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Benitez under spotlight after Champions League exit

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Phil McNulty | 01:01 UK time, Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Liverpool supporters have grown up on the tales of great European nights at Anfield - the Champions League visit of Fiorentina next month will not provide any.

The supreme insignificance of the game, simply a fulfilment of Liverpool's fixtures after their exit from the group stage on Tuesday, will be a painful embarrassment to manager Rafael Benitez and his team.

Liverpool's place at European football's top table has been taken as read given they habitually reached the later stages of the Champions League.

Now a meaningless meeting with already-qualified Fiorentina will amount to little more than a warm-up for the fight for scraps in the Europa League, a competition that has barely registered on Liverpool's consciouness, a tournament they were happy to leave to the likes of neighbours Everton and Fulham.

The miracle Liverpool hoped would save their Champions League campaign did not materialise as Fiorentina beat Lyon in Florence. And the pressure mounts on Benitez to salvage something from the mounting wreckage of his season, despite victory against Debrecen in Hungary.

Harry Houdini was born in Budapest and Benitez has become something of an escapologist himself when it comes to getting out of Champions League corners. But not this time - and Liverpool perished in a group that was a difficult but hardly insurmountable obstacle.

This is not just a financially damaging development, although a good run in the Europa League may provide some fiscal compensation. It is a huge blow to the profile and pride of a club that lives off the glamour that Europe's elite competition provides.

The Champions League is big box office. The Europa League, for all Uefa's frantic window dressing, is a very poor second.

Benitez ponders Liverpool's Champions League exit as Steven Gerrard heads to the dressing roomBenitez ponders Liverpool's Champions League exit as Steven Gerrard heads to the dressing room

Liverpool fulfilled their part of the bargain by beating Debrecen in Budapest. But relying on others to do your bidding is always a flawed policy in football and today they are exactly where they deserve to be - out of the Champions League.

Christian Purslow, Liverpool's managing director, once more stated his faith in Benitez and there is no imminent threat to the Spaniard's job. But to suggest he is not under intense scrutiny is to ignore the reality of the club's current plight.

Liverpool stand 13 points away from leaders Chelsea in the Premier League, making a mockery of those of us who felt this would be a winning title season, and out of the Champions League before their final group game is even played.

If those two things alone do not amount to a Liverpool manager being under pressure to deliver, then it is tough to see what does. Benitez must, at the very least, finish in the top four this season otherwise pressure will be applied from a variety of sources, not least the club's loyal and uniquely patient support base.

Liverpool's fate was not sealed by Fiorentina's win on Tuesday night. They were sunk by the concession of two late goals against Lyon - one at Anfield that robbed them of a draw and one in France that denied them a win - and a shocker of a performance away to Fiorentina.

Benitez has not enjoyed luck with injuries, with Fernando Torres struggling for weeks and Steven Gerrard only lasting 25 minutes of what amounted to a defining home game against Lyon.

But Benitez himself has not managed the campaign well, a surprise given the credit he has rightly received for plotting previous Champions League successes.

He used Fabio Aurelio in an unaccustomed central midfield role in Florence, with predictable results, then drew his first sustained jeering from The Kop when he replaced Liverpool's best player, Yossi Benayoun, with Andriy Voronin when they were locked at 1-1 with Lyon at Anfield.

And then we come to Alberto Aquilani. The wisdom of spending £20m on your showpiece summer signing, the player who was going to fill a Xabi Alonso-sized hole in Liverpool's team, and then reach mid-November without him making a first-team start has to be questioned.

If Aquilani was meant to be the cavalry, and he did get a couple of minutes against Debrecen, then he is arriving way too late. This is not, I should stress, the fault of Aquilani, but Benitez took a gamble on when he would be ready and Liverpool are now effectively out of their two main competitions without the Italian making a contribution worthy of the name.

I was at Arsenal on Tuesday, and once their hugely impressive qualification had been assured, the biggest story in Europe was developing in far-off Florence and Budapest. There was no disguising the delight of Arsenal's fans at the demise of a potentially dangerous Champions League foe.

Gunners manager Arsene Wenger was even drawn on the matter in his own post-match briefing, taking no personal pleasure in Liverpool's exit, simply stating that once you lose a home game in the group stage you are struggling.

As Liverpool's players, in a sombre scene, gathered around a television set in the tunnel at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium, hoping for late salvation from Florence, Benitez was already preparing an upbeat message, saying: "I am 100% confident we will finish in the top four in the Premier League this season."

Liverpool fans sing their support during the game in HungaryLiverpool fans sing their support during the game in Hungary

This statement alone is an indicator of the scale of Liverpool's disappointment this season. And for Benitez, fourth place is the absolute minimum requirement this season - anything less and questions about his tenure will be asked, and rightly so.

Benitez and Liverpool must address their Premier League failings while talking up the merits of the Europa League, something which they had hardly factored into their plans and something they are likely to do through gritted teeth as the lucrative Champions League show moves on to another town.

Liverpool and Benitez start the renewal of their season with the small matter of a Merseyside derby at Goodison Park on Sunday - with Everton's fans no doubt only too keen to welcome their neighbours into the Europa League fold.

Of course, brickbats will be aimed in the direction of Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett for the instability that has continued behind the scenes at Anfield with takeover and investment talk - they always are when things go bad - but Benitez cannot simply hide behind their failings.

For all the flak aimed at the American duo, Benitez cannot claim he has been totally starved of cash, and Liverpool's squad outside a first-choice eleven soon dwindles alarmingly in quality.

When I tipped Liverpool for the title, it was based on the last three months of last season and on performances such as the blistering 4-0 demolition of Real Madrid at Anfield in March - a night that must have seemed like years ago to Benitez and his players as they flew home from Hungary.

Of course, so much depended on Gerrard and Torres, and Benitez has been unfortunate to have his world-class stars injured again, but the weaknesses around the edges of his squad have been brutally exposed, underlining the over-reliance on those two wonderful talents.

Too many on the margins are simply not good enough to flourish in the heat of the Premier League and Champions League. Benitez must address this swiftly because it is a weakness that drives at the heart of any plans he might have to seriously revitalise Liverpool.

Torres and Gerrard will remain the jewels in Liverpool's crown, but how will they adapt to the Europa League? With their usual professionalism, of course, but make no mistake they will feel like they have only got their faces pressed up against the window while the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal sweep up all the real goodies.

For Benitez, defining weeks lie ahead. He has, in large portion, retained the unwavering faith of so many Liverpool fans, but painful nights like Tuesday tend to crystallise minds and focus criticisms.

I know from writing about Benitez that any criticism can provoke an angry response from many - but it cannot be avoided after the manner of their Champions League exit. This is no invented setback.

Even when previous Premier League campaigns have faltered, Benitez has always had Europe as his safety net, with memories of Istanbul 2005 to add to his lustre. He cannot live on that forever, and the traumas of this turbulent season will surely have damaged his standing in the eyes of at least some of the fans who previously accepted his wisdom without question.

Benitez must lift the morale of the club and of Liverpool's players, who will have been hit hard by elimination from the Champions League, a tournament that has brought them such emotional highs and lows in recent years.

And Benitez must do it swiftly or it will be a long, hard winter for Liverpool's players and fans - and most of all for Liverpool's manager.

You can follow me throughout this season at http://twitter.com/philmcnulty and join me at Facebook (requires registration)

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Phil you say the Europa is a 'very poor second' I find this to be over the top.. The Europa is in its infancy but at the very least is fresh.. The Champions League reads like an annual speech every year they draw the group stages.. All this favouring the larger nations that came up during the seeding of play-offs in the World Cup qualifiers happens every year in the Champions League and nothing is said because the largest nations media are happy that their teams are being favoured...

    This is another almost sympathetic entry for Liverpool which must take the total to quite a few this season.. and they don't deserve it.. They are playing badly and their manager is hanging on to a job he frankly has had his time in.. I thought something was up when his reasoning for buying Aquilani was that £20mil was cheap because he was injured and injury prone.. and this is what made it a good deal..

  • Comment number 2.

    Phil, I'm afraid Liverpool may only have a remote chance of winning the title if you retract your prediction...

  • Comment number 3.

    Liverpool out & their season falling apart!

    Good times!!!

    :-)

  • Comment number 4.

    "Benitez has not enjoyed luck with injuries"

    _____________________________________________

    Gerrard and Torres. Yes your two best Phil but look around. Other teams always have injured first team players, often up to half a dozen because they're the people out there the majority of the time getting the knocks. All good teams have players to fill in the gaps when these injuries occur though which is the difference maker here.

    Find top class cover and competition for these two then Liverpool will be back. Otherwise they're too easy.

    It's that simple.

  • Comment number 5.

    Welcome Liverpool to the European equivalent of the Johnstons Paint Trophy!

  • Comment number 6.

    The wheels have being falling off for some time.

    Everyone knows that with out Torres and Gerrard the squad just is not good enough.

    As you rightly say Phil poor seasons gone by have been covered up with European success.

    No where to hide for Rafa now ! !

    All his tactical failings will be exposure by the end of the season ! !

  • Comment number 7.

    Save face? This season has been a total disaster for Liverpool.

    Gerrard isn't getting any younger, Carragher is almost past it, what have Liverpool got in defence? If this was United going out early in this fashion, you'd be writing a blog about how it must have been United's demise the Mayans were on about with their calendar!

    Youth system in tatters, hasn't delivered one player to the first team the whole time he's been there. A squad that inspires panic as soon as it gets a couple of injuries. A complete mess. The only reason the fans stick by him is cos sacking him would mean the americans were right in the first place (when they wanted to get Klinsmann)

  • Comment number 8.

    I don't really understand the fuss about Liverpool's exit from the Champions League. I have just checked the rule book and there is nothing in there which states that Liverpool or any of the other "Big four" have to be in the Champions League.When I first took an interest in football in the very early sixties, Wolves, Blackburn, Spurs were considered the tops teams. I can remember Leeds getting promoted in the sixties, then the whole follow on right through to where Leeds are now. Teams come and teams go. If this is the begining of the end for Liverpool as we have come to know them ,then so be it. Get over it.

  • Comment number 9.

    Looking in from the outside, I really think its time Benitez must go. Liverpool cant slump any lower. Qualifying for next seasons Champions League is a must. Forget the Europa League and concentrate fully on our own premiership.

    Benitez signings in general have been mediocre to say the least with the exception of two (Torres, Reina). He inherited a very good team from Houllier and took them backwards. Fair enough he won the CL but that was mainly with Houllier's players on a night that will never ever unfold like it again.

    Many fans point to Alonso's exit as a reason which Liverpool are struggling, which is true, but, had it not been for Benitez relentless pursuit of Gareth Barry the season before and the shabby way in which Alonso was treated then maybe he might have stayed. Instead Alonso jumped ship the first chance he got and hasn't looked back.

    There is no fight in the Liverpool team, they aren't battle hardened. They are physically dominated by teams. Teams look at Liverpool as a soft touch and more worrying they look at them as a very good chance of 3 points.

    There have beens injuries, fair enough but, they should be able to cope. Having spent the best part of 200m over 5 years, the empire shouldn't crumble having two players injured. Everyone has injuries, suspensions, bad luck etc.

    If Benetez left now could you say he left Liverpool in a better posistion than he inherited. Quite frankly no. Whether he stays or goes Benitez and Liverpool fans can go back to the favourite saying of 'Next season will be our year' but until Benitez leaves this will never be the case.

  • Comment number 10.

    Liverpool have been unlucky with injuries to Torres, Gerrard and the unavailability of Aquilani. However a three man team does not make potential Champions League finalists.
    All the talk now is of finishing in the top 4. Quite frankly I cannot see how this can be achieved at the present time.
    The American owners are too much in debt to be able to fund any significant transfers in January (and, quite frankly, Benitez has show little recent good judgment in the 'lower' priced end of the market to inspire any confidence in unearthing a reasonably priced gem).
    Thus the only way that the Club can continue to compete at the very top end of English and European football is something like a Middle-Eastern takeover to pay off the debt and get one or two top top class players to get things back on the rails.
    Over to Saudi Arabia or Dubai !!!
    (if they move quick enough then there is the chance that Frank Ribery might be available once Bayern are confirmed in the Europa League tonight !!!)

  • Comment number 11.

    I've been a big critic of Phil McNulty's blogs in the past, but on this occasion I completely agree with everything he has said.

    I'm not happy with Hicks & Gillett, and my preference is for them to see the club and be confined to Liverpool's history, I cannot see how this deal was a better option than the DIC deal?! However, what we've seen on the pitch this season (and it has been embarrassingly bad) is almost entirely the fault of Benitez.

    Phil McNulty's comments on Aquilani are spot on, terribly flawed transfer policy by Benitez first in marginalising Alonso with the failed, and ridiculous pursuit of Barry, then in signing a player for £20 million who still has not started a game, and we're almost in December! Wesley Sneijder left Real Madrid for Inter this summer, for £7 million less than Aquilani, he could have been included in the Alonso deal and he would have at least been able to pass a medical! Furthermore, Aquilani played 15 minutes in the Carling Cup against Arsenal a month ago, how can he still not be match-fit!?!? His services are desperately needed because Lucas' weakness is unacceptable in a key position like central midfield.

    This is indeed Liverpool's problem, their best 11 is arguably the best in the league, their second 11 is one of the worst - Lucas, Kyriagos, Voronin, N'Gog, Babel, Insua, Dossena, these players are just not even close to being good enough.

    We can get angry about the American owners but the fact is that Babel, Lucas and Dossena were signed by Benitez for a combined fee of £23.7 million! If that had been better invested Liverpool wouldn't be in this horrible position.

  • Comment number 12.

    Not only is the Europa League 'a very poor second', which is arguably still an understatement, the fact that Liverpool will be playing games on Thursday nights and switching Premier League games to Sundays could hamper them as well.

    As a Spurs fan, I saw Redknapp desperately try and not succeed in the competition last season because there is a ludicrous amount of games to be played.

    Factor in the FA Cup in January and the congested league schedule from January to Easter and Liverpool could be finding it incredibly tough to secure 4th place, especially when taking into account their injury list (it's big but when you rely on two players you're always going to struggle with mediocre replacements).

    If Liverpool only had one challenger for 4th then I'd back them to finish there over a course of the season. But as they've got at least three in Spurs, Man City and Villa, the chance of one of those three finishing ahead of Liverpool is far higher.

    I think Liverpool will finish outside of the top 4. They can blame injuries, but the fact is that Spurs beat Liverpool with Gerrard and Torres in the opening game, and it's nobody's fault but their own for signing injured players for £20m and not strengthening the squad as a whole.

  • Comment number 13.

    Apparently it's the last-minute goals that did it for LFC - I didn't hear any complaints about them last year.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think there is an over reaction here. United went out at the group stage a few seasons ago and it did them no harm in terms of their long term future, they won 3 premiership titles on the bounce after it. I also don't remember anybody saying United were finished because of the failure to qualify so why the blown up story about Liverpool.

    Like any United fan I like to gloat a little at Liverpools misfortune but they are far from dead and buried. Despite the opinions of the armchair pundits on 606 Benitez is a quality manager (a little too defensive minded at the moment but you play with what you have). He won the Champions League and took Liverpool to the final also these are not the marks of a poor manager. Yes Liverpool have had a disastrous start to the season and may be written off in the two most valued competitions, however, they could still finish the season with three cups (2000 all over again) and a top four finish if they pick their game up a little and with Gerrard back I can see them gelling a lot better and playing with a little more attacking flare.

    The only problem I see is when you get senior members of the team talking of defeat before it has happened. This is what Liverpool need to combat, bring about a winning mentality for the team and their manager, surely Sammy Lee who played in the dominating 80's Liverpool side could step up to the mark and pick the whole dressing room up.

  • Comment number 15.

    "the biggest story in Europe was developing in far-off Florence and Budapest."

    I guess the Barca Vs Inter game was a tiny story in comparison.

  • Comment number 16.

    Bad luck with injuries? How many 'first teamers' did Chelsea have missing on Saturday when they took Wolves to the cleaners?

    Honestly, the tone on tv last night was as if somebody had died. That is ridiculous unless you beleive you are starting to see a more long term decline in Liverpool.

    Benitez has had money and he has had time. Perhaps if he had spent more time devoted to the football side of the club rather than what's going on in the boardroom then he might have done better.

    We may well see many excuses and much nostalgia today but the fact is Liverpool just aren't playing well and have ended up with what they deserve.

  • Comment number 17.

    The myth of "memories of Istanbul 2005 to add to his lustre" does not bear examination.

    Liverpool were unbelievably lucky to get to the Final. Remember the late goal in Greece? The "non-goal" against Chelsea?

    Then they were outplayed for more than 70 minutes in the Final and had that phenomenal burst of goals - was it 3 in 17 minutes? - and won on penalties. Not too much lustre in my opinion.

    By the way, I have two tickets for the Liverpool end of season dinner if anyone wants them. It's on Sunday.

  • Comment number 18.

    Rafa has got to go... i cannot see any footballing or results based defence to keep him in the job. The only reason he won't be sacked is because he will take a £20m payoff.

    I love history, i love the big European giants, and for that reason i want Liverpool to challenge for everything every year

    Sadly Rafa has had 5 years of very average results with the HUGE exception of winning the champions league.... sadly though that can no longer be seen as enough to keep him in a job

    Rafa out - Hiddink or someone else of that stature in ASAP for Liverpool to return to where i want them to be...

    currently 7th in the league, out of the title race, out of the Chapions league at the earliest possible point, more poor work in the transfer market, more poor tactical decisions (often based around dropping/taking off Benayoun).... all in the year that was supposed to be "the year" they came back.

    sorry but i know Liverpool fans are the most loyal to their manager in the whole country and i am sure some of those fans will now tell me that Rafa is great and he should be stuck with, but he is not the right man for such a great club.

  • Comment number 19.

    The majority of anti Rafa posts on these forums are from ManU fans which says a lot. They know that if you have a great manager you stick with him not sack him. I have been a fan over 35 years and getting rid of Rafa is the last thing we want to do. Sacking the manager is the knee jerk reaction that other clubs do not LFC. Rafa is one of us and if we sack him, who do you get to replace him? Of course we all get frustrated that he won't play Aquilani and continues with Lucas but we need to trust his judgement. If we fired him, he would be snapped up by Real Madrid in a heartbeat

  • Comment number 20.

    #1: This slating of the Champions League smacks of trying to make the best of a bad situation. The CL is clearly where the most respected teams in Europe ply their trade, and to suggest that this makes it boring or predictable is ridiculous! Why would you want to play teams that have none of the pedigree or quality of clubs such as Madrid, Milan, Man Utd, Bayern Munich etc? These are names that are synonymous with club football, whereas Hapoel Tel Aviv and Rapid Vienna are anything but. Also, UEFA are clearly doing more and more to help clubs from 'lesser' countries by talking about limiting the number of clubs from the big nations who are allowed into the CL. In recent years smaller or at the very least unfashionable teams have provided major upsets or excelled themselves. Anorthosis Famagusta drew with Inter last year, Rubin beat Barca this year, Sevilla lost last night to an unheard of Romanian team, Cluj beat Roma last year. The list goes on and on. The CL is definitely the premier club competition in Europe and for Liverpool not to be competing is clearly a massive failure.

  • Comment number 21.

    Liverpool's main problem this season is their defending. All this talk of Torres and Gerrard blah blah blah is completely MISSING THE POINT. The reason we are in the current mess we are in is because we have conceded too many goals, particularly from set pieces, it's as simple as that. The fact that we haven't had a settled back 4 this season hasn't helped, when the backline is constantly being changed due to injury then this obviously causes problems. Many 'experts' like to blame Zonal defending, but it is no more or less effective than man-marking, it's just how well your players implement the system, and this season we haven't implemented it as well as last season. When Agger plays with Carragher in the centre of defence we look much much stronger, they compliment each other perfectly. Unfortunately they have only played together 2 or 3 times this season (vs Man Utd was one of them).

    There is no issue with us not being creative enough, we were top scorers last season and we have the same squad minus Alonso and Arbeloa, replacing them we've brought in Johnson and Aquilani, and i feel that when, WHEN Aquilani is ready to play 90 minutes we will see an even more creative team.

    Man Utd went out of the CL group stages in autumn 2005, they finished bottom of their group and didn't even get into the UEFA Cup, a year and a half later they won the CL. Arsenal have qualified for the knock out phase every year but have never come close to winning the thing (bar once in 2006). So going out in the group stages is really not the end of the world.

  • Comment number 22.

    There's just not enough quality in the Liverpool squad. Gerrard, Torres and possibly Aquilani are the only true stars they have - Kuyt and Carragher have been hopelessly off-form this season, I'm not convinced about Ngog, and I'd struggle to think of anybody else other than Mascherano and maybe Johnson who would get into Chelsea's squad on current form. Rafa got away with his big blunder last year (selling Robbie Keane without anyone to replace him) but the sale of Alonso has caught up with him this time. I think they're strong enough to get 4th, and have to be among the Europa League favourites, but is that really enough? It will be tough to attract big-name players in January unless the league form has really turned around by then.

  • Comment number 23.

    Rafa has lived off Istanbul for too long, with Gerrard usually getting him out of trouble. I personally cannot stand the usual comment of 'Gerrard and Torres would be missed in any team'....granted but any title challenging team would have more strength in depth than you see at Liverpool. All football fans know he has had his fair share of cash to develop the team, but unfortunately he has chosen poorly.

    Stubborn - Of course, just step up to Villa asking price and buy Barry, no the defiant Rafa will not be taken for a mug!

    That is fine Rafa, Lucas will pull you through!!!

    Sorry all you pool fans, its going to be tight for a champions league spot next year!!

  • Comment number 24.

    #11 SportsSportsSportsBS

    This is indeed Liverpool's problem, their best 11 is arguably the best in the league, their second 11 is one of the worst - Lucas, Kyriagos, Voronin, N'Gog, Babel, Insua, Dossena, these players are just not even close to being good enough.
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    Even that's not really true.

    Their best wasn't good enough last year and if you think their best 11 is as good as Cech, A Cole, Terry, Carvalho, Bosingwa, Essien, Malouda, J Cole, Lampard, Anelka and Drogba then you are way off the mark and don't appreciate just how average much of Liverpool's squad is.

    And remember, Benitez has spent a very similar amount of money to Chelsea since he's been there.

  • Comment number 25.

    Well done Phil....given the opportunity to completely miss the point and you never fail to take it!

    And why do you feel so qualified to question Benitez? "He used Fabio Aurelio in an unaccustomed central midfield role in Florence, with predictable results". Its only unaccustomed to you, in your head- Aurelio has played in this position many times, and looked good doing so, like he did at Valencia (when under Rafa, they broke Madrid's strangle hold on the league).

    The thing that has had a real impact on Liverpools season IS injuries, and not just to Torres and Gerrard (last seasons win over Utd at Anfield shows we can play well without them), but to most of the other "starting XI". Johnson, Aurelio, Benayoun, Rierra, Babel, Agger, Skyrtel. Please Phil, tell us, what other teams in the premiere league can lose both their BEST players, and most of the other starting XI and still perform to the standard set by the best XI?? But hey, lets ignore the real issues to concentrate on the sensationist headlines.

    "pressure will be applied from a variety of sources, not least the club's loyal and uniquely patient support base" You'd like to think so, but please dont speak on our behalf, we can speak for ourselfs, and the majority of the Anfield Faithful (people who actualy go to Anfield and see the real situation) understand the fact that we've barely played our strongest XI this season for more than a couple of games. Barely played our strongest VII for a couple of games. When we have a fully fit team, and not just our only two "good" players that you seem to think we have, then we can really asses that state of liverpools situation. A coupld of good wins and we're back up there, a really good run and we're right back in it, not gonna catch Chel$$$ea - but lets wait and see what happens when the African Nations comes around eh?


  • Comment number 26.

    Although there is this strange devotion to Rafa amongst many fans, I'm not getting any younger and I'd like to see Liverpool win the PL in th next 15 years. It's not going to happen with Mr Benitez at the helm I'm afraid.

    You can't even say Liverpool have been unlucky. We are playing badly and deserve to be losing all these games. The glaring error Rafa has made is not buying a second top class striker after Keane left. NGog? Sorry, but he's average at best. Babel, Kuyt? Both would probably be great strikers if they hadn't either been played out of position or not played at all for the last two years. Michael Owen for free would have been great business but pride prevented Benitez from allowing that. By God we could do with him up front now.

    We cannot win a header in our own penalty area so teams are queuing to score against us from set pieces. Skrtel, Insua and the Greek bloke who's name escapes me (but is a very high score in Scrabble I bet) are hopeless. Even Carragher is losing it and he can't cross to save his life any more. Agger and Johnson are OK but the former is injured more often than not.

    Aquilani is now fit at last and yet rarely makes it on to the pitch? Can anyone explain that? It doesn't make sense. Benayoun is currently our best player and yet he's usually the first to be subbed - again, doesn't make sense.

    Over the last 10 years or so, the reason Liverpool have not won the league is that we've either had a leaky defence or been shy of goals (after Owen left, our strikers were scoring less than 10 goals each a season.) Last season we were a striker down from January and had we had cover for Torres, we would, I'm sure, have turned two draws into wins to take the PL.

    The squad is shallow and the cover for injuries is non existent. Rafa apparently knows best though. Does he really?

  • Comment number 27.

    #9. He did not inherit a very good team from Houllier, thats nonsense

  • Comment number 28.

    Appearances of 'star players' this season:

    Rooney 16
    Berbatov 15
    Drogba 15
    Fabregas 15
    Gerrard 14
    Van Persie 14
    Torres 13

    I hardly think 1 or 2 games missed compared to other teams represents significantly worse luck and represents a valid excuse for Liverpool's demise. Benitez is using 'the injury crisis' to mask the fact he's bought a plethora of mediocre players which means they are where they deserve to be - in the Europa League, and competing for a Europa League place in the Premier League.

  • Comment number 29.

    A Pyrrhic victory in Budapest. Not exactly at this point but all along the road. Could the club have contained the exacerbation of its casualty list. But then who knew? It wasn't unreasonable to hope Lyon could see off Fiorentina.

    When a manager is as badly beleaguered as Benetez has been since that opening PL game against Spurs, the thinking gets convoluted in direct proportion to the expectations. There was a brief light at at the end of the tunnel when LFC rose to put it across to United. But it was too lambent to last.

    It is difficult to believe Liverpool could find a better man to shepherd them. Rafa is guilty of some ridiculous reflex decisions. If he were to be in a position to review them in a hurry, he wouldn't have authored them in the first place. But then command is a very lonely job. Your confidantes are as capable of queering it for you as you can do it on your own. The crux is that you have to have a feel for it. You have the time to go back to the basics and make your own soul search. The starting point is not a question of the club management deciding to live with you, but rather of whether you can do that yourself.

  • Comment number 30.

    Hooray for the scousers finally not having the rub of the green and their season in tatters! Couldn't be happier : )

  • Comment number 31.

    Phil why do you and other people keep going on about last season,Liverpool only beat a Real Madrid side that lets face it was probably one of the worst sides in their history, true you can only beat who is put in front of you,this has led this season to a false situation arising when it was obvious that last season they were'nt good enough to win the E.P.L.after being given a start by Man Utd so why it should it be any different this season,Liverpool were nothing special in the first 6 months of last season and that's showing now,to use injuries as excuses like Rafa does is sad,you don't hear Ferguson saying if only we had'nt lost Ronaldo who lets face it would be missed by any team.To be out of the Champions league,Carling Cup and to have very little chance of winning the E.P.L. before the end of Nov just shows what the quality of this squad is,poor.İ hope the Pool pick up before the end of the season but i'm not so sure they will.

  • Comment number 32.

    Im a big fan of benitez, i think hes done an awful lot for the club, i think he's managed us exceptionally in difficult cirumstances.

    I dont think its as bad as the press like to make out and there are extenuating circumstances for the problems on the pitch.

    However, afew things i cannot defend are:
    A midfield containing lucas and mascherano does not work.
    Im not criticising either player (lucas gets a lot of unwarrented criticism), but their games are to similar and it results in a slow, sideways and predictable game, liverpools performances, have been terrible - i think we have been unlucky in many games, but in a way im happy we havent had more luck, cos we'd be papering over cracks...

    One plus point, ngog gets better every game he plays, anyone lazy or ignorant enough to continually criticise this player doesnt know football...

  • Comment number 33.

    Hi Phil,
    Whilst I agree that the Europa League is not at the same level of the Champions League in terms of appeal, it does not make it a considerably less difficult competition.
    With teams like Roma, Valencia, Werder Bremen, Villarreal and a reborn Benfica as well as defending champions Shaktar, there will be some very tough games for Liverpool as they progress. Coupled with the Thursday night kickoff's and this could turn out to be a real season killer for Liverpool, seeing as their lack of depth has exposed them so badly thus far.
    On the flip side- perhaps Rafa can use it as an informal scouting trip for the type of players he should be buying in the first place? Players like Jadson, Zarate, Danny, Ozil et al will be on show.
    And on a side note- we actually might see Torres vs Villa!

  • Comment number 34.

    'happyfishcity'.

    This guy is insane, and clueless.

    Liverpool got passed Chelsea (under Mourinho), Juventus (before all their players left after the scandal that saw them relegated), and Milan (at their peak, Maldini, Nesta, Shevchenko, Kaka, Gattuso, Pirlo, Crespo) to win that tournament, you'll struggle to find a more deserving winner of the tournament given the teams they beat.

    Re The Chelsea 'goal', what Jose Mourinho chose to ignore, was that the decision to give the goal hugely benefitted Chelsea, giving the goal was a cop-out by the referee - because if he didn't give the goal he would have had to give Liverpool a penalty and send off Cech for his challenge on Baros.

    Also, in the final their 3 goals came in about 6 frantic minutes, if you do not know about these matters, as you clearly do not, why humiliate yourself by commenting..................?

  • Comment number 35.

    >>" I'm not happy with Hicks & Gillett, and my preference is for them to see the club and be confined to Liverpool's history"



    It's hard to see how they are to blame here. Didn't they want to dump Rafa but the fans wouldn't have it? And they've put up money for players, its just the players bought were poor.

  • Comment number 36.

    In truth, I find the calls for Benitez's head to be madness. I am not a Liverpool fan, I am a Chelsea fan, so I am far from blinkered.

    Think about it. This man, over the past five years or so, has delivered two Champions League finals and one trophy, and was within touching distance of the title last year. Had they won two of the games they drew, he'd have a Premier League title as well. And now you want to sack this chap because of what? One very bad season? Thanks for all your work, now so long? For a supposedly uniquely loyal fanbase, the Liverpool fans seem rather eager to feed their manager to the wolves.

    As well as the knee-jerk reaction part of it, there are other good, financial reasons for keeping Rafa. His new contract means it will cost you around 20 million to sack him. Add that to the cost of finding a new manager, and to the fact whoever you bring in will have to retool the squad from the ground up, if it's as bad as everyone claims (which I dispute, since the squad's basically the same as last season- unless you want to say Xabi Alonso was single-handedly the difference between second and seventh). Not only that, this rebuilding will have to take place with around 20 million less funds then if Benitez was at the helm. Do you really expect anyone, even Hiddink, to be able to pick you up and salvage something under such conditions? I don't.

    Much of the blame for where Liverpool are now is on the manager's head, I agree. But transfer policy is not as big a bugbear for Benitez as is claimed. As mentioned above, minus Alonso and plus Johnson, the squad is, almost man-for-man, the same one that almost won the title last season. And I certainly didn't see Liverpool fans uttering the same criticisms then, as they are now, so what's changed? If you only support the manager when he's winning, you don't support him at all.

  • Comment number 37.

    I think the argument of Man Utd going out in the group stage in 2005 and not being in any sort of trouble afterwards is not a like-for-like comparison.

    When Man Utd went out, they didn't go into the UEFA Cup so had less games, and also comfortably finished second in the league, something which Liverpool are currently nowhere near doing.

    Liverpool's situation is far more serious. They're miles off the pace in the league and also don't produce the same kind of revenue that Man Utd do.

    So to compare the two situations is inaccurate, if Liverpool don't qualify for the Champions League it will be tough for them to get back in again with even less revenue and probable player sales.

  • Comment number 38.

    #34 SportsSportsSportsBS

    Re The Chelsea 'goal', what Jose Mourinho chose to ignore, was that the decision to give the goal hugely benefitted Chelsea, giving the goal was a cop-out by the referee - because if he didn't give the goal he would have had to give Liverpool a penalty and send off Cech for his challenge on Baros.
    --------------------------------------
    I shouldn't really bite on this but, we will never know what the referee might have done because he awarded a goal when the ball didn't cross the line.

    What the referee said after the match is not that relevant because he is hardly likely to say something that makes his earlier decision look wrong.

    However, Chelsea had most of the 90 minutes to equalise and they didn't. That is the fact.

    http://www.lfc-endofseasonparty.com/

  • Comment number 39.

    Chelsea have been without Lampard, J Cole, Drogba, Bosingwa, Ballack at times this season - still TOP of league and Qualified through CL groups!!

    Man Utd have been without Ferdinand, Vidic, Brown, Fletcher, Carrick, Van der Sar and Berbatov at times this season - 2nd in league and Qualified through CL groups!!

    Arsenal have been without Arshavin, Van Persie, Nasri, Rosicky, Cliche and Almunia at times this season - 3rd in league and Qualified through CL groups!!

    I think there is a pattern to my comments?!

    NO INJURY EXCUSES - EVERY TEAM HAS THEM!!! LIVERPOOL JUST AINT GOT A GOOD ENOUGH SQUAD - FULL STOP!

  • Comment number 40.

    #30 Completely agree man, this is exactly what I've been saying too


    #11: "This is indeed Liverpool's problem, their best 11 is arguably the best in the league"... Are you having a laugh?!?! Teams that have a better starting 11: United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City, Tottenham. And arguably Villa and Everton too. Torres and Gerrard are world class, there's no arguing that. Mascherano and Benayoun are pretty handy, but players like Kuyt, Babel, Riera, Lucas, Voronin, etc etc are all either over-rated, or accepted to be as bad as they are. And in defence you have very little quality, especially with Carragher getting past it. Reina is alright mind you, not a bad keeper. But still, I can't believe you're under the illusion that you have the best first 11 out there. Surely results will show you you're wrong! Probably the 5th best starting 11.

  • Comment number 41.

    27. At 10:25am on 25 Nov 2009, PepeXabiBarnes wrote:
    #9. He did not inherit a very good team from Houllier, thats nonsense

    liverpools 2005 champions league winning team:
    Dudek, Finnan (Hamann 46), Traore, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise, Gerrard, Luis Garcia, Alonso, Kewell (Smicer 23), Baros (Cisse 85).
    Subs Not Used: Carson, Josemi, Nunez, Biscan.

    can you please enlighten us as to how many of these benitez signed...

    benitez is an average manager who's done an average job for far too long.

  • Comment number 42.

    #34- Whilst I agree that Liverpool's victory was well deserved, the main problem most people have with it is that it took the lottery of penalties to win the cup, as opposed to the outright win the way most fans paint the match to have been.
    I'm not detracting from the scale of the victory, but what would you have said if the shootout went the other way?

  • Comment number 43.

    Quite simply, Benitez has completely messed up this season, almost beyond repair.

    I was never one of the famous deluded Liverpool fans who said this year will be our year, but I could never have expected us to capitulate in the way we have. Benitez has to take the fall for this poor season, he has been a little unlucky but as posters on here rightly point out, he is not the only one with difficulties and a team of Liverpools stature should be able to deal with them.

    The owners, I think, are less of a problem than they were, in past seasons if Benitez ever came under pressure, he could just point gently upwards towards the people who promised millions and delivered a few hundred and then spent years squabbling over the pennies. But Benitez has now got his man behind the scenes in Purslow and there seems to be more stability than at any point in the past few years.

    The rest of the blame has to be layed at the players feet though, some players like N'Gog have seized their opportunities with relish, whereas players like Babel consistently disappoint and then snipe in the press. Kuyt has struggled to score the important goals that came in so handy last season, Skrtel seems to have forgotten how to defend any type of through ball, Dossena arrives for 8 million and is quite happy to be 3/4th choice left back as long as he gets paid. The biggest shock was Mascherano, particularly as the season was in its infancy, who was very poor for a long time.

    It's Benitez job though to get things sorted, he has time. Liverpool have never been a club to sack managers midway through a season, he has a long term contract and Purslow assures him his job is safe providing a complete catastrophe doesn't happen.

    I won't ever shout for a managers head, especially one as good as Rafas. Progress has been made in the last few years and the team is steadily improving, but missing this years Champions League spots would be a hammer blow and would undo a lot of the good work done.

    Benitez is safe until the end of the season, wether he lasts till next season depends almost entirely on our Premier League finish now.

  • Comment number 44.

    This is indeed Liverpool's problem, their best 11 is arguably the best in the league, their second 11 is one of the worst - Lucas, Kyriagos, Voronin, N'Gog, Babel, Insua, Dossena, these players are just not even close to being good enough.
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    Even that's not really true.

    Their best wasn't good enough last year and if you think their best 11 is as good as Cech, A Cole, Terry, Carvalho, Bosingwa, Essien, Malouda, J Cole, Lampard, Anelka and Drogba then you are way off the mark and don't appreciate just how average much of Liverpool's squad is.

    And remember, Benitez has spent a very similar amount of money to Chelsea since he's been there.
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    Mr Blue Burns, considering you comment on here an awful lot, you don't half spout some rubbish. And always a reference to Chelsea even when it's not the topic!

    Benitez had certainly not had a 'similar amount of money' to Chelsea, that is just plain laughable. Benitez has a total spend of just over £83m in 5 years at the club, that's TOTAL SPEND, after taking into account all money he's recouped from sales. An average of £16.6m a year.

    The vast majority of his signings have been sold at profit, or if still at the club, are worth a lot more than we paid for them. £83m net spend over 5 years is easily offset by the increased value of the squad. He’d recoup nearly all of that through the sale of Torres alone!

    He’s worked absolute wonders with the money he’s had to spend. Then take into account the massive amounts of money he’s self generated by reaching the latter stages of the CL every season. Two final appearances, one win (better than Chelsea).

    When comparing to Chelsea, they spent all their money before Rafa came to the club and just topping up an already established squad... who are now admitedly a great squad but are all getting old together and have very little sell-on value.

  • Comment number 45.

    To Nick Balaam...just to pick up on some of your remarks. Is Fabio Aurelio accustomed to playing in central midfield for Liverpool? In a vital Champions League game? Was the move a success? I think not.

    I think I have watched Liverpool enough to make a judgement. Do you not think fans will question Benitez if he finishes outside the top four this season? I wiould and if you don't you should be given the money he has spent?

    And of course Torres and Gerrard would be missed by anyone, a point I made very clearly in the blog, but in an interview I did with Alan Hansen recently he made an interesting point.

    He said if any team lost their top two players it would have an effect, but not as much as what he called the "catastrophic" effect it has on Liverpool.

    On other posts - yes of course Hicks and Gillett have played their part in Liverpool's recent difficulties, but let's not escape from the fact that many of the problems are also of Benitez's making. He cannot hide behind the unpopularity of the owners.

    And yes, I share concerns about the Alberto Aquilani affair. It is not great that Liverpool's major summer signing, at £20m, will now only appear with the Champions League gone and the Premier League going, if not gone.

    To Liverpool fans - the club are standing by Benitez, so how can he turn this around?

  • Comment number 46.


    Phil this is what you wrote after matchday 1 (16/09):

    "Liverpool's subdued display will not be recalled if they reach the knockout phase, WHICH THEY SURELY WILL."

    So if you want not to remain the laughing stock in the future you have to start showing some RESPECT, boy.



  • Comment number 47.

    Forget Gerrard and Torres being injured, being that much dependant on them shows the squad way way way to weak, but added to that is Benitez masterful team selection & tactical substitutions??? Bill Shankly & Bob Paisley must be spinning in thier graves. Benny has made some odd team selections & substitutions over the years but last nights sub of Aqualani for 30 seconds beggars belief, what was the point? He needs match practice to bring his fitness levels up what's 30 seconds going to do for him? Benny has lost it

  • Comment number 48.

    Im pretty sure Benitez knew that a 4-0 win and a draw in Italy would ensure that Liverpool only needed a 2-0 win at Anfield. However with the draw in Italy still a possibility he took off a striker!?? The man just confuses me.. some are questioning if he is doing it delibrately (the pool selfdestruction that is)...

  • Comment number 49.

    "He’s worked absolute wonders with the money he’s had to spend."

    ____________________________________________________________________--

    I wish people would stop spouting this NONSENSE!

    http://transferleague.co.uk

    THAT is the truth

  • Comment number 50.

    #44 Y2J

    Oh dear, someone get out of the wrong side of the best today? :-)

    Seriously though, can I ask you to consider these three points and then me know your thoughts please.

    1) The reason I mention Chelsea is because the poster said of Liverpool 'their best 11 is arguably the best in the league'. It is my opinion (and a happy coincidence that I am a fan of them) that Chelsea are the best in the league. Not necessarily far and away the best in the scheme of things, but quite superior to Chelsea at the moment. Therefore, I have used them as a benchmark. That's reasonable isn't it?

    2) In terms of Benitez's spending, please refer to this link. It is well known and largely accepted on here. www.transferleague.co.uk You will see towards the bottom of that webpage that Liverpool have spent around £6m less than Chelsea in the period 2004-2009. Put this in the context of the total spend and I think the amounts are fairly comparable (particularly if you factor in the owners folly of Sheva, without which the figures would be largely identical).

    3) When you say that Chelsea already had an established squad, what you need to bear in mind is that most of Chelsea's squad have been acquired in the period in question. Longer term players are Lampard, Terry, J Cole and Cech. Surely these compare to the likes of Gerrard and Carragher who themselves were already at Liverpool when Benitez arrived. (Note: J Cole and Cech only cost around £15m in total - again not much in the scheme of things.)

    Is that ok?

  • Comment number 51.


    Phil this is what you wrote after matchday 1 (16/09):

    "Liverpool's subdued display will not be recalled if they reach the knockout phase, WHICH THEY SURELY WILL."

    So if you want not to remain the laughing stock in the future you have to start showing some RESPECT, boy.

    =================================================

    you kidding? thats the pot calling the kettle black coming from you

  • Comment number 52.

    The problem that i am seeing is that Gerrard, after years of over reliance by Liverpool is not having the same impact this year - this is inevitable, for 5 years he has been the lynchpin, often hauling Liverpool's spirit up singlehandedly. That is a hell of a burden for one player to bear. I also get the feeling there is something deeper at work behind the scenes at the club, probably between the manager and the players.

    Of course, Gerrard is Liverpool through and through and will always publicly support his manager, but i do get the impression the sale of Alonso left Gerrard bewildered at the manager intentions.

    For example, what was the point of putting Aquilani (the saviour of Liverpool) on for 2 minutes last night - He needed a good 30 mins or so to get into his stride and maybe start gelling with his teammates in a competitive match - this was surely the game to do it in as well (1-0 up needing another to secure the win). £20m for a player is not good business if you don't ever play him.

    14. Yes, United went out at the group stages early, but this is an exception, Liverpool have flown by the seat of the pants in qualifying a few times, so they have "previous". Are you suggesting that Liverpool can now go and win the league 3 times on the bounce as a result of this?! ;)

    I know Liverpool fans will hark on about they beat Man Utd 4-1 at old trafford and 1-0 at anfield, but what is the point of beating Man Utd like that if you then go and lose to the likes of Sunderland?

    I actually really like Gerrard (despite being a Man Utd fan), i admire his commitment and never say die attitude, which i am hoping will serve England well in South Africa, but it is looking like he will be one of the great players who will go through his career not having won the league title, and i think he is beginning to realise it too.

  • Comment number 53.

    #36 thank you for an actuall opinon, not just a potshot at our club.
    although i do believe our fans are right behind rafa. Consistancy breeds sucess, in terms of both the manager and the team, rafa has done a very good job so far, (anyone who disagrees can see the cl record and compare against there clubs record in the cl over the last 5 years), we are struggling at the moment, but not because of gerrard and torres so much, no what has hurt us has been the injuries to defenders added to carra throwing a rite wobbly in terms of form at the start of this season, (even though this appears to be improving) the players around insua have changed week in week out and we've just conceded to many, i dont think scoring has been a problem. also ngog has done well, scored five this season, only 3 less than rooney, who has played in 16 as oposed to ngogs 10....

  • Comment number 54.

    oh and also rafa has spent on average 12 mill a season net, less than chelsea or man u (ignoring the sale of ronaldo as this is exceptional)

  • Comment number 55.

    Y2J #44 - He’s worked absolute wonders with the money he’s had to spend.

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

    The only 2 players from Liverpool's best 11 that I'd be happy to see join Owen at Old Trafford are Gerrard and Torres (with Owen moving back to Anfield). As for the rest of them - they can stay working wonders at Anfield.

  • Comment number 56.

    #50

    Apologies for a couple of dumb typo's.

    £6m per season was what I meant in terms of the difference in net spend. D'oh!

  • Comment number 57.

    As a Man Utd season ticket holder, I have to acknowledge bias, but I was telling anyone who'd listen at the end of last season that Liverpool had already peaked, rather than being on the threshold of greatness.

    The fragility of Benitez's regime has been palpable for a long time, surely, to all but the most blinkered Koppite.

  • Comment number 58.

    Rafa will turn this around by doing what he does best, working extremely hard to build a winning team and using his exceptional tactical nous to get a winning run together.

    As he has said time and time again, as soon as we get the majority of our squad back from injuries and fit then we are a major threat. We have had the most horrendous injury crisis this season and that's why we in this situation at the moment.

    Rafa hasn't suddenly become a bad manager after last season's magnificant performance by the reds. Consistency of team selection will bring consistency of results. As a true red man I have no doubt whatsoever that Rafa can turn this around. We will be back, stronger then ever before.

  • Comment number 59.

    Speaking to a stanch Liverpool supporter after last night's game I was given the strong impression that many Liverpool supporters now consider that Benitez is not up to the job.
    His purchases have been poor with the exception of Torres and perhaps Riera, and his tactical nous lacking. The biggest flaw is seen to be his man-management skills. The effect on Alonso by chasing after Barry took its toll when he jumped ship, and Babel seems to follow although not sure who will want him. His opinion of himself is overblown - he seems to think he is a top four player, while in reality I would say mid-table at best (Liverpool's position...).
    Liverpool can produce the quality needed against top opposition such as Man U as the motivation seems to be there, but against lower teams the kudos gained from a big scalp is not there and this is shown by the attitude of the players on the pitch. Some are not worthy of pulling on the red kit and all it symbolises (or used to anyway).
    I am sure that a manager like Redknapp could stir the players into action, while 'Benny' keeps trotting out the same old tactics which either don't work, the players don't understand, or are just not good enough to implement.
    I can see why the Chelsea supporter thinks Benitez should stay - another manager might make Liverpool a challenger to Chelski again

  • Comment number 60.

    Im not a Liverpool fan, so it does not bother me if Rafa stays or goes! its great entertainment watch his excuses every weekend! But the way the whole team has played this season and Rafa's performance as a manager, you have to ask how the hell is he still got a job! if this sitauation was happening at teams like United, Arsenal, Chelsea or City, Could you honestly say that either of the managers at those clubs would still have job?

  • Comment number 61.

    # 25. At 10:20am on 25 Nov 2009, Nick Balaam

    The thing that has had a real impact on Liverpools season IS injuries, and not just to Torres and Gerrard (last seasons win over Utd at Anfield shows we can play well without them), but to most of the other "starting XI". Johnson, Aurelio, Benayoun, Rierra, Babel, Agger, Skyrtel. Please Phil, tell us, what other teams in the premiere league can lose both their BEST players, and most of the other starting XI and still perform to the standard set by the best XI??
    ..........

    Absolutely typical – I am a villa fan and relatively impartial but I have to comment on this!!!!!!
    7 players injured for Liverpool.
    Injuries to Chelsea this season – Bosingwa, Carvalho, Cashley Cole, Lampard, Jole Cole, Deco, Ballack, Drogba
    Injuries to Man Utd this season – Van Der Sar, Ferdinand, Brown, Fabio, Neville, Hargreaves, Park, Owen, Berbatov.

    Another pair of horrible rose coloured spectacles!!!!

    #24. At 10:19am on 25 Nov 2009, MrBlueBurns
    I also completely agree with you, Liverpool’s team is not even close to being ‘arguably the best in the league’.

  • Comment number 62.

    Best comment on here:

    "Rafa has done wonders with the money he has had to spend"

    A statement bourne out by the full to bursting trophy cabinet at Anfield.

    Oh sorry, that's at Old Trafford.

  • Comment number 63.

    Everybody is entitled to (Big?) Phil's opinion. Be that as it may Phil seems to have a very short memory. Not so long ago ManU did not only fall out of the champions League, they tumbled out of Europe altogether. In this part of the world the supporters were chided that ManU had to wash their 'European' Uniforms in December and watch the rest of the teams from their armchairs every matchday.

    So all is not lost Phil. Surely LFC will return even stronger (even ManU did). Rafa (who else?)will still be at the helm and just as Phil has forgotten the ManU fiasco, LFC class of 2009 will be forgotten.

  • Comment number 64.

    44- I'm not sure where the amount of 83 million comes from?
    Rafa has spent in excess of 200 million in his time in charge at Liverpool:

    transferleague.co.uk/

    http://www.liverpool-kop.com/2009/10/official-rafa-benitez-has-spent-over.html

  • Comment number 65.

    I am a life-long Liverpool fan - Managers come and go, but the fans stay forever.

    I was appalled when Benitez eventually accepted a second five year term. Although I am not able to suggest an adequate replacement at this stage, Benitez must be held to account for the situation we are in.

    His record in the transfer market would see him lucky to hold down a manager's position at any other premier league club. Apart from Torres and Reina, there have been few successes - compare that to the record of Chelsea, Arsenal and Man U over the past few years - they each have many good transfers

    Everyone says that when Gerrard and Torres are not available then we are weak and that is true, but the problem has been made this way by Benitez not organising back-up. The other 3 seem to have immense quality at their disposal when their superstars are injured

    2009/2010 is a right-off and the sooner we do something about it and start planning for 2010/2011 the better we will be in the long-term

  • Comment number 66.

    Love the comments about net spend on players.
    If you buy a car for £50,000 you expect it to perform to a £50,000 standard.
    It you traded in a car for £40,000 you do not either expect or accept the performance of a £10,000 car.
    The critical factor is what Benitez has spent on players, the trade-in value of other players is irrelevant. If however he is acting as a used-player salesman by buying in bangers, tarting them up then selling at a profit, then he might have found his niche in life.

  • Comment number 67.

    A few questions from a non-Premiership team supporter:

    1. Will Benitez be in trouble if he rests loads of players against Fiorentina?
    2. When will some more of Liverpool's homegrown youngsters get a 1st team chance [if ever]?
    3. Are Tottenham the new Liverpool?
    3. Has anyone thought to ensure Alan Green has no access to sharp implements?

  • Comment number 68.

    So Liverpool's target is now "finishing fourth". The same ambition that Robbie Keane stated for Spurs the other day. What about the ambition to win a trophy like the FA Cup or Europa League, which unfortunately journalists, but not fans, regularly denigrate as almost worthless nowadays?
    The late great Danny Blanchflower once said "it's about the glory". Not anymore it isn't I'm afraid. It's all about money now and that sums up the main problem with the game.
    Taking away the prize of Champions League qualification for finishing fourth would be a good start. You don't get a medal for coming fourth in the Olympics, why should you in the Premier league?

  • Comment number 69.


    It was also nice seeing those punters of the Sky Sports studios making a fool of themselves again. "Serie A is lame, if Chelsea, ManU or Arsenal met any of them they'd be delighted and would go through quite comfortably" - with United spitting blood to get a result against the likes of Wolfsburg/Cska at home and Arsenal conceding goals at will, and especially on the night Liverpool supposedly 'tailor-made' for Europe was knocked out with a game to spare by an Italian side with hardly any European pedigree that sits 6th in Serie A and at the weekend lost 3-2 to Parma at home.


  • Comment number 70.

    #66 why-o-why

    I guess Aquilani was one that he bought that didn't have an MOT then.

  • Comment number 71.

    Number 63: So all is not lost Phil. Surely LFC will return even stronger (even ManU did). Rafa (who else?)will still be at the helm and just as Phil has forgotten the ManU fiasco, LFC class of 2009 will be forgotten.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    I think the argument of Man Utd going out in the group stage in 2005 and not being in any sort of trouble afterwards is not a like-for-like comparison.

    When Man Utd went out, they didn't go into the UEFA Cup so had less games, and also comfortably finished second in the league, something which Liverpool are currently nowhere near doing.

    Liverpool's situation is far more serious. They're miles off the pace in the league and also don't produce the same kind of revenue that Man Utd do.

    So to compare the two situations is inaccurate, if Liverpool don't qualify for the Champions League it will be tough for them to get back in again with even less revenue and probable player sales.

  • Comment number 72.

    Baldrick's cunning plan,based upon the fact that you have 2 billionaire owners without a pot between them!Their problem is liquidity,so their solution could be;
    1,Sell Torres and Gerrard for £150m so reducing the bank debt to £200m.
    2,Sell the club off to a ME sheikh for say £500m.
    3,Pocket the 150m each and scarper.
    Everybody,that is to say the Banks and the 2 ex owners are happy.
    The only loosers are the fans, no new ground,several years of mediocrity until your Academy produces some more home grown talent.

  • Comment number 73.

    Liverpool winning the Europa League is not a full gone conclusion. There are some strong teams left in that competition and a long cup run may jeopardise their chances of finishing in the top 4 this season.

  • Comment number 74.

    Hi Phil,

    By in large this squad is pretty much the same squad we had last year. The only two differences are Johnson at right back (an improvement on Arbeloa) and Aquilani at central midfield( we still dont know how good he is).

    The major difference is the confidence factor. The build-up play in the last three Liverpool games has been good, we are bossing the games and creating chances. However, we seem weak at the back, particularly if we go ahead and have to defend for a few minutes when the opposition throw players forward. Last year we expected and successfully managed these storms and we were never in danger. This year, whenever the opposition builds up a head of steam, I almost expect them to score (Lyon home and away, Man City home and Debrecen nearly at the end of the game).
    I do not believe that Rafa has become a BAD manager overnight, but I also think he is not immune from critisism. Some of his decisions have been baffling, but that is the way he operates, and his un-predictibility makes him a dangerous opponent, because you never know what he is going to do next.

    If he knew that Aquilani was not going to be ready until the winter, why didn't he wait until January and then make the move? Why is he not playing him at all? As I am NOT a fan of Lucas, I want Aquilani in the team. Even though Lucas is getting better, he is NOT a creative player. He is a player designed to break up the oppositions play, but we already have the best player in the league that does that, MASCHERANO. Last year, Mascherano broke up play, Alonso set up a new attack. This year Mascherano and Lucas are breaking up play, but they are setting up very little.

    I believe (and I have to as a fan) that we will finish comfortably in the Top 4. What we need is to get our confidence up, especialy in defence, get a few wins under our belt and have a blinding second half of the season. I believe that our team is strong enough to surprise a few people.

  • Comment number 75.

    Phil, I have always loved your comments. and for those saying Liverpool were unlucky to be eliminated last night, as they lived up to their side of the bargain by winning their game and they couldn't do anything about the other result? Surely it wasn't unlucky, if they deserved to go through then shouldn't they have picked up more points earlier in the group, and not have had to worry about their fate being decided elsewhere?

  • Comment number 76.

    Why is it difficult to understand that losing the central spine of your team affects your performance?
    I am very curious to see how Chelski will cope by losing Drogba, Essien et all during the African Nations cup. And where would Man U be without grandad Gigsy now? Probably not in the top four either and that is just one man not five or six of your first eleven. Anyway enjoy this while you can guys because Liverpool will be back next year to wipe the smiles of your faces as they have done year after year throught the history of British football.

  • Comment number 77.

    MrBlueBurns, and a few others that have also commented,

    'Liverpool's first 11 is arguably the best in the league'.

    I did qualify the statement with, 'arguably', so we'll continue our argument.

    Last season Liverpool scored the most goals in the league, had the best goal difference, beat Chelsea & Man Utd twice each (including a 1-4 hammering) only losing twice in the entire campaign.
    Johnson for Arbeloa, Aquilani for Alonso would be the only changes to their best 11 now, while Man Utd have lost Ronaldo and Tevez and brought in Valencia and Owen!?!?

    On the basis of all this, and names like Gerrard, Torres, Mascherano, Benayoun, Aquilani, Agger, Johnson, Reina it is not ridiculous to make that claim, for vic777 to suggest that Everton, Villa, Man City & Tottenham have a stronger first 11 than Liverpool is ridiculous however, unless they are written by a 10-year-old.

    However, I would say that Chelsea probably do have the strongest first 11, and that Liverpool have the second strongest. In terms of squad stregnth, Man Utd easily have the strongest, with Chelsea and Arsenal battling for 2nd strongest, Liverpool though, are nowhere.

    Also, Twirlip, read the rest of my post before commenting, unbelievable!

  • Comment number 78.

    Benitez is hardly an average manager, he has won things everywhere he's gone and is adored in Valencia. If he had just come in and sold half their team immediately people would be asking questions. I love how people complain in one breath that manager's aren't given enough time, then in the next purport the complete opposite. Give him some time and see how he does, they've some good players but in my opinion lack a cutting edge and quality in wide areas - which was their flaw before he arrived.

    If they played a team of Mascherano, Aquilani deep, then Benayoun, Gerrard and another behind Torres then they would have a great team. Though I am in agreement with MrBlue, Chelsea have the best first XI, and by some way the best squad.

  • Comment number 79.

    Im a big fan of benitez, i think hes done an awful lot for the club, i think he's managed us exceptionally in difficult cirumstances.

    ________________________________________________________________

    I have been a LFC fan all my life and can't understand this statement at all. Some of you need to look at facts and not be so stuck on this mentality that we must stick by a manager at all costs. What exactly has Benitez done for LFC?!? Have we gone on to win the EPL, errr answer no. What trophy is it that all LFC fans want, errr the EPL. My point being, he has done little more than Houllier did, he managed a second in the league also and incidentally won more trophies in his time in charge so please explain how we have moved forward under Benitez and are ready to consistantly challenge for the EPL title.

    It was Gerrards inspiration that actually initiated us revitalising the game in Istanbul and eventually winning that game not Benitez and his so called master tactics. Unfortunately, a host of good wins down the years has only papered over the cracks in our squad, with many actually believing the EPL title was due back in the Anfield Trophy Cabinet. Our squad, even without injuries is poor. No real quality, noone to change a game (bar Gerrard& Torres). look at Tottenhams bench against us on the opening game of the season, thn look at ours and tell me that 4th place is even a guarantee this season, cause I for one am still not convinced.

  • Comment number 80.

    Rafa has been given the dreaded vote of confidence by the Liverpool MD. Sounds like he’ll be out by Christmas then…

  • Comment number 81.


    Listen to what Gary Megson said after the Arsenal game: "Arsenal can beat anyone, they can be good as anybody and no team will want to be drawn against them". The other night he'd said on their night they are better than Barcelona.

    Yes Gary they've just lost to Sunderland so not so fearsome. Everyone goes on about how they are a joy to watch. Granted they are as good as anyone in Europe going forward with Van Persie in, but their defence at times can be a shambles. Not just the back 4 but the defensive midfield also. The whole of Europe knows that, it has been the case for the past 3 years.

    In fact that's why they can be good "on their night". Which means when the opposition is afraid of them, are playing for the draw, sit back and don't test them. That's why in the home games they've been comfortable. Away it has been a different story. When they are under pressure the back line is suspect, and we've seen it against City, United etc and in the CL away legs, or last year Villareal 1st leg, United etc. In the round of 16 if unlucky with the draw and especially the quarters they'll be under pressure for long periods. Even lest night Liege hit the post twice had it cleared off the line and should've had a pen. Against better opposition these'll get punished.

    If they drew Barca tomorrow, with them having 65% posession their defence would be tested every 5 minutes, and with the high pressure on the ball they wouldn't be able to play themselves out of trouble as they do, therefore particularly if they conceded early there's a good chance they'd get thumped.



  • Comment number 82.

    I've said it for years, but no one has had the bottle to print my comments. Benitez DID NOT WIN THE EUROPEAN CUP IN 2005. Whoever left the changing room door open at half time won it.
    We were dead and buried in the first half, and only pride and shame at hearing those fans who would not give up stung the players into action.

    He and we cannot live on that famous victory indefinitely, and I absolutely concur with Graham Souness in the post match discussions last night that we are in massive trouble.
    Not only do we have a couple of owners who don't have a clue about football in general, whatever is put out by the press.
    Not only do we have a manager that CAN'T be wrong, but who should have been shown the door the minute he stated that 'we have to get rid of this Liverpool 'clique' " and promptly bought in a Spanish clique.
    Whether or not you like the fact that Americans bought the club, it remains that Benitez has had money enough to have brought in 60/70 players, most of whom sank without trace and most of whom were Spaniards who just fancied a big pension pot to go home with, and had no loyalty whatsoever to the club, country, fans. We are not able to put a first, never mind a second string, team together. Carragher and Gerrard are getting older, Liverpool is not a glamorous city and we struggle to attract great players, so the best we can do is breed them!
    Last but not least by any means:
    We cannot play decent football with the players we have. I don't know what has gone wrong, I only know that the Liverpool who we see playing these days is a poor reflection of what has gone before (even with Gerrard - I bet he bitterly regrets not taking the Chelsea job now)
    So for all the pontificating about how safe Benitez's joB is, if the owners and bank pull the plug on us, then the whole footballing world will be able to sing YOU'LL NEVER GET A JOB!!

  • Comment number 83.

    To poster 68...I am not denigrating the Europa League, but no-one can argue with the statement that it is a poor second to the Champions League, in terms of profile, prestige and finance.

    And while Liverpool are now there, it is not where they want to be. I do not believe for one second the Europa League figured in their thoughts for a single second this season.

    There has been a peculiar lethargy about their performances in Europe this season? Where was the urgency of past campaigns? Even when I saw them beat Debrecen at Anfield - and yes I thought they would get through their group so wrong again (remind me to steer clear of Liverpool predictions in future) - they were lack-lustre.

    To BigLRed...excellent and constructive post. You're right about confidence. I interviewed one former player who said it was, in some respects, the most vital commodity in football. He asked: "Where does it come from and where does it go?"

    I share your bemusement at the decision to sign Aquilani when he was clearly still recovering from a bad injury, and also the recent failure to introduce him into games.

    And on Lucas and Mascherano - I do think they are too alike as a destructive midfield pair. I also feel it is only fair to state that, in my opinion, Lucas has developed a lot this season. He has been, by no means, the worst player at Liverpool this season.

    It looks like Liverpool will be rifling through the transfer bargain basement in January. Are there any players out there at the lower end of the market Liverpool fans think could help their cause?

  • Comment number 84.

    76. At 11:46am on 25 Nov 2009, Yianman1 wrote:
    Why is it difficult to understand that losing the central spine of your team affects your performance?
    I am very curious to see how Chelski will cope by losing Drogba, Essien et all during the African Nations cup. And where would Man U be without grandad Gigsy now? Probably not in the top four either and that is just one man not five or six of your first eleven. Anyway enjoy this while you can guys because Liverpool will be back next year to wipe the smiles of your faces as they have done year after year throught the history of British football.

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

    Have you been high since 1972?

  • Comment number 85.

    Michael Dawson20
    Absolutely correct.

    I know Chelsea have big money, but the fact remains that even if they were four games behind, and the FA let them, they could put out THREE teams in one day, that could play those games, and win them all. We appear to have barely 11 that can either be bothered or desire to play.

  • Comment number 86.

    I presume Liverpool fans are rating Aquilani before they've seen him play in the Premier League?

    Lets wait until the end of the season to see if he's played enough, let alone compare him to Alonso.

  • Comment number 87.

    The biggest problem with Liverpool is their fans - that includes Phil and Alan and Lawro! Why -

    - Liverpool are an above average team. They do show sparks of brilliance every 10-12 games. All teams do. However, when that spark appears, the supporters go gung-ho into celebrating a birth of a great team. It all started again in 2005. And, after a lull we saw it again at the end of last season. We shall see it again in future. It's simply a delusion.

    - Rafa is a good man. He takes a lot of garbage from everybody. And he's not at fault. The team simply isn't good enough for the top honours. He's led to believe that Liverpool are capable of top flight by the myopic media. The media is to blame for putting Liverpool on the top expectation level. They're not there. Do not belong there.

    - The sooner the top players like Gerrad, Torres, Reina realise this the better for their careers. Jump!



    -

  • Comment number 88.

    not least the club's loyal and uniquely patient support base.

    In what way are Liverpool fans uniquely loyal? Patient with managers perhaps due to their holier than thou standpoint yes but loyal??

    What actual hardship have they been through? Since they last won the league they have onbly gone a few seasons without a cup win or final appearance and they are rarely out of the top 4 even if they haven't really been that close to winning it (last seasons one off apart). Surely the likes of Man city fans or Leeds who still come in their thousands to watch Gillingham and wycombe are more loyal. Once Liverpool have been relegated and a couple of decades without a trophy or final appearance and still get 45000 every week then you can call them uniquely loyal. However my guess is that the tourist and out of towner element would drift away leaving them with a standard attendance and a 'big game attendance like most clubs in that situation.

  • Comment number 89.

    83. At 12:01pm on 25 Nov 2009, Phil McNulty - BBC Sport wrote:

    ...You're right about confidence. I interviewed one former player who said it was, in some respects, the most vital commodity in football. He asked: "Where does it come from and where does it go?"


    I didn't know Cotton-Eyed Joe played for Liverpool?

  • Comment number 90.

    #77 SportsSportsSportsBS

    It's something of a moot point anyway. Also, you are stretching the use of the word 'arguably'.

    Fact is that what happened last season is long gone. Maybe last season's success was a blip in them being that good rather than this season being a blip in them being so bad.

    Chelsea didn't have Drogba for the first three European matches. Arguably we were then using a less strong 11. Result? Three wins out of three.

    As others have pointed out, Chelsea have been without certain players at certain times. Result? Top of the league THIRTEEN points ahead of Liverpool.

    You can tweak around the edges but Liverpool's team and squad have been assembled by Benitez and it seems that they are not good enough.

  • Comment number 91.

    Rafa will turn this around by doing what he does best, working extremely hard to build a winning team and using his exceptional tactical nous to get a winning run together.

    As he has said time and time again, as soon as we get the majority of our squad back from injuries and fit then we are a major threat. We have had the most horrendous injury crisis this season and that's why we in this situation at the moment.

    ................................

    Rose tinted specs again anyone!! Benitez doesn't understand tactics, he doesn't even know what his squads best positions are. Take Kuyt, a hard worker yes but we paid over 10 million quid for him as a striker, not a winger. We had a perfectly good winger in Jermaine Pennant, not the best admittedly but at least he was actually a winger. Then theres the striker problem, genius idea, lets sell Peter Crouch, buy Robbie Keane, sell him at a loss 6 months later and replace him with an unknown Ngog. Sheer brilliance if you ask me, definitely the makings of a top class manager who is well in touch with reality. The man is stubborn and will not listen to reason.

    Even better, let's buy a 20 million pound player who's crock and then even when he is fit continue to play Lucas, again genius. See when you write it all down like this, it clearly makes perfect sense. Am I missing the point or do I have to continue to trust in Rafas nonsensical team choices and player buying skills forever. Please please stop using the injuries as an excuse. If he had managed players better and transfer market activity better, we would not be in this position. Babel is a prime example, mismanaged by Benitez and a once promising forward is a shadow of the player we 1st bought. We need a miracle to escape this season so lets hope Benitez gets a magic set for Christmas.

  • Comment number 92.

    Rubbish blog Phil. As a Man Utd fan I sincerely hope the Liverpool board stick with Benitez.

  • Comment number 93.

    Liverpool claim to be one of the big 4s of PL and constently compare themselves to Man Utd and Chelsea. Unless its SAF, due to his decades of work, no manager would survive in the job if he failed to get his team past the group stages with one game still left and lying 7th in the PL with no signs of recovery.

    Liverpool fans, get this thing in your head. Benitez is rubbish. Your squad is crap. Kindly get over these 2 facts. Unless you bring in atleast a mediocre manager and buy above average players atleast, you are not going to get anywhere. Ngog, El Zhar, and all other craps wouldn't even get into mid-table squad let alone other big 3s. Gerrard and Torres are world class. You need to go for players like Silva, Villa, Yaya, Maicon etc. Liverpool seem to go for players where they don't have to face competition from any club!!!!

  • Comment number 94.

    Phil,

    One of the names that we have been mentined in the press has been that of Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Aside from the fact that this will anger many United fans, he would be ideal for Liverpool. He would provide excellent cover for Torres, play up front with him if we needed to chase the game, and is one of the games all time great finishers. His record at United and Real is stunning. We would be getting him on loan initially, with a view to a permanent signing.
    However, the bargain basement signings have been much of hit (a few: Reina, Arbeloa, Aurelio) and miss (most: Dossena, Lucas, Leto etc.) for Benitez.
    I like Insua, but I want a better quality left back. The problem is, that I think he is already in the club, but playing wide left, AURELIO. He is pure class, can hurt teams with his delivery, and just ask Van der Sar and Cech about his free kicks.
    I think that the imminent return to fitness of El Nino, will provide a welcome boost to players and fans. Although a lot of pressure is being put on his young shoulders, he is THAT GOOD that he can handle it and get us results so we can push up the table.

  • Comment number 95.

    Hi Phil and all. This is my first post on your blog. It's have been a pleasure (and agony...) enjoying the views and banter over the years on your blog, Robbo's, et al and 606.
    I am Manchester United supporter from Singapore... although far away from the center stage of football, we (and other Asian countries) follow English and European soccer with a passion due to our past as a British colony.
    Because of the huge following, our local cable companies fought tooth and nail over the TV rights to the BPL, FA Cup, CL and World Cup. Imagine, securing the TV rights to the BPL with a US$200 million (over 3 years) bid for a nation with only 4 million people!
    So the recent developments over referees' standards, bad decisions, cheating (gamemanship?), SAF's rant, Henry's handball and Liverpool's downturn have not gone unnoticed on this side of the world.
    My question to you Phil is, are you still picking Liverpool to win the BPL title this season? If no, who is your new pick?

  • Comment number 96.

    As Liverpool supporter, our season so far has being very disappointing espeically after coming off the back of a season when we performed brilliantly. A lot of pundits blame it on a lot of things...the fact is:

    - We haven't had a settled backline this year
    - We don't have a player who had Alonso's ability fully fit to produce the kind of link up play we had.
    - Blaming Zonal Marking is lazy, the system that has being employed by Benitez ever since he arrived. It comes back to individual players not taking responsibility or not concentrating on the job at hand.
    - Players being too cocky - espeically about the Champions League

    The one thing to come out of last night is that a reality check is needed by all involved the manager and the players. Liverpool have no given right to be in the Champions League it has to be earned and sadly during the whole season this far we have come up short too much.

    The next 3 month's is big for Liverpool and Rafael Benitez's reign. We either sink or swim.

  • Comment number 97.

    Who sold the club to its present owners then? Perhaps that's where fans fury should be directed. However, as owners, they can do what they want with the club - even asset-stripping the joint & folding it up.

  • Comment number 98.

    Liverpool's problems have been more than the matter of losing Gerrard and Torres. I don't doubt that things wouldn't have been as bad had the duo been fit but there are problems that no-one could have predicted at the start of the season.

    The loss of form of both Carragher and Skrtel could not have been anticipated, align that to the reduction of height in the Liverpool team and you can see why we are conceding so much more frequently from set pieces. In past seasons, Hyypia was a tower in defence, while Lucas and Mascherano are much shorter than Alonso and Sissoko. This is notwithstanding the diminuitive Reina who, though excellent, is small for a goalkeeper.

    Throw into the mix, the loss of Torres who is excellent in set piece defending with his aerial ability and Reira, whose skill in the air is often overlooked and it's plain to see why Liverpool have been so vulnerable in defence.

    There is no doubt that Liverpool's replacement for Robbie Keane, the unimaginably useless Voronin, has been completely inadequate. However, N'Gog has been better than expected and had Liverpool been winning, his ability would surely have been championed. I don't think Liverpool's squad is the garbage that is made out.

    When one considers that the subs bench of a fully fit Liverpool squad would read: Cavalieri, Skrtel, Insua, Lucas, Reira, Babel, N'Gog. These are adequate replacements. Even the few behind this aren't terrible, Degen, El Zhar and Dossena are reasonable players. However, to have Aquilani, Benayoun, Reira, Babel, Gerrard, Torres, Aurelio, Johnson, Dossena, El Zhar and Agger all missing for chunks of the season, then it's obvious that the team will suffer on the pitch.

  • Comment number 99.

    Benitez to Real Madrid in the summer.... So maybe LFC might have a chance at the title next year!!

  • Comment number 100.

    77. At 11:46am on 25 Nov 2009, SportsSportsSportsBS wrote:
    MrBlueBurns, and a few others that have also commented,

    'Liverpool's first 11 is arguably the best in the league'.

    I did qualify the statement with, 'arguably', so we'll continue our argument.

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


    LOL

    12 is almost "arguably" 11

 

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