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Rafa's Red Missed

Robbo Robson | 10:24 UK time, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Am I alone in not knowing what to make of Rafael Benitez?

The Blue Bell regulars up here insist the bloke's done pretty good bagging trophies and reaching finals... me, I can't help feeling he has one thing going for him - Steven Gerrard.

You think of the trophies Stevie G has won almost single-handedly - the Champs League, the FA Cup - Liverpool would have been on the thick end of a hiding if it wasn't for He of the Low Hairline.

Rafa Benitez

In the last couple of games, Gerrard has been just as immense in taking on the Bluenoses (and the 'orrible chants from the fans). And meanwhile Benitez sits on the touchline writing out ideas in his little notebook. What's he writing in there? I bet it's not a shopping list. If his work in the transfer market is owt to go by, his missus'd never let him near Morrisons!

You can see it now - Rafa comes home and offloads the groceries and she's all "What you go and buy some more Spanish sausage for? The shelves are full of dried up, uninspiring lumps of meat - and you get more?"

"I buy custard, too!"

"Custard!!! We are having mushroom soup, coq au vin and cheese and biscuits - where you think I can fit custard into that?"

"I am sorry!"

"AND the custard was £20 a tin! Aieee! Rafa! It's like Robbie Keane all over again."

Of course Benitez'd disagree. He's not putting his name to anything until he gets more control over transfer dealings. But how can you give ultimate power to a man who pays £20m for Keane and then leaves him out of the squad? If he doesn't fit into the gaffer's plan now when the games are coming like Homer Simpson in a Ferrari - thick and fast - then when will he?

No chairman, or chief executive or chief whatever else is in the comfy chairs at Anfield, could let a man with his track record of purchases have sole control.

The current chanting by Man U fans that suggests Benitez is losing his grip on reality is going a bit far, but after the two 1-1s recently, resorting to moaning about the way the opposition played is pretty feeble stuff.

It's an age-old gripe by indulged managers. It's not our fault - they were nasty. They parked a bus in front of the goal, they got men behind the ball, they tackled us, they tried to stop us scoring! My heart bleeds.

You never hear a lower club manager whingeing 'It's not fair, they've got better players than us and they kept passing it to each other and trying to score! Wahhhhhhh!'

Any road, who goes to Anfield and takes Liverpool on (apart from Barnsley?) Fulham and Stoke have proved that it's not hard to keep them out so why play open?

Besides which Moyes had precisely no strikers at his disposal. None. Still, we'll put Phil Neville at centre-forward, play 2-3-5, and if that doesn't work we'll tie Yakubu and Shah's legs together and see if we can get one fit forward out of the two of them.

It's the equivalent of having a boxing match against a bloke with his hands manacled together and complaining 'cos he keeps on moving his head out the way.

It's nonsense! And despite the fact Rafa claims only one side was trying to win, Everton were 1-0 up at half-time, thanks to the fact that Tim Cahill was freer than a pensioner's bus pass when that corner was knocked in.

And any road, how many times have we seen Rafa's reds cling on to a narrow lead rather than force the issue and go for a second? Liverpool play their best stuff when they're behind and their worst stuff when they're in front. Eriksson's England were the same.

Liverpool's frontline should have enough wit, imagination, and class to force a win against such unambitious opponents, especially if £20m worth is creosoting his fence.

Torres, the one truly great signing of Benitez's reign, showed he has some of that, but the rest... Ryan Babel? Barney Rubble'd be a better bet... Bennayoun? Yeah he sounds like a great Scouser but he's called Yossi not Yosser... Kuyt? Works so hard you'd think he played for Moyes but he hit his late chance with all the conviction of a Pat Nevin penalty.

In fact the real fox in the box looked like Jamie Carragher after that fantasy football shimmy in the first half! (Jamie Carragher, Johann Cruyff... same initials...)

You wouldn't worry for Rafa if you felt there was an attempt by the club to pour oil on troubled waters, but the fact that it appears to be Kuwaiti oil isn't going to make Rafa's position any more secure.

In a battle against Hicks and Gillett (not the best a fan could get) the odds are stacked in Rafa's favour. But with a bottomless vat of cash to spend, should Rafa be the man to waste it - ermm, spend it?

I'm told the Kop love the man, but you get a Liverpool fan on his own, and they'll tell you different.

I watched it with a bloke called Sammy who's a top lad but a bit uppity when Liverpool are playing - he effs like a top TV comedian every time Torres goes down 'cos he thinks that's his season over - and contrary to the popular song, quite often walks alone when he heads back from the boozer.

Sammy'll tell you Benitez is a bit petulant, a poor operator in the transfer market and too negative. And if you offered to swap him with Mourinho he'd bite your hand off.

I just wonder whether Sammy's truly in the minority or not. Let us know. In the meantime I hope Rafa proves us doubters wrong. Cos we need a new name on the Premier League trophy and I think the Boro might just miss out this year.

P.S. What's the similarity between M&S and Chelsea football club? Both of them always have comfy draws. (Come on Watford, prove me wrong!)


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