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Rafa's season gets a Lille bit worse

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Robbo Robson | 10:09 UK time, Friday, 12 March 2010

Well a bloke called Eden Hazard has put Liverpool in danger of having the worst season in recent memory. Eden? Hazard? That'll be the snake then. The one that made Eve bite the apple and realise that she and her fella were starkers and ashamed.

Which begs the question: 'Where's the fig leaf for Rafa now?' What's he going to use to cover the shame? The twin clumps of foliage that are Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard seem to have withered and crumpled in the frosty mists of winter. The true feebleness of his Dirk and Yossi, his Maxi, and his flimsy Aquilani are there for all to see.

Gerrard, in particular, has looked utterly powerless recently. The lad is like Samson after the short back and sides. Here's a fella who's been carrying the aspirations of half a city and a manager on his back for nigh on six years. It looks like it's telling. He mooches around these days, shoulders slumped like Chris Waddle in an Eeyore costume.

There's been times when this lad has looked like the finest central midfielder of his generation. But it looks like he's had enough. Whether he's too much part of the Anfield furniture to leave now is a moot point but I think the words 'fresh challenge' can't be far from the Scouse legend's lips.
Rafa Benitez and Sam AllardyceThey love each other really
Big Sam's had enough 'n' all. Rafa's mockery of Blackburn last month has clearly rankled the Premier League's most vigorous masticator. Benitez sarcastically suggested Barcelona may be copying the Allardyce model.

Well, they've a choice, haven't they, at Barca. Buy in a load of enormous lunks and tonk it long for 90 minutes or go for two banks of four average footballers and hope the pretty boy with the blond highlights up front somehow manages to winkle a goal out of nowt.

Big Sam has countered by suggesting that Rafa was cleverly distracting attention from the Reds' shortcomings. Well, Sam should know. Sam loves shortcomings. He practically lives off them. He likes nowt better than a bunch of limited, hard-working, no-nonsense carthorses (plus the odd playmaker) to give 210% for 90 minutes. Like Sam, it's not pretty.

I'd hate to go and watch an Allardyce team every week, to be honest. You can say what you like about the delusional romantic that is the average Newcastle fan, but frankly I thought there was a great nobility in getting shot of Long Ball Ally - even if it meant they went downhill even faster.

When it comes to footy, a lot of us up in the North-east are eating at the greasy spoon on the corner, but that doesn't mean we have a big fry-up every blinking meal.
In fairness to Allardyce, he hasn't had a fortune to spend and he hasn't got any pretensions of grandeur. The way Benitez dismisses such opponents suggests that maybe that's all he's got.

And this season they've gone nowhere.

And while Big Sam's teams may be the thing that they stick in front of Arsene Wenger's nose if he ever gets taken to football's equivalent of Room 101, at least it's not out and out boring. And this is what Benitez's side have become this season.

I'd rather spend 10 years watching a tectonic plate shift than spend 10 minutes watching this uninspiring outfit. Gone are those cracking two-and-three goal bursts of last season. Gone is the sense of a new dawn on Merseyside.

Rafa is now reduced to slating his own players' lack of character and attitude - and that hasn't worked for him either. All right, he's praising his goalless charges to the skies after their plucky little effort in the city that you occasionally get off at if you've taken the Eurostar to Brussels by mistake. (And if you're on the way to Brussels, it's a mistake. Surely if you're going to have a capital city, it's a good idea to have an interesting one?)

But if you needed a stark contrast to the grim tedium of Rafa's robots, you only have to look at the giddy Arsenal of Tuesday night and dead-eye Bendtner (Crikey! Barn doors everywhere beware. The Great Dane is back.) Porto were a tad statuesque but Nasri's Archie Gemmill jink was magnificent and the jubilant Arsenal celibates seemed not to miss the joy of Cesc.
Wayne RooneyThe White Pele scores again
Or you could cast your eyes down the M62 to the White Pele (aka the Hairy Zico, the Maradona of Manchester, the Croxteth Cruyff, the Best Player in the World). I wouldn't say the lad's on fire, but you could roast a pig in his aura.

Again, the opposition was largely absent (or given the age of most of them, absent-minded). Seriously, this Milan team will be on the seniors tour next year, won't they? In fact that's not a bad idea. The seniors football league - you read it here first. And it won't cost them a penny to bus themselves around).

Beckham's donning of the Newton Heath scarf - and the reason Becks gets a reception like that has less to do with his celebrity and more to with his work-rate and quality - was the perfect end to a perfect Manchester United fan's night.

Add to that Real Madrid's departure and the latest duff result from the old enemy, and things are looking bright for Fergie.

But for Rafa, the game's up. The idea that Liverpool will retain his services is laughable, especially when the main man - the man who almost single-handedly rescued his triumphs of 2005 and 2006 - has lost his get up and go. Which is exactly what Stevie may well do at the end of this season.


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