Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has come under stinging criticism this week after the Merseysiders exit from the Champions League.
To be fair he has suffered this all season long, infact since his reign as Liverpool manager began in June 2004. The one criticism Benitez endures the most, is the one concerning his rotation policy. Rafa rotates, its just a fact, he likes to keep the players that can be spared fresh for games when their attributes can be used to a more devastating effect.
The media, and tunnel visioned Liverpool fans, don't recognise his plans, to them, he isn't planning ahead, more making unnecessary changes in order to fit all of his fringe players in. Benitez likes his squad to have the full range off attributes for use at different times.
Take the front players for example, Peter crouch is the hold up man, in a 4:4:2 system, he will be the man that keeps the ball in the dangerous part of the pitch, giving the central midfielders a chance to catch up or even go beyond the play (a major factor in the game of Steven Gerrard). Dirk Kuyt is the work horse, it is said every time he plays. He runs till the final whistle harrying defenders in an attempt to win the ball from the very top of the pitch. He can also be very direct and strong when he has the ball.
Andriy Voronin is technically sound, not as explosive as Kuyt but equally as selfless when it comes to the team cause. Fernando Torres is the star, it goes without saying, he hold the pace and is just the complete package, hence why he plays more often than the other strikers who hold more 'specialist' attributes.
Benitez holds similar policies for his defenders and midfielders. Another uninformed criticism of Rafael Benitez's managerial abilities is his insistence on a zonal marking system. Unusual it definitely is, impregnable it is not. Like any sort of marking system it cannot be effective 100% effective. Liverpool concede fewer goals from set peices than most teams, but every time they do, the finger is pointed at the system.
Some of Rafa's bought players have also been frowned upon by Liverpool fans and further afield. Benitez has not been extraordinary in the transfer market, no manager ever has. What Benitez has done however is not waste money. His three most expensive buys have been Fernando Torres (£21m), Javier Mascherano (£17m) and Ryan Babel (£13m). These players have blossomed under his leadership and Torres and Mascherano have probably been Liverpools best 2 players this season. Benitez has made his mistakes in the transfer market aswell. Antonio Nunez (part exchange), Josemi, (£3m), Fernando Morientes (£6m), Bolo Zenden (free) and Mauricio Pellegrino (free) have all failed to impress. The difference is these players have cst little or no money. When compared with Houlliers £10m failed gamble on El hadji Diouf this looks like nothing.
Rafa is a manager that is still learning, realising how important the Premier League is to Liverpool fans. He is just starting to turn Houlliers squad of players into his own. Expect more dead wood to be dropped in the summer. He is tactically sound also, This season sacrificing his usual defensive tendencies to release a free scoring Liverpool side that would never have hit Derby for 6, or Besiktas for 8 two years ago. In Rafa's first five years he's established he has a defence capable of blocking out the best, as they did last season and the season before, but he is now discovering he can have a front line capable of scoring as many as Man Utd's Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez partnership.
So please, leave Rafa to do his job, we still want him in charge of our football team and there arn't many better.
En Rafa Que Confiamos : In Rafa We Trust.