Congratulations Rafa. Mission Complete. You’ve now totally destroyed the football philosophy of pass and move Liverpool were famous for and have turned us into Blackburn Rovers. Last week Sam Allardyce accused Benitez of playing the same tactics as his Bolton teams and the way his Blackburn team now plays. For once, Sir Alex's faithful lapdog has a point.
Last night exemplified the dreary, dismal, insipid, uninspiring football that our esteemed manager is providing Liverpool fans with at present. Can anyone tell me when was the last time we beat a team by playing them off the park? Not by grinding out a result or by nicking a goal then sitting back for long periods. Not by turning the game into a midfield slugfest and hoping we come out on top. Even the Man United game was more of a case of us digging in for long periods at a time.
While I’ve hated every miserable second of it, I could understand why Benitez decided to try and stop the defeats by making us even more defensive than usual. But surely that was only meant to be a temporary measure? Surely the idea was to stop the slide and give us a platform from which to build on? It’s like when you’re driving and you get a flat tyre, you put the spare on but that’s only meant to get you home or to a garage, you’re not meant to keep driving on it.
Here are some facts:
· We’ve not scored in 6 of our last 8 away games
· We’ve not scored in the last 4 away games
· We’ve scored 12 away goals in 15 matches this season, worse than Bolton, Wigan and Sunderland and only one better than Burnley, who have gained one away point all season.
· Only Fulham have a worse away goalscoring record in the current top ten.
· Our away goal difference is –5
· We’ve dropped 29 points away from home this season
· We haven’t scored more than 2 goals in any league game since September (6-1 win over Hull) and only scored more than two once in all competitions since then.
· We’ve picked up 11 bookings in our last two away games.
· We’ve now lost 9 in the league
I could go on.
Lat night was simply pathetic. Now Torres is back we’ve reverted to the tactics we used to play on my school playground when I was seven, give the ball to your best player and hope he does something. We had no attacking game plan at all, it was just wait for something to turn up.
Team selection was totally wrong, not for the first time. Once again Mascherano was wasted at right-back, way to develop Martin Kelly and Stephen Derby, Rafa. Unlike the Blackburn game, it didn’t work. Mascherano was horribly out of position for the Wigan goal, we’ll never know but my guess is a proper defender would have known to mark goal side of Rodallega, which probably would have prevented the goal.
Lucas got the nod in the middle and ran the show…for Wigan. His sloppy passing was setting Wigan attacks all over the park and his inability to judge when to make a challenge led to Wigan getting free-kicks all around the box.
With Gerrard accompanying Lucas in the middle, which I’m in favour of as long as it’s Mascherano alongside him, that meant Kuyt, Maxi and Benayoun where behind Torres. Maxi would have had just as productive a game if he’d have brought a chair onto the pitch and had a sit down for 90 minutes. He put in one good cross all night but was totally anonymous otherwise.
Benayoun was a non-factor in possession and useless in defence. Insua was getting targeted all night because he was getting no protection from a player who is about as strong in a tackle as a wet piece of toilet paper.
Kuyt was Wigan’s best defender by a mile. He broke up every Liverpool attack where the ball came near him and managed to set up Emerson Boyce for the cross that resulted in Wigan’s goal, with one of his brainless passes when he wasn’t really under pressure.
Even our usually dependable players were poor. That was the worst Jamie Carragher has played in years, he was consistently out of position and made poor decisions all night. One of them was to abandon Rodallega to cover a player who was never going to be given the ball for Wigan’s goal.
Torres was a frustrated figure all night. We didn’t create a clear-cut chance for him, he did hit the outside of the post and sent an overhead volley just wide but basically the tactic of hoping he could beat 4 defenders and two holding midfielders all by himself was flawed. Gerrard was terrible; he looked listless and disinterested all night. Once again when the team needed a lift on the pitch, he didn’t provide it.
Liverpool’s passing was abysmal all game. I lost count of the amount of times someone just surrendered possession when under no pressure or someone ran themselves into a cul-de-sac and lost the ball. While credit should be given to Wigan’s midfield for their performance, the fact is Liverpool made it easy for them. Only when Aquilani was brought on did Liverpool start to retain the ball better, but they still did nothing with it. Once again the team that finished the game for Liverpool was better than the one that started it, that is down to the manager.
One of the by-products of Benitez drilling defence, defence, defence into Liverpool is that they have forgotten how to attack. We were clueless going forwards and it was embarrassing. We did nothing with our set pieces once again, still can’t fathom why Gerrard is allowed to take corners when he’s been consistently poor at taking them for the past 4 years. On incident sums Liverpool up. We were given a free-kick just inside the Wigan half. Most teams, especially those who are a goal down and looking to score, would take the opportunity to swing a ball into the box and see what happens. What did Liverpool do? Took a short kick backwards, with the ball ending up at our centre backs who than lost it. That is not good enough for any team, let alone one with supposed title ambitions.
Once again the manager showed he has no idea how to change a game that is not going to plan. Plan B was the usual keep trying plan A until it works. Despite being a goal down to a team who having had won only once in 13 matches, would be expected to be a tad nervous going into the last half-hour, Benitez did not see fit to change the formation to a more attacking one, with like-for-like substitutions being made. With the 0-0 draw he came for no longer a possibility, preserving Wigan’s clean sheet seemed to be his priority. He did have one ace up his sleeve, one last example of his propensity to attack. Kyrgiakos was drafted into attack for the final 3 minutes of injury time (we got a very generous 5 minutes, but it could have been 50 and we wouldn’t have scored). That is what Blackburn do when Chris Samba is sent up front when they’re chasing a result. Needless to say it didn’t work as we kept giving stupid fouls away and surrendering possession.
Benitez’s demeanour on the sidelines was one of a man going through the motions, just like his team. The side look to be over-coached. Football is one of those sports where you can tell the team how to set up, give some instructions on how best to attack and defend, what to do on set-pieces and what to look out for from the opposition but it is almost impossible to control every facet of the game. You need to trust your team to make the right decisions during a game. Benitez does try to control every little thing and it’s got to the point where the players’ natural instincts are being suppressed. The team yesterday were clueless going forward and it’s because they have so many instructions they have forgotten just how to go out and just play.
If we have any chance of 4th place, and it is a slim chance, we have to go out to win every game. Not go out not to lose or go out to sit back and hope for an opportunity on the break, but go out and grab the game by the scruff of the neck and go for it. Benitez is not capable of allowing his team to that (his ego won’t allow him to give up any control) and I don’t think he’s capable of inspiring them to do it. The team don’t look as though they’re enjoying playing for him and there’s maybe a hint he’s started to lose the dressing room.
Liverpool have degenerated from a team that was renowned for short quick passing, into a team that just lumps long balls into the box and who can only win by playing spoiler to the opposition rather than by outplaying them. A team who throw a centre-back up front in desparation. They are the new Blackburn Rovers.
I’d be shocked (but not surprised) if the Liverpool board haven’t decided to sack Benitez at the end of this season so why not do it now? Put Kenny Dalglish in charge until the end of the season, at least he’ll be able to inspire the team.
This has been a truly dreadful season for Liverpool. Jamie Carragher recently summed up Liverpool’s season recently by saying “That’s what we’re doing, grinding (results out). We’ve come back through fight, desire to do well, and we could never be accused of lacking that. But we’re still not playing fantastic football, we’re not good enough to.”
Says it all.