really be happy with that?

    Even if they beat Utd on Sunday it would be papering over the cracks and hiding some serious flaws in team selection, tactics and squad strength and would only be a reprieve until they lurch into the next crisis, which looks like a one way ticket to the Europa league and a season of mid-table obscurity.









  • Comment number 30.

    I have to agree with LABSAB9 in that we have the weakest squad of the "top four". What we witnessed last night was a lack of strength in depth.
    Lucas may one day become a good player, but he does not impose himself on the game and cannot complement Mascherano. N'gog may also become a good player, but surely Babel would have been a stronger option up front? Or dare I say it, Voronin too?
    We lacked creativity and didn't dictate the game. The one bright spark was Martin Kelly who looks a good prospect.
    I fear for sunday, the other senior players must stand up and be counted against United. The pressure on Aquilani is going to be immense too, which is sad but ultimately suggests the state of our season. I still have faith though, that Rafa is the right man and can deliver the league. I'm doubtful whether it will be this season though.

  • Comment number 31.

    Last night , the decision of withdrawing benayoun is undoubtedly a terrible decision.but to me what lacks lfc squad is their depth in squad.but why this is so. every season rafa is arguing for money in the transfer market. but he is not getting.without money spending is it possible that he can build a quality squad. ok youth system will work.but what about now? at the end of the transfer period LFC lost Alonso.Aquialani is far away than Alonso.if rafa could have buy two more players like tevez or kaka or whatever like that quality it may be change the group table both in ECL and in BPL.

    i still believe in Rafa.

  • Comment number 32.

    For me the problem that keeps arising with Benitez is his inability to get the best out of his players. He doesn't seem to have the man management skills to install the confidence in players and that shows on the pitch time and time again. His negativity spreads throughout the team when things aren't going to plan, where does the positivity required come from?

    For example, Ryan Babel came to anfield looking dangerous and talented, now he's riddled with self doubt, if Benitez was willing to pay 11 Million for him he should now be willing to do whatever it takes to get the best out of him, instead of just ignoring him.

    For such a "great" thinker, he seems completely irrational far too often. How long can Liverpool keep going round in circles?

  • Comment number 33.

    Phil,the problem is Benitez.Every manager signs rubbish in the belief that they're top drawer.Or in some cases has crap hoisted on them by some busy body in the club.But you can't only have made two proper signings in a goal keeper and a striker.Which means that actually Liverpool's players are not as bad as they're being made out to be.But when you look at what Liverpool sells,sometimes not even under duress,you begin to feel that Benitez is too cavalier in his approach to players.This is the man who somehow managed to make S.G. feel unwanted at the start of his Pool reign.And sold Riise and Luis Garcia.Turned Babel into a bumbling buffoon on the pitch.Its okay to see football as a mere game of chess.But you can't treat your players in such a mercenary fashion.Lotsa managers have actually done better with a worse squad than Rafa has often had at his disposal.For large portions of his tenure,Livespool's attack and midfield personel was actually better than United's.So why the stark difference in returns?

  • Comment number 34.

    5 years, 2 trophies (both won on penalties) and spent, who knows? It is a difficult one to confirm that because when people defend Benitez, as I'am sure they will, they always quote his net spend. I'am sure I read his net spend was around the £80 million mark. Or in simple terms £40 million per trophy for a two man team!
    Liverpool have only themselves to blame for the situation they find themselves in at present. The management there gave into a man who wanted total control of all transfers and gave him a new, and presumably lucrative, five year contract. In his five years there you would have to ask how many of his signings would get into one of the other so called "Big Four" teams. I can only think of Torres and Reina.

  • Comment number 35.


    #23 He has taken them as far as he can go and he is clearly frustrated by the lack of funds available.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    How has he had a lack of funds? He spent £18m on Johnson and £20m on Aquilani in the summer. Ok he sold Alonso for £20m, but good teams are built up gradually over a few seasons, and if you look at his record in the last few years it's abysmal.

    Here's some examples: Lucas, Babel, Dossena, Degen, Voronin, Pennant, Skrtel, N'Gog, Aurelio, Keane, Krygiakos, Bellamy.

    All these players apart from Degen and Voronin cost money, how is that not being backed in the transfer market. Not to mention the successful buys like Torres (£24m) and Mascherano (£20m). He's spent a lot of money and the squad is as thin as a sheet of paper.

  • Comment number 36.

    Excuse me if i am wrong but was the transfer fee for Aquilani 20 million????

  • Comment number 37.

    I know that Liverpool were your pre-season tip but who do you think are to win the league now?

    Surely you know accept that the squad isn't strong enough? I know that losing the 2 best players would be a loss to any team but it affects them more.

    Thanks.

  • Comment number 38.

    "those of us who tipped Liverpool for the title sticking our heads in the stocks awaiting the arrival of the rotten tomatoes" do you still stand by your pre-season prediction?

  • Comment number 39.

    Benitez has built a 2 man team and without both in the starting 11, they are nothing in terms of play, creativity and goals.

    He wanted to offload Alonso before the start of last season and the man was their best player in the last campaign. Liverpool's problem is that beyond their best 11, there is no quality on the bench. They dont have players who can come on and change the game.

    They need more quality players and better back up players!!!!

    If Liverpool lose this weekend to Man Utd, then the Americans must seriously consider Rafa's future!!!!!

  • Comment number 40.

    Sunday is a massive game for Benitez and nothing much for United. Liverpool can have three points, but it won't rescue their season.

    He's had the money to spend, and spent it. And what has he built? What amazing youth players are making their way though the ranks into the first team? What amazing first team players has he brought in? Er, Torres... Johnson maybe. Reina.

    There was no reason for pundits to back Liverpool for the title, in the face of the alternatives, and so it has proved. They were decried as a two man team, and so it has proved.

    Many commented how if City were going to replace someone in the top four it would be Liverpool, and so it is proving. Maybe, after all, the fans do know more than the average pundit who still remembers and pines after Liverpool in their glory days.

    Blame who you like for the downfall of Liverpool, but the buck stops with Benitez, for they're his players and decisions out on the field. I wonder whether MoN is starting to say his Villa Park goodbyes.

  • Comment number 41.

    Morning Phil.

    Gooner here ( neutral so to speak )

    I had a sneaky feeling you would be waiting until the end of this particular game for liverpool before doing your blog, I had thought you may have waited even further after the game against man u before updateing your opinions on liverpools situ.

    enjoyable read non the less.

    i would just question this bit;

    " When Benitez inexplicably removed Liverpool's most dangerous performer, goalscorer Yossi Benayoun, and sent on Andriy Voronin with five minutes remaining and the game poised at 1-1, Anfield reverberated to the sound of patience snapping as jeers rang out. "

    seems to me this was done because he is already without Torres and now possibly Gerard, at 1-1 is it not therefore prudent to try and hold what you have as it was obvious he had to consider the big game comming up against man u.

    Its a good thing we can get our comments in on this blog as school is still in force and we wont have to read the same sorta responses from some of the more delinquent who cluttered up 606 and Live text with their usual banal nonsense.

    I would hope to read that the true Liverpool surporter would not be calling for the head of Rafa, they will know, that by doing so would achieve very little, and will perhaps have to realise that things might go pearshaped for a while, and hold the line.

    and as for those gloating over liverpools problems. its not nice to see and is very juvenile. It would not be to bad if it was done with some humour, but many it seems have forgotten its just a game and this hatred, or what ever it is has obviously been handed down throughout the generations.

    also, what seems to be forgotten is Lyon are far from pushovers, they are hardly minnows and have a good team and as such it was going to be a tuff night for liverpool, the loss of SG was a signicant moment, afterall the guy is/has been an influential and inspirational player for the club.

    Liverpool still have a lot to play for. man u are in for a game thats for sure.

  • Comment number 42.

    I siad before the season started that Liverpool would struggle to retain a champions league spot never mind challenge for the title, reina, mascherano, gerrard and torres are the only players worth a mention the rest of the squad woudlnt get a sniff at another top 4 side. City's squad has far more strength in depth especially in attack.

    United I'm sure will make it 5 losses in a row for liverpool!

  • Comment number 43.

    This is really a tipping point for Liverpool. Benitez for some reason has consistently ignored the fact that he needs a quality back-up striker or partner for Torres. Owen would have been perfect but Rafa obviously did not want anyone else at Anfield who the fans would love more than him.

    He has never really fancied Voronin so why bring him on. He should have started witha 4-3-2-1 which could have let him play Mascherano, Lucas and Spearing (as Gerrard just was not fit), Benayoun and Babel in front of them and Kuyt as the apex of the attack which would have been a better option (utd have used it successfully with Rooney & Ronaldo supporting Berbatov last season or often with Rooney at the top with Giggs and Ronaldo playing off him.

    This just shows that Benitez is poor tactically and has spent 5 years buildinga 2 man team. Lose on Sunday and even a top 4 finish is going to start looking beyond them especially if Sunderland, Villa, Stoke and Burnley win

  • Comment number 44.

    As if Rafa's illjudged signings, sales and injury management weren't enough, he has added another screaming howler to his management repertoire; poor substitutions. It is unrealistic to hope that LFC will be able to arrest the comet like downward plunge soon enough.

  • Comment number 45.

    6. At 08:54am on 21 Oct 2009, Kíllìnghölmê_Clᥠ(aka Charlie Cheesecake) wrote:


    Looks like your reply (as to all Phil's articles) was ready to be cut and paste. What else could he have said in response to last nights game? Unlucky Liverpool? Rafa isn't under pressure despite losing 4 on the trot? Get real.

  • Comment number 46.

    Rafa is obviously a good manager, otherwise he wouldn't have had the success he has. However his work in the transfer market leaves plenty to be desired.

    Selling Alonso, for me, is the biggest mistake he's made. I still don't understand why he was so determined to buy Barry last summer to replace Alonso, who then went on to have a top quality season. Barry is a good player, but in the same league as Alonso? Not for me.

    As for Aquilani, only time will tell.

    I suppose the question is, has the pressure of being tipped for the title by some, for the first time in years, got to them?

  • Comment number 47.

    Last nights game just proved the point about Gerrard and Torres. Without them, Liverpool are a nothing side. There is no creativity, how many of those who played last night would get into Man Utds or Chelsea's team? None I bet. It's a poor side and relying on Gerrard and Torres is suicidal especially as they seem to have this ability of being injured at the same time.

  • Comment number 48.

    As a Manchester United fan I want to revell in Liverpool's failures, but with Sunday looming I think that would be slightly silly. Liverpool are playing awful football at the moment and if either Torres or Gerrard are missing Sunday then it should be game over for them... but you can never rule them out and never will a club fight so much for a win as they will on Sunday. Should be a good game. Its a question of can they keep that fighting spirit up for the rest of the season.

    However Phil, did you or any of the other pundits out there not see the warning signs of what was going to happen this season after Liverpool's truly awful pre season? Couldn't win against the big teams. Lost a very important player, replaced with a currently injured player who's fitness has been slightly worse then Micheal Owen's over the past three years. Ohter players wanting to move away. No other real sign of development and a lack of real funds. They seem to have been tipped for the league because of a rose tinted view of last seasons results.

    I think a lot of real Liverpool fans have been worried for a while now. But with a five year contract, unless Benetiz bites the bullet himself, he is going to be there for a long time to come.

  • Comment number 49.

    Rafa's eye in the transfer market is close to horrendous. The situation we are in now, for me, started when he sold Robbie Keane, and didn't replace him. The statement of having only Torres as in out and out striker when we were pushing for the title was crazy, especially as the likes of Heskey went to the Villa for only £3.5m. Even with a fresh start to the season what does Dufa Benitez do? He fails to get the of likes Michael Owen on a FREE, and brings back Voronin to help with our striker options. Fantastic stuff. And to top it all he lets one of our best players, Xabi go, and replaces him with an injury prone Italian. So think of the Liverpool team last night, with no Gerrard or Torres, but with Alonso, Owen and Heskey. I think our season would still be on track. Thanks Rafa.

  • Comment number 50.

    With regards to money I think Benitez has done quite well.. He got Johnson because there was no way Portsmouth were going to be able to fork out the 7 million pounds they owed.. So Im guessing it was shrewd to say the least.. I thought Kelly was more solid that Johnson.. So Im guessing Benitez didnt fancy any of the other Pompey players offered to him..

    After Lyon equalized there was a shot of Babel and Voronin warming up.. I turned round to my dad and said.. I wonder which one is going to score the winner??

    He laughed of course..

    That's the thing with Liverpool at the moment.. No options and no creativity.. And if they are losing the game and look to the bench then you would not find a single player that has enough quality to turn things round..

    The passing is terrible.. I'm fed up of seeing Carragher playing long balls over the midfield.. and straight to the opposition..

    Im sick and tired of watching Kuyt's abysmal ball control and even worse shooting.. Also always getting a touch on anything that goes near him and messing the attacking move up..

    Im appalled by the way Liverpool scored a goal because Lyon failed to clear a wayward Fabio Aurellio shot.. And not because they played creatively and finished moves expertly..

    And then comes Lucas.. I know Benitez will continue to defend him because statistics will somehow prove that he is a good passer, tackler, etc. But seriously he adds no creativity whatsoever.. He is like a robot and I'm guessing Benitez loves that about him.. "Do as I say and you'll be Okay..!!"

    Mascherano has been poor recently.. I cant remember him playing a single good pass.. People will argue he is a tackler but he needs to be able to play a good pass from time to time..

    So you see that we were going to be in deep trouble when 4 out of our 5 midfielders have no creativity whatsoever..

    Now its all down to an ugly fella called Aquilani..

    I think Benitez should play both Kelly (defence) and Johnson (midfield) on the right when they are both fit..

  • Comment number 51.

    I think the criticism for Benitez signing 67 players of quality is a little unfair. Unlike Ferguson or any of the previous Chelsea managers during the Abramovich era, every season Benitez has to choose between signing a few players of mediocre talent and hope that they come good, or sign one player for a high fee.

    Benitez is hampered by the fact that with such a relatively small stadium, they cannot compete. Man Utd regularly sell out a 70,000 seater stadium and Chelsea can rely on Abramovich's millions. Even Arsenal can go out and spend more now that they are at the Emirates. Until Liverpool build a new stadium that can seat at least another 20,000 fans, they will always fall short because they do not have the cash.

    Also, any criticism of the signing of Aquilani is ridiculous. He may turn out to be as good as or even better than Alonso... who knows? If you could sign a top quality player on a lengthy contract, in the knowledge that he is injured for a few months but could offer you long-term benefit, why would you not sign him? This short-sightedness is the problem in today's game. Fact is, when Benitez has spent in the region of £20m of talent in the past it has come good... a certain Fernando Torres springs to mind!

  • Comment number 52.

    Phil, lifelong Liverpool fan - and I have wanted Benitez out for a long time - why on earth do these blinded fans stick by him, and give him all the excuses in the book? When Gerrard, our 'second striker' (Because he's too negative to play him in midfield, where he is possibly the best player in the world), he brings on a left-back, albeit I'll acknowledge that Aurelio did ok. Another goal conceded from a set-piece where we've practically nobody in our 6-yard box (remember Bolton's goal where they'd 5 on 1 player) - I'm not sure if he knows that the idea is that the ball does not cross your line.
    PLEASE get out of the club Benitez - you are ruining it.

  • Comment number 53.

    As a Liverpool fan for many years I am as disappointed as any other with the way the season has gone so far. However, some of the comments on message boards and blogs since last night's loss have been over the top. Have supposed fans forgotten last season's great run already?

    The real focus of ire should be on the American owners, who failed to back the manager this summer when we need those last couple of quality additions to our squad. Although Alonso claims he wanted to leave because club tried to sell him the previous year, I think also the fact that Real were investing in the team, and 'pool weren't also had a big bearing on it. Likewise, Mascherano seems to have his turned by barca for the same reaons - pool were not investing.

    We've played poorly,had a bad run of injuries and maybe missed a break that we were getting last year...but sack the manager? and replace him with whom? Come in, manage the pool, meet our unrealisticly high expectations, without adequate spending power...

    Go on off and support newcastle, with an attitude like that...

  • Comment number 54.

    Signed something like 60+ players, moved a similar amount on, spent over £200m I believe and we still have a squad that is awash with players that just simply struggle with the demands of the Premiership and now Europe.

    He's had over 5 years to build this squad. Is that a good job?

  • Comment number 55.

    It is interesting how people have written off Liverpool title hope for this season. This year we have competitive clubs that are making erode into both the EPL and the European Champion League. For example, (Barcelona lost 2-1 at home to unheralded Russian side Rubin Kazan and Inter Milan is bottom of their group should come as encouragement to your at Liverpool)

    I would be surprised if any of the top four clubs lose five to six games in the EPL and still win the title. Obviously there are defensive, striker and midfielder problem at Liverpool, but the team is great, the players are quality and coach is exceptional.

    This year show a sign of a underdog year. I think the biggest threat to Liverpool right now is the Liverpool fan. The calling for Rafael Benitez to be fired is very dangerous and premature, and will expose the club to further woes. At this time and moment, the players and coach need confidence. That only come from the fan.

    Finally, the time has come for another leaders in the team to come forward. Over the years, Liverpool team has been built on Steven G. and F. Torres. This perception needs to stop because it is stopping other leaders from coming forward in crucial time.

    Liverpool football is never over until it is finally over. I thought Arsenal would be the worst team after their start this season, but look they have won four to five game straight after their defeat to City, and they are still out there in the top four. Your players need you Liverpool fan and now it is not the time to throw in the towel. You have quality players and a very brilliant coach. " It Never over until it Over."
    By the way, I am a Man City fan.

  • Comment number 56.

    Utterly hilarious that Benitez (and many Liverpool fans) hide behind injuries as an excuse. I'm sorry, but Phil's wrong when he states:

    "It is a misfortune on the scale of seeing a beach ball tuck away the opposition's winning goal that they are both struggling again with injury at the same time."

    Injuries to two (or more!) key players happens quite consistently at Chelsea, Arsenal and Man Utd. Chelsea have had injuries to Ballack, Bosingwa and Joe Cole (probably more) this season; Arsenal have had Almunia, Walcott, Diaby, Rosicky, Eduardo, Denilson and Djourou out; Man Utd have had injuries to Van Der Saar, Ferdinand, Park, Gary Neville and Owen Hargreaves.

    The simple fact is that both Torres and Gerrard are overplayed by Liverpool because without them there IS no Liverpool. This means that they are more likely to suffer injury at the same time. It is incredibly sad to see injuries trotted out as an excuse for four defeats in a row - this can surely only be the case if it's a larger number of players injured? There have been times this season where Arsenal's injury list has included 7 or 8 first team players, not just two.

    I doubt Man Utd would have lost four in a row if Rooney and Evra were out; I similarly doubt the same would happen to Chelsea if they were missing Drogba and Essien, or Arsenal with Fabregas and Arshavin. This doesn't mean these two players from each top four club are worse than Torres and Gerrard - it means that the rest of Liverpool's "team" is considerably worse than their rivals.

    Injuries affect form, but in a team game (11 plus poss. 3 subs no less!) losing two players shouldn't result in loss. Especially if they both play in attack - it would be more acceptable an argument if it were the star striker and star goalkeeper - because then attack and defence are weakened. But how come Liverpool have shipped goals? Certainly not because of Gerrard and Torres' absence!!

  • Comment number 57.

    Onekopite Kelly was injured and the lad did brilliantly, lay off him!

    Ulstermax, £5million up front rising to £20 million depending on games and fitness etc.

    "Babel has had his chance and has continually let Benitez down, why give him another chance?"

    spot on. The criticism some are aiming at Kuyt is unwarranted too, it's the spine of the team which needs strengthening, no need to go overboard in criticising Kuyt, Yossi or Riera (although the latter has been hit and miss)

  • Comment number 58.

    2 man team is a bit unfair on pepe.

  • Comment number 59.

    Andriy Voronin to score a hat trick on Sunday!

  • Comment number 60.

    4 defeats in a row tell their own story. I think people are finding out just how key Alonso was, he held it all together. Yes, Gerrard and Torres were injured but that was also true for a lot of last season. I'm sure they will get it together but a fe more slips and the title will be gone and a top 4 place cannot be taken for granted. Rafa is unlikely to go immediately unless the run of defeats continues but not sure if he'll last long after the end of the season.

    I think the weekend will be interesting - a lot of people are picking a United win but its a good opportunity for Liverpool to come out fighting, with or without Gerrard. As a United fan I'd take the draw...

  • Comment number 61.

    A lot has been said about Benitez's tactics but it is quite clear that he can only 'get it right' in Europe. Until now of course, as his thread bare squad consiting of only two world class players is showing itself to be as thin as we all know it is.

    Oh, and for what it's worth - a lot of footy fans consistantly under-rate Lyon. Even if Torres and Gerrard were fit they would be good for a point at Anfield.

  • Comment number 62.

    rafa's win in the CL bought him all the time he needed to be able to assemble a squad capable of winning the PL. also, the little power struggle he had with the board a couple of years ago, bought him the control he was going to need to shape the club in the way he thought it would be necessary to further enhance their chances of winning trophies.
    with these two events i'm sure the idea would have been to improve year after year. put simply, this hasn't been achieved any way. the only improvement to the team/squad/club since that memorable win in 2005, has been the signing of torres.
    i can't speak for what else is taking place around the club other than what i see in the 1st team squad but torres aside, it isn't any better than the one he inherited.
    the club as a business isn't being run properly by the american owners but i think they're doing a better job of that than rafa is doing of running the club as a football team.
    his time must all but certainly be up.

  • Comment number 63.

    Everyone knew and said from the beginning that if Torres and/or Gerrard were injured then they'd struggle. Two players can't carry a team to the title. It's happened and I don't see them recovering...

    Has anyone won the title over the last 10 years without an unshakeable Centre-back pairing? Another thing missing at the moment.

    Though, who knows, Aquilani could emerge a football genius and score 50 goals this season!

  • Comment number 64.

    Phil, I'm a Man U fan but I gotta defend Ngog - he was not the weak link in the team last night. The service he got was AWFUL. How many balls did he get to feet? Liverpool barely strung 2 passes together in the opposition's half. Service was mostly a long ball from the back, or a hurried flick from the midfield to nowhere in particular. Scraps in other words. Benitiz continues to surprise me with his purchasing of very average players in the 0-6m bracket (Riera, Lucas, Voronin for example) that wouldn't get near the Man U, Chelsea or Arsenal's bench.

    Lyon weren't great either might I add. Low quality game allround.

  • Comment number 65.

    "Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged by only one thing - the result."..........Vince Lombardi

  • Comment number 66.

    At last the truth that even the most die hard Liverpool fan has to admit:
    Liverpool are a good side but with 2 world class players (previously 1). Remove those players and their strength in depth is poor making them a better than average side and they will never win the league. Benitez has bought players that wouldn't get into the Chelsea, UTD or Arsenal sides and his sole ambition at the start of every season is the Champions League. I can see another away win on Sunday at Anfield

  • Comment number 67.

    I can't see why Rafa is still manager. Perhaps I am blinded because I'm a United fan but Rafa was brought in for Liverpool to win the league. 5 years later and the closest they got was bottling it last year. He can't keep living off a Champions League win and an FA Cup years back. If I was a Liverpool fan I think I'd be calling for his head. As it stands, the longer he stays in charge the better it seems to be for us.

  • Comment number 68.

    And since i missed the boat elsewhere, if the ball hitting a beachball and going in is an illegal goal, you're only encouraging supporters to throw millions of them onto the field in front of opposition strikers.

    Reina and his defence left it there, so its their own damn fault.

    That said, fair dues to Benitez for accepting it without question. Although it does, in the light of the recent results, smack of having given up.

  • Comment number 69.

    Accusations that Benitez has spent five years building a two man team are simply unjust and inaccurate. It is true that he has spent a lot of money and signed 67 players; however, he has without doubt built a 'team' (not squad) capable of seriously challenging for the title. The problem lies within the fact that in order to win the league the whole team needs to stay fit and in form. However, this season form has been our biggest problem. People are quick to forget that only last season commentators used to name Mascherano (captain of Argentina), Kuyt, Skrtel and Reina as part of our core of 'quality' players. The fact of the matter is Mascherano's form this season, for whatever reason, has been appalling, as has Carragher's and Skrtel's. This is particularly significant as all three crucially formed our defensive solidity last season. Whether or not their form has deteriorated due to the arrival of the much more attacking Johnson or not is another matter, but the fact remains that we have conceded 13 goals in 9 Premier League games, a figure that is not going to win the league. Going further up the field we have also seen Reira's form disappear. A player, who is by no means world class, but contributed significantly to our success last season, has simply not featured this season and when he has played he has been average. Therefore, if you accept that Liverpool have a core squad of 'top 4 quality' players consisting of Gerrard, Torres, Reina, Mascherano, Johnson and Skrtel, then it is no surprise that we are not playing particularly well this season. Gerrard and Torres have played well, but as we have seen they can get injured, Reina is in goal, and as said previously, Mascherano and Skrtel have been poor. Benitez has built an exceptionally good first team, as we saw last season, however the core of that team is not playing to its best and unfortunately the ones that have come in have not been good enough. Benitez should certainly not be sacked, what Benitez has achieved with Liverpool has been exceptional, especially given the ownership situation we find ourselves in. Given more time and resources I am sure Benitez can win the league one day. Furthermore, if he was sacked who could come in and do a better job? Mourinho would not accept with our current owners and apart from that there are not too many managers out there that are better than Benitez. This is a hard time to be a Liverpool fan, but let’s not forget that Arsenal went through a very tough season last year and look at them now. Moreover, it was only this time last year that Chelsea's fortunes began to turn after such a bright start. While the title has probably been lost there is more than enough time to get back into the top four. Finally, I think Alonso's departure has had a significant effect on us on the field; the dirty work he used to do behind the scenes was understated to say the least. However, I personally believe that the fact that one of our 'top players' actually chose to walk out of Anfield has had a much more significant effect on the team. Last time we saw one of our best players leave was when Owen left for Madrid and we all know where Liverpool finished that season.





  • Comment number 70.

    Liverpool are in a catch-22 situation.
    They can't afford to sack Benitez after handing him a 5 year contract, at the same time they CANNOT afford to go out at this stage of the CL or lose ground on the top 4

  • Comment number 71.

    PepeXabiBarnes wrote:

    Liverpool fans should recognise Benitez's win record, points totals and fact he has challenged for major trophies every year, compare favourably with Paisley and Dalglish and are far better than Fergusons first 5 years at Man Utd.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    er, ferguson spent those first years assembling the club, academy and squad so they would be a force for years to come. they improved every single year until finally winning the pl and have continued improving almost every year since. this cannot be said of benitez.

  • Comment number 72.

    Can't find any odds at the moment on the next Premier League manager to be sacked but would like a few quid on Rafa. With Man Utd this weekend then three tricky away games against Arsenal kids in the Carling Cup(will Rafa field a strong team just to try and get a win, especially if they don't beat UTD), Fulham and Lyon he could be out of a job within two weeks if results don't go Liverpools way.

  • Comment number 73.

    Liverpool were very ordinary last night. They have an ordinary midfield and there defence is very porous this season with Carragher in particular looking very shaky so far, where was he for the second goal, wiping the sweat off his forehead??. Fair enough their excellent strikeforce in Gerrard and Torres are injured, but they are just too ordinary overall and not helped by very curious player selections and tactics. For instance when will he ever leave Kuyt out or sub him?? Lyon were the better team last night and Liverpool were left resorting to long balls, corners free kicks etc. for large parts of the game, aka Sam Allardyce tactics. While they may have a good result against United at the weekend, this would only mask the problems that Benitez is causing Liverpool. As a United fan, I'm delighted Benitez will probably there for a long time to come, cos i don't think they will ever be title winners under him

  • Comment number 74.

    Bad day and Bad start to the season.

    I accept that both the league and champions league are lost to us.
    That makes is a little easier to relax and watch the rest of the season by watching each game as it comes.

    I share the sentiment with a lot of bloggers that the squad lacks depth in quality especially in the creative area. Lose Stevie G, Torres and Johnson and we suffer.

    I do like Rafa but have to agree that in all the years he has been here I can only name a handful of players he has signed that are "real" world beaters.....

    What is truly amazing is that a once tight defence is leaking goals and we are creating chances to score....A great team cannot just become rubbish overnight.

    Loosing Alonso was really bad. I think we will miss him more than Man U will miss Ronaldo. Not because I'm saying that Alonso is a better player but Man U have strategically realligned themselves to play without him. We appear not to have done that.

    Rafa is Tactically sound (not consistent enough though )but useless at signing players.

  • Comment number 75.

    You lot are pathetic. The fact that your so eager to pounce on (a rare) run of poor form says it all. This constant tirade aimed at Rafa and his 'failings' in the transfer market are ridiculous. You cannot judge a player singularly in this situation, you have to assess the bigger picture. The fact that every player signed and sold by Rafa has been sold for a profit suggets he knows what he is doing. Example: ith our limited budget - check our NET SPEND each year compared to those around us (including the likes of Villa and Spurs) - we couldn't have arrived at Torres without first making a profit on players like Crouch and Bellamy.

    The rate at which this squad has improved gets overlooked just all too often. Time and time again people fail to see that what we are chasing is not a stationary object. Chelsea, Utd, Arsenal - they are all improving. The fact is however, we are improving at a faster rate. We finished over 30 points behind the champions in Rafa's first year in charge. Each year we are getting closer. Miracles we do at once, the impossible takes a little longer.

    On a side note, Reegslfc - what a lazy recycled (I believe the moronic Robbo Robson said the same) opinion of Lucas that is. He's Brazilian therefore must play stunning samba style football must he? You try being 22, moving to a new continent with a culture worlds apart and plying your trade under the most critical of watching eyes. He will improve, give him support.

  • Comment number 76.

    all these folk suggesting that liverpool 'punched above their weight' or had a lucky year last season clearly weren't watching the same football as me! at times last season, particularly when dismantling man utd they were devastating, and awesome.

    I agree that benitez has pushed his luck about as far as it will stretch now, and to be honest: even after the champions league win in 2005 i didnt think much of him there; that trophy, and the FA Cup the following year were won by steven gerrard's will to win, not benitez's brainless tactics and that god-awful zone marking system he insists on...case in point: liverpool were out-played and out gunned by luton town (thats right, luton town, now in blue square prem...loathe as i am to say it) in the FA cup, 2006 i think it was...(we played again the next year and got a draw and a rematch at anfield...where we were suitably squashed! haha!), for 70 mins, the only reason that liverpool won was that the luton players couldnt run anymore! but the football we played that night showed so many holes in benitez's tactical acumen (3-1 down on the hour...he did nothing to correct it) I was loving it! of course the town lost 5-3, complete with xabi alonso scoring from 60 yards after beresford (the luton gk) came up for a corner and got dispossesed. but 4 goals in the last 25 minutes against a league 1 (at the time) side to win? with absolutely no invention, and relying entirely on gerrard to tell people what to do (which he was doing, i think gerrard was more behind the later tactics than his manager truth be told) with nothing at all coming from the bench? i lost faith in benitez as a top flight manager that night...and to be honest, even through liverpools excellence last year, im yet to recover it.

    i do hope that liverpool turn it around, as i would seriously dislike it if money bags City and Chelsea to be the only real competition for Man Utd's title this season...arsenal look good from game to game...but are still frighteningly vulnerable at times, as the old: buy your way to the premier league title appears to be looming on the horizon again! and because i have great respect for some members of the liverpool team...if not their manager

  • Comment number 77.

    As a united fan I have to say that when I heard the result I did laught, especially as I have a few good friends that are Liverpool fans. Though like me they never thought that they would win the title this season, though they didnt think they would be as bad as they are, but like everyone else that didnt have the blinkers on, they now realise the squad is just not good enought to compete over a season I think they were all just hoping that T & G didnt get an injury but what do you know they do. Not that it really matter tho the pool weren't playuing that good when they were on the pitch missing the link up man that Alonso was. and to that you have to look at the manager had he not tried to dump Alonso out last year to get Barry he would of likely been happy to stay and to replace him with a player that cant play for 3 months of the start of the season and then will need time to get match sharp and to bed into the english game (that might not even happen) was just laughtable (or for liverpool tearful).

    To say that Rafa has not had the finacial backing he deserve is not just wearing blinkers its a complete blindfold he has spent more that most other prem managers in his time and most signing have come in and gone out for less money with only a few gems in alot of rubbish. To blame the board for not giving him mountains of cash to go out and spend can you really blame them if it was your money would you want Rafa to spend knowing his history in the transfer market I know I wouldn't.

  • Comment number 78.

    Going back to last season, i think the reason Liverpool finished so strongly was because their two star players were considerably fresher than the rest of the other teams players, having spent the first half of the season resting.

    I will nail my colours to the mast and say i am a Man Utd fan. I am understandably looking forward to the weekend, not only because this is a good time to play Liverpool, but because i think it has the hallmarks to be a hell of a good game - we will be up for it because of Liverpool doing the double over us last season (that always stings!) and Liverpool will be up for it as if they aren't then their season is practically over before it has started.

    I am assuming that both Gerard and Torres will be available for the game as Benitez gambled on saving them for the Man U game rather than use them against Lyon (I am suspecting that Gerard was ordered that, should he feel even the slightest twinge to his groin during the Lyon game, they would not risk him and haul him off).

    The most likely outcome will be a draw, which i think would suit Man Utd more than Liverpool - but should we win, the pressure will start becoming insurmountable for Benitez, he has been given a lot of latitude over the years, and has not really delivered, Istanbul aside.

  • Comment number 79.

    "And since i missed the boat elsewhere, if the ball hitting a beachball and going in is an illegal goal, you're only encouraging supporters to throw millions of them onto the field in front of opposition strikers.

    Reina and his defence left it there, so its their own damn fault.

    That said, fair dues to Benitez for accepting it without question. Although it does, in the light of the recent results, smack of having given up."

    What wumming rubbish, 1) only cheating scum would even try this and the game will be stopped if this is even attempted since the goal 2)don't be simple it rolled from just on the pitch across the area during the initial attack on a true unprofessional would break focus to worry about it 3)It doesn't smack of having given up just that Rafa is a bit more gracious than any of you give him credit for.

  • Comment number 80.

    To - true_red_more

    I admire your faith but i believe it is very misguided. As i said in my first post Benitez has had enough time/money/support in order to assemble a SQUAD that is capable for challenging for honours, however, it is clear when Gerrard and Torres are out for whatever reason Liverpool are simply not good enough.

  • Comment number 81.

    If anybody else says Benitez hasnt had the money and backing and I going to fall off my chair.....I may be wrong on a few of these BUT not by much, and being fair I have not put Aquilani on this list as he may come good, as good as Alonso, doubtful, but here goes

    Robbie Keane – 19m
    Glen Johnson – 18 m
    Babel – 11 m
    Kuyt – 9 m
    Riera – 8 m
    Dossena – 8 m
    Crouch – 7m
    Lucas – 6.75m
    Pennant, Skrtel, Bellamy, Garcia, Agger, Sissok, Morientes all over 5 million

    No backing.......please!!

    He is terrible in the transfer market, hence he would not increase his bid for Barry last year because either he didnt think he was worth the extra few mill, or because he is just stubborn! Both outcomes prove the same point.....the cracks are showing and so is his mediocrity!!!





    ....oh and Gonzalez can be added to the above

  • Comment number 82.

    21
    Liverpool fans should recognise Benitez's win record, points totals and fact he has challenged for major trophies every year, compare favourably with Paisley and Dalglish and are far better than Fergusons first 5 years at Man Utd.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    You cannot compere Sir Alex Ferguson's and Rafa's 1st five years, Rafa inherited a set side while Sir Alex had to rebuild almost the entire team.

    It seems there are 2 lots of Liverpool fans on here after last night, those who want a change and those who say give Rafa more time, if Liverpool beat United Sunday will it be papering over the cracks? or will it kick start their season? those who are behind Rafa will you feel the same if come the end of the season you finish outside the top four? If United do win Sunday it could be a long season for Liverpool FC and their fans.

  • Comment number 83.

    Hi Phill...

    This was a very biased article... just because you want liverpool to win...

    The game against ManU could be important for rafa's career at Anfield... but liverpool will struggle even for the fourth spot in PL...

    In yestday's game... Liverpool were not even good in their basics like holding the ball, clean passing, first touch etc... They need to start everything from zero..

  • Comment number 84.

    Phil,

    I would like a job as a BBC football blogger. My skills are 1) Stating the obvious and 2) Making awful predictions. When is my interview?

    Thanks

    Tom

  • Comment number 85.

    I feel that Liverpool under Benitez have been vulnerable on too many fronts for too long now. In short, something has to give. As a club they have more than enough support to fill a much bigger stadium. And here is the key. The way the club is being run financially is not good enough for a club wishing to consolidate a place in the elite top four and wishing to compete by right in the Champions League every year. While it is possible that they will beat Manchester United at the week-end and that they will qualify from their group in the Champions League, the basic problems will remain. Is anybody taking responsibility for the effective running of the club or has it descended into a buck passing competition between two owners neither of whom appear sufficiently solvent to implement the necessary levels of investment? This is the biggest problem. No club can have two masters. You either have one owner or you go down the Barcelona route and deveolve power to the fans. Managerially, Benitez is effective in many ways and his Champions League win will always testify to that. However, if you chop and change a team all the time, you leave no room for continuity. While I appreciate the need for a greater squad in this era of so many games in so many different competitions, I can't understand the compulsion to constantly tinker with winning formulas and combinations. It is little wonder to me that the likes of Babel, Riera and a hand full of other younger players don't seem cerain of their position, role or future. On the other side of the coin the club has become dangerously reliant on the merits of two players, Gerard and Torres. This is all very well but a team mentality is of greater importance. This is borne out most obviously when the two star players are unavailable or injured. A good team would stick to its principles and play with cohesion as a well oiled unit. Much has been said about how much Chelsea will suffer when the African Nations Cup begins in the new year. However, I am sure that Ancellotti will have instilled sufficient team mentality to cope with that situation. Money would solve many of the current problems at Liverpool but not the fundamental ones. Every dog has his day and I can't help but feel that Benitez has the look of a man who is tired after five years of trying to push an elephant up the stairs.

  • Comment number 86.

    onekpite - kelly was injured

  • Comment number 87.

    35. At 09:23am on 21 Oct 2009, joe strummer wrote:

    #23 He has taken them as far as he can go and he is clearly frustrated by the lack of funds available.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    How has he had a lack of funds? He spent £18m on Johnson and £20m on Aquilani in the summer. Ok he sold Alonso for £20m, but good teams are built up gradually over a few seasons, and if you look at his record in the last few years it's abysmal.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Your right, he has made some abysmal signings and spent a lot of money. Maybe I was too easy on him......and he spent £20 mil on an injured player. He was a mug with his dealings over Keane who is a proven prem striker.

    Spurs have a far stronger squad than Liverpool, Voronin wouldnt even get in our squad let alone the 1st team!

    Rafa will be gone this season

  • Comment number 88.

    Where has this fallacy that Liverpool have no money to spend come from? They spent the best part of £40m in the summer and I'm not sure on the figures, but haven't they spent more than every team except Chelsea (and possibly City) in the last 5 years?

    Pathetic excuses from a pathetic set of supporters

  • Comment number 89.

    I have been a lifelong Liverpool fan, my two sons as well. I am so annoyed with the way Rafa is ruining my team/club that I no longer dare to watch them. Last season we would have won the league but for Jamie's two own goals, that's how close the title was. This term we look more like a bottom three team than a top four team. Rafa upset one of our best players, who then left, Xabi was nothing short of brilliant but Rafa could not see that. Now we have two main star's Stevie and Torres, but not a lot else. Cara is looking like a spent forse, but I am sure he will come back. Lucas is feeble, he's not good enough to lace anyone's boots, he should never be allowed to wear the red of Liverpool again. Rafa has had his time, he has always failed to give the club what it wants, and again this year he will be short of that target. In the past there have been a couple of important wins, and the Champions League but I fear this term there will be nothing. Get the takeover back on track, then get rid of Rafa. The only two things that might, only might, save Liverpools season. As bad as it sounds I would like to see Liverpool lose the next six or seven games. Surely that would force the owners to get rid of Rafa, and bring in a manager that can do the job. Rafa's tried and failed, how many more times must he be allowed to fail before he's shown the door. I refuse to follow the 'Pool until he's gone, I don't care what they do as long as Rafa is still in charge. That way at least my hopes won't be built up just for me to be disappointed all over again. It saddened me to have to write this, and I know just how much a couple of our rivals will love to read this, can't help their shallow tiny minds, they are not important.

  • Comment number 90.

    Liverpool are in Crisis because the journalists say they are. I am Man Utd I don't think Utd are playing well. It wouldn't surprise me to see Liverpool win at the weekend. Regardless of what you think of Ngog Voronin, Owen isn't any better.
    You may well stick your head in the stocks now and get it over with. The pool are winning nothing of importance this year.

  • Comment number 91.

    I have no great love of Liverpool in the champions league (being a Chelsea supporter and I think Liverpool supporters would agree, we are sick of the sight of each other>) But I think every one should stop playing the blame game against Benitez, Lyon actually played well and their winning goal was a cracker.

    Credit where credit is due, Lyon were terrific.

  • Comment number 92.

    First point - I am slightly concerned at some of the comments made by other 'fans' which border on being fueled by hate rather than constructive criticism. Anyway you always get idiots.
    As a lifelong Liverpool fan I can only say that I have never rated Rafa as a good manager. His tactics are sometimes bewildering, his choice of players is astonishing, he is stubborn and his man-management skills, as far as I can see, don't exist. Rafa got a great start at Liverpool by winning the CL - or should I say the team won the CL, despite Rafa rather than in spite of him. He has lived off this for the last 4 years. We had a golden opportunity last year to win the title and Rafa blew it, not the team, even though they are a poor bunch, his tactics too often were go out and not lose, rather than go out and win it. The club needs a change, the Yanks have to go, we need owners who are interested in football and a manager who is tactically savvy, can spot a good player and is not afraid to set out a team to win a game. Us Liverpool fans need to wake up and smell the coffee. Rafa needs to go!

  • Comment number 93.

    87. At 10:14am on 21 Oct 2009, Harry_is_a_legend

    Spurs have a far stronger squad than Liverpool, Voronin wouldnt even get in our squad let alone the 1st team!

    ---------------------------------------------------------------
    I totally agree and hopefully Spurs are the team replacing Liverpool in the top 4 at the end of the season. I'd have Defoe, Crouch, Keane and Pav over all Liverpool's strikers except Torres any day.

  • Comment number 94.

    I admit Rafa in the past has got himself out a tight corner in the past. But There comes a time when how many times can this happen before he goes bust? He's playing a United side who are not playing wonderful football at the minute and if he loses HE HAS TO GET THE SACK NO QUESTIONS ASKED. 4 in a row is just aweful and the manger is only to blame. he created the squad remember and injuries happen. If it becomes 5 loses on Sunday well Rafa would be braking records at anfield for all the wrong reasons. Theres no excuses and Liverpool fans need to get behind the CLUB here and sack the manager.

    I also know how much Liverpool fan adore Torres but he could be there solution in the summer. SELL HIM FOR BIG MONEY.. UNITED, CITY, CHELSEA, and Madrid would all be very interested in signing him. 60-70 million could get Liverpool, David Villa and Silva, and if there clever about there business they could maybe get a few more signings out of it too. JUST FOR 1 PLAYER... Liverpool need a bigger squad and the players rafa is bringing in are just not doing it.

    One day in the future Steven Gerrard will be your Manager and this could be the key to your success. Rafa has played his part at anfield now and it time to let him go.

  • Comment number 95.

    Those that know me will tell you I have been crying out for Rafa to go for years & after the last few games I am finally incensed enough to write in. The 2005 CL win papered over the cracks & in some ways has held us back.
    He has bought & often paid a lot of money for average, or at times, even awful players (Nunez, Dossena, Gonzalez, Paletta, Kromkamp, Josemi, Pellegrino, Sissoko, Lucas, Voronin, Aurelio, Ngog, Degen, El Zhar, Luis Garcia), didnt improve good established players (Keane, Pennant, Babel, Riera, Finnan) and sold some (mostly English) potential gems that have done well elsewhere - Crouch, Guthrie, Mellor, Kirkland, Warnock (how did we let HIM go?), never mind the contingent of players he cleared out in the early days (Danny Murphy, Heskey, Owen?).
    He appears to be, in my opinion, stubborn & even in the face of failure will not change (zonal marking?), a poor man manager (people will often do more for praise & recognition than money...), a man who wants to control everything, a tinkering man that constantly tweaks things from the sidelines instead of having the faith in his players to know how to change things, the result of which is we appear to have very few leaders on the pitch.
    In my opinion he is far too cautious & when he finally takes the shackles off (normally when it is too late) we play with the flair & creativity that we should do - witness the end of last seasons Premiership campaign... Oh and where are the young local lads coming through into the first team that has been the Liverpool way over the years? Spearing & Kelly are thrown in at the deep end in huge games with only a few, if any, appearances against lesser opposition. And where are the rest after 5 years?
    What will Rafa's legacy be at Liverpool? We have won 2 major cups but under his management we have not won the jewel in the crown - the premiership title. Winning a cup competition is completely different to the consistency needed to win a league title. Sadly, after over 5 years and millions of pounds spent we are even further away than under Houllier... And now at last some of the other fans are starting to see it - the response to Yossi getting taken off last night has been coming for a while. I always thought that it would be a dark day in our history when he renewed his contract earlier this year and I really hope I am not proved right...

    Great comments above.....

    I agree with everything and would like to add that without creating a stronger squad Benitez in the past has unsettled working elements of the team. Not too long ago we had one of the best if not the best defensive record in the premiership. The back four could pick itself....Finnan, Hypia, Carragher, Risse.......It was quite successful...now I understand Hypia' pace was going but Agger was showing promise at that stage as a replacement.....However Benitez decided to Bring In Arbeloa and Aurellio when there was no need and rotated his full backs on a constant basis...this completely unsettled finnan and Risse...Risse forgot how to play football while finnan's confidence was shattered........Our defence has not been the same since I feel...

    Also when Robbie Keane finally found form he was happy to be used as cover for Torres, Benitez being stubborn over his beef with Rick Parry got rid and Keane is banging in the goals again for spurs....Instead of an accomplished striker for cover we now have Ngog and Vronnin......Blatantly an awful decision made in pride....

    Players such as Bellamy are Crouch playing well with their clubs now...especially Bellamy but he didnt realise that he could play either.

    His cautious tactics cost the pool the title last year....negativity against stoke, west ham, fulham etc..and one game stands out when we had to win at wigan he took gerrard and keane off and brough on lucas and babbel.....we had to win at old trafford and when we were allowed play football we hammered them and villa and finally looked like a side that could win a title.

    It looks like we have gone backwards and his poor decision making over the years and the awful signings have led to us now not having a top four squad....

    His Loyalty to Lucas alone is enough for him be judged on and after years of support I think it may be time.

  • Comment number 96.

    Obviously lots of frustration from Liverpool fans this morning and rightly so. As someone who has covered matches at Anfield for many years, I believe Liverpool fans show extraordinary patience towards managers, so it was interesting to hear the reaction towards Benayoun's substitution by Rafael Benitez. I found the decision baffling and the response understandable.

    I predicted Liverpool would win the title before the season - and have been reminded of this constantly during their poor start, with good reason I should add. I would be having a go at me as well if I were you!

    I will not be backing away from that prediction yet though. Liverpool could still beat Manchester United on Sunday, and Benitez's past record of pulling out a result to keep the wolf from the door when he needs it most makes it a possibility. Suddenly things would not look so bad.

    In my title tip, there was the small qualification about Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres staying fit, but even their absence cannot be used to totally excuse the current malaise.

    Liverpool are not a two-man team. Pepe Reina is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League and one of the best in Europe. It is huge misfortune to have one of the few who is better, Iker Casillas, ahead of him for Spain. Jamie Carragher has been an outstanding player, although not at his best this season and there are other decent players in the squad, such as Javier Mascherano.

    And let's not dismiss completely how brilliantly Liverpool played towards the end of last season, but something is missing.

    There is pressure on Alberto Aquilani to provide the missing link after Xabi Alonso's departure, but the worry is that Liverpool's season may be holed below the waterline before he is actually fit.

    Is Liverpool's current lamentable form simply down to Alonso's departure? Surely that cannot be the case?

    As many others have stated the problem for Liverpool is not a fully fit first team, it is those underneath. I have said it before and I'll say it again - in cricketing terms they have a long tail when it comes to squad strength.

    I stated before the start of the season that I felt Benitez should have shelved any past feelings and taken Michael Owen on a free transfer this summer. He would have returned in an instant and no-one can tell me he is not a better bet than David Ngog and Andriy Voronin.

    Benitez has also bought too many average players in what is currently regarded as the "mid range" price bracket. What has happened to Andrea Dossena? Bought at a cost of £7m and now seemingly discarded forever. Whatever became of Philipp Degen?

    There are players, such as Ryan Babel, who cost a lot of money when they were bought by Benitez and have now fallen from favour. This is where blaming Tom Hicks and George Gillett for all Liverpool's ills is a red herring. Benitez has had money to spend, squandered a lot of it and must take his share of the blame.

    One bright spot for me last night was the performance of young Martin Kelly. He showed real promise and the emergence of a local talent was warmly embraced by Anfield, always keen to support home-grown products. The problem is that once Glen Johnson is fit, he will simply return to the shadows, perhaps never to be seen again.

    I do not believe Benitez is under immediate pressure for his job. He signed a lucrative new five-year contract earlier this year and it would be an expensive process for the American owners to even consider dismissing him.

    Also, it must be stressed that the season is still in its infancy, no matter how gloomy the current prognosis for Liverpool, and Benitez has proved a master at pulling off the result he needs at the time he needs it.

    But make no mistake, the visit of Manchester United is of huge significance in the context of Liverpool's entire season - and for their manager.




  • Comment number 97.

    #51

    Also, any criticism of the signing of Aquilani is ridiculous. He may turn out to be as good as or even better than Alonso... who knows? If you could sign a top quality player on a lengthy contract, in the knowledge that he is injured for a few months but could offer you long-term benefit, why would you not sign him? This short-sightedness is the problem in today's game. Fact is, when Benitez has spent in the region of £20m of talent in the past it has come good... a certain Fernando Torres springs to mind!

    ------------------------------------------------

    Why is it ridiculous to criticise the signing of an injury prone and unproven player for £17m to replace your midfield lynchpin? At the time people made the comments that he had hardly completed a full season for Roma an had a modest goalscoring record but we were sent links to a couple of hollywood goals on Youtube. Now his recovery from injury is dragging on, the midfield is lacking in creativity and the season is slipping away.

    Torres had been delivering for a few seasons when Benitez signed him. The same cannot be said of Aquilani. He may well come good in the long term but the momentum from last season has been lost and with 5 credible teams competeing for 4 champions league places, it may all be too late.

  • Comment number 98.

    LABSAB9,

    Why do you think Benitez has had enough time and capital to assemble a squad? Are you simply judging by his net spending or simply by time? I agree with you that Benitez has spent a lot, but he has spent a lot on only ‘big’ players. This was because the squad that he inherited when he took over was so poor. Players like Cisse, Cheyrou, Traore, Smicer, and Diao were definitely not top four quality and had to be replaced. In 2004/05 Liverpool were a long way behind the top four in terms of squad. Benitez has not performed a miracle, but we have improved (points wise) every season except one. Considering we do not have the resources Chelsea or Man Utd have and he did no inherit a squad nearly as capable as Arsenal’s (in 2004/05) what more can you ask your manager to do except simply get more points than he did last season?

  • Comment number 99.

    Since he arrived at Anfield I've had very mixed feelings about Rafa. One can never take away the achievement of managing the side to a European Cup, especially with one of the least talented squads ever to do so. But so many of his decisions make no sense - both at the time he makes them, and in hindsight.

    Examples:

    1. Alienating Alonso - why on earth would Benitez publically court Gareth Barry, a good enough player but never a winner of a Champions League or European Championship medal, and who is almost a year older, when he already has Xabi Alonso on the squad? As a result he made Alonso feel insecure about his place at Anfield, and quite reasonably took the money to return to Spain with Real Madrid. Benitez had built the Reds most successful system around Alonso, giving Gerrard the freedom to go wherever he wanted. Then Rafa, through crummy man-management, loses the player his system depends upon. Genius.

    2. Injured Aquilani - Benitez knew he needed to replace Alonso, had £20 million to spend, then blows it all on the injured Alberto Aquilani, who even when fit doesn't replace the combination of holding and passing that Alonso provided. Everyone on the planet was aware Aquilani would miss the first 2-3 months of the season, so even when he does start playing he'll still be trying to find match fitness, when the season will be 1/3 over, and the Reds' CL and league ambitions could well be gone. Looking at Aquilani's wiki page he sounds like he's been dogged by injuries his whole career. At least he'll fit in nicely with Gerrard and Torres in that respect.

    3. Glen Johnson - A good enough player, but did the Reds have a need at right back? As far as I can recall Arbeloa was perfectly fine there last season, Liverpool didn't fail to win the title because of any shortcomings at right back. Then, it turns out they have had a very promising right back in Martin Kelly all along. Why not bring him on over the course of this season as the successor to Arbeloa, instead of blowing £17 million on Johnson?

    4. N'gog, Lucas, Bobble - clearly Benitez lacks much of an eye for young talent, because those three are collectively hopeless.

    I could go on.

  • Comment number 100.

    #75 randommemorablename

    On a side note, Reegslfc - what a lazy recycled (I believe the moronic Robbo Robson said the same) opinion of Lucas that is. He's Brazilian therefore must play stunning samba style football must he? You try being 22

    ------------------

    Being brazilian doesn't make you good.. remember Mirandinho who played for Newcastle - never performed and then there was Kleberson who signed for United and never cut it. Lucas is poor and is not a top-4 standard player. At 22 he has been a professional for 5 years so youth is not an excuse in this regard.

    And Robbo is brilliant. If you disagree go on to his blog and we will make you pay for your slander (or at least have a good debate)

 

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