Here’s a question for you all. What record does Don Welsh currently hold for Liverpool F.C.?
Well done to you if you knew that Welsh is the only manager to have been fired by Liverpool F.C. in their 117-year history (apparently Gerard Houllier’s departure by mutual consent wasn’t just a kinder way of saying he was fired). I think he’s going to lose that record very soon.
Time is surely running out on the Rafael Benitez era at Anfield. The owners and directors simply cannot idly sit by and watch performances as abject as the last few games, Man United excepted, and think that that is in any way acceptable to a club with the history, gravitas and ambition as Liverpool F.C.
To anyone reading this who’s ready to dismiss me as jumping on a ‘Rafa out’ bandwagon or who would point out that I wasn’t calling for him to go after beating United, look at my post about a year ago, if I can call for him to be fired when we were second in the table, I can call for him to be fired now. For the record, I was calling for him to go after beating United. That result, great as it was, merely served to paper over the cracks.
Saturday was one of the most pathetic, gutless, unimaginative displays both by the team and by the manager, which Liverpool F.C. has ever produced. What makes it even worse was that wasn’t even the worst we have played this season. That dubious honour goes to the monstrosity that was the Sunderland game.
I appreciate that we are suffering badly with injuries, but every team suffers with injuries, that’s what the squad is for. Benitez utterly failed to strengthen the squad in key areas that it was obvious to anyone that if Torres or Gerrard got injured, we were done for. We failed to buy the striker we desperately needed. We failed to get any kind of attacking central midfielder. We replaced one of our main playmakers with an injured player. We blew most of our budget on a Right-Back we didn’t really need.
Under Benitez, we have gone from a club that strives for the best to one that rewards mediocrity. How else could you explain picking Voronin and Kuyt in the starting XI after appalling performances against Arsenal? The total lack of options up front means we have to persist with players that would fail to score in a brothel. Both Voronin and Kuyt were atrocious against Fulham, despite both putting in good effort, and sadly; it looks like we’ll be relying upon them again in the future.
Then there were the substitutions. I begrudgingly accept the Torres substitution, though I question the judgement of playing him in the first place if he is that injured (That’s right, we don’t have anyone else do we?), especially with Benitez saying he’d rather play an 80% fit Torres than anyone else. Why was Babel brought on though? He was out worst player against Arsenal, players can lose form but they should never lose effort. He continually moans in the press about not getting enough opportunities but never takes them when he does. It is so maddening that a player with all the talent and physical attributes can just not put it together on the pitch. To paraphrase Bull Durham he has million-dollar legs but a 5-cent brain.
The worse was yet to come. After the very harsh dismissal of Philipp Degen, who, lets face it isn’t the best player in the world but did ok I thought. Benitez responded by taking off Benayoun to give Nathan Eccleston his debut. After Carragher also went, again a harsh decision but he got away with one earlier so we probably can’t complain; he takes off Kuyt and puts on Ayala. We’re getting beat 2-1 and he decides to try and shore up the defence? That was basically the white flag being run up. Fulham had really set uot to defend and we were incapable of taking the game to them.
We went through the rest of the game in some sort of torpor; we had nothing on the pitch that would have made an attacking difference. There was no creativity whatsoever all game and Benitez quite simply, gave the game up as a loss with 15 minutes to go. That is unacceptable.
The games against Sunderland, Lyon and Fulham have served to me to confirm an opinion that, at least in my own mind, I have held about Benitez for a long time. He has no real plan B. Most managers can at least try something different to turn a game around, not Rafa.
In those games and many others, we have utterly lacked creativity and imagination. Plan A seems to be give the ball to Torres or Gerrard and let them do something with it. That’s pretty much the tactics that we used to play on the school playground when I was seven. When Gerrard is unavailable or marked out of a game and Torres is getting the shit kicked out of him by the opposition, we turn to Plan B. That seems to be hope that Benayoun or Babel have some sort of flash of inspiration or see if Kuyt pops up out of nowhere with a goal. Failing that, Plan B seems to be put one of the plethora of defenders or holding midfielders in our squad on and pray for a miracle.
Benitez has worn the expression of a man who quite simply has no idea what to try next, especially in the Lyon and Fulham games. Remember Kevin Keegan quit as England manager because he said he knew what was going wrong but didn’t know how to put it right. Sounds an awful lot like Benitez.
Then there’s the other issue, an issue that has been frustrating for LFC fans for years. Benitez wants to win the Champions League rather than the Premier League that the fans so badly crave. That is why Kuyt and Benayoun were withdrawn from a league game that was going badly, but was not completely lost, so they were ready to go against Lyon.
Ronnie Whelan, who won six league titles with Liverpool, has accused Ben