Why Rafael Benitez Must Win a Trophy for Liverpool Next Season
That is the key word on Merseyside at the moment. Everton are making solid progression under David Moyes that will continue as they face Chelsea in the FA Cup final in just over a week.
In the red half of Merseyside, however, progression is an even bigger deal. The current crop of Liverpool fans have been subject to years of failure in the league.
The younger ones, myself included, have yet to see Liverpool lift a league title in their lifetime, while it is just a distant memory for the elder fans lucky enough to have enjoyed the glory days.
This decade, however, has proved to be a renaissance of sorts. Gerard Houllier started it off with the treble in 2001 and finishing second in the league in 2002.
As Houllier's affect started to wear off, Rafael Benitez overtook the mantle. A Champions League trophy in his first year and an FA Cup the following season had Liverpool fans dreaming of league success once more.
It is coming. Slowly but surely, it is coming.
However, the masquerade of progression won't do for much longer.
This season saw a huge progression. Liverpool have already picked up their highest points tally in the Premier League and look set to finish second, pushing Manchester United all the way to the penultimate game.
The only problem with this is the high standards set for next season.
If, for some reason, Liverpool don't quite reach these levels again next season and finish third, the knives will be out. Benitez will have gone from a man building a title-winning side to a man without a trophy in four years.
It sounds unrealistic, but look at Arsenal. They have the best manager they have ever had, including the great Herbert Chapman, but there is still fierce speculation over his future because he hasn't delivered a trophy in four years.
He is building for the future. Some Arsenal fans, understandably, want success in the present, not in the future. Short-sighted, yes, but that is the nature of a lot of football fans.
Liverpool fans can console themselves with the fact we are progressing, but how long will that excuse last? Yes, it is a valid excuse, but is it also being used as a way to comfort us? Some sort of consolation because Manchester United have finally equalled our league title haul?
For the record, I am playing devil's advocate here. These aren't necessarily my views, but I think they could fast become the views of many.
Without Istanbul, I don't think Benitez would still be our manager. Four years without a trophy and, for all the progression we may be seeing, I think the media, and perhaps some Liverpool "fans," will be questioning his position.
As long as we keep progressing, however, the only way is up, and title No. 19.
Quiz Question No. 2 Answer:
Quote No. 2:
"We're a long way from being where we are." - Steven Gerrard
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