I have held off writing this for a few days because I wanted to ensure what I am writing is not a knee-jerk reaction to another disappointing performance (and so I don’t include the kind of language I was using at 5pm on Saturday!).
I am going to write the words that many Liverpool fans simply do not want to hear, but myself, and an ever-growing number of Liverpool fans now believe.
Benitez has to go.
I accept that this may seem an incredible overreaction to a poor result, which still leaves us top of the table, thanks to West Ham, but I have had a sinking feeling about Rafa’s style of management for some time now and this season has done nothing to allay my fears.
With Torres injured, logic suggests that you would turn to Robbie Keane, the man who was bought for £20 million, who had played well in his previous game against PSV. But no, we played Kuyt on his own up front, the same Dirk Kuyt who scored 3 league goals last year and has been converted into a right midfielder. We then back this up by playing not one, but 2 defensive midfielders. What is wrong with playing 4-4-2?
Now I accept that Hull are a decent side, and have done very well on their travels this season but they are not the kind of team that should instil as much fear into Benitez as Chelsea, Arsenal or Man Utd. There was no need to be so negative and it gave Hull all the confidence they needed.
Also, with Torres absent there is not a great deal of pace in the team so we need to play Ryan Babel (I would have given him a chance up front) or Nabil El Zhar from the start to stretch their defence.
I cannot understand why consistently poor performers like Dossena and Benayoun are given starting roles. Dossena was badly beaten for both Hull goals and it would have been worse had Phil Brown not stopped Bernard Mendy running at Dossena as he was going pat him at will.
After we battled back to 2-2 Hull were on the ropes and were ready for the knockout blow to be delivered. If we had played a second striker at any point of the match we’d have won. Simple as that. It was obvious we needed another man in the Hull box to capitalise on the crosses and knockdowns being provided by Riera, Arbeloa and to give him his due Dossena.
Instead we belatedly got Babel, El Zhar and in surely the all time worst substitution Lucas. Keane and N’Gog were stuck on the bench and Babel was introduced too late too make an impact.
This smacks of Benitez being too stubborn to play Keane as he wants to send the ‘I pick the team message’. He is now putting his ego ahead of the best interests of the team, which is unacceptable. With his contract up for renewal it is time for a serious think about Liverpools future. What may save him is the fan support and with Hicks and Gillett not having a good relationship with the fans they may renew his contract to placate angry fans.
Remember though, Gerard Houllier was fired (only the second manager in Liverpool FC history to be dismissed) and it was down to four main reasons
1) No closer to winning the league
2) No young players coming through despite millions invested in the Academy and buying youth talent
3) Boring play
4) Wasteful in the transfer market.
All of these still apply. The one that rankles the most with me though is our style of play. This was perfectly exemplified by our game against Hull on Saturday.
When was the last time we won a game with style? We have not played well once this season and we have had to battle for our wins. Under Benitez we play anxious,cagey, safety first football and it is so boring to watch.
Our biggest win of the season is the 3-0 defeat of West Brom, who are bottom of the league and we only scored that many because they play attacking football and we were able to pick them off. We have not scored more than three goals all season and that is a disgrace.
With this season looking tight at the top, goal difference could be a key factor in who finishes where, and we are not faring well at all. We are already 14 goals behind Chelsea and 2 behind Man Utd, who have yet to play their best either.
I would love to be proved wrong but I cannot see us winning the title playing the style of football Benitez plays and for that it is time for him to go.