It’s the beginning of September. Spring is in the air (at least here in Australia), kids are going back to school, you don’t know whether to wear a scarf or a t-shirt and football is back.
That’s right people, football is only just back, four games in actually; the beginning; 34 more games to go; and there are already calls for a manager’s head.
Now, the life of a Premier League manager is never easy. No matter how much progress you make unless you win the league you’re only a couple of bad games away from the ‘sack the manager brigade’s' vitriol. Even if you win the league, sometimes that’s not enough.
Exhibit A: Jose Mourinho.
You may even take your club to its highest ever finish in the Premier League, missing out on the title by four points, have one of the stingiest defences in the league and the most prolific attack and still people will call for you to be sacked.
You can increase a supporters expectations from ‘I hope we make the Champions League’ to ‘We can and should win the league’. You can take the team to two Champion’s League Finals, winning one. You can engineer the defeat of Real Madrid by 5-0 over two legs, 4-0 at home and still some fans question if you’re the right man to take the club forward.
Step forward Rafael Benitez.
Liverpool Football Club has played 4 games so far this season, picking up 6 points from the 12 on offer. Not the best start, not the worst start, just a start. However, the fact that they are not up there with Chelsea and Spurs on 4 wins out of 4 or even on three wins with the two teams of Manchester has some ‘fans’ questioning the manager once again and has given me a serious case of deja vu.
So, let’s have a look at Liverpool's start to the season in comparison to recent seasons and see if it's really all doom and gloom. We’ll start with last season.
Eventual Champions Manchester United started the season relatively slowly taking 7 points from the first 12. Their first game was a 1-1 draw against the soon-to-be-relegated Newcastle United, Followed by a narrow 1-0 defeat of Portsmouth. They then went to Anfield and went down 2-1. Of course, Manchester United overcame some early-season setbacks to mount a successful attack on the title. Funnily enough there was no talk of sacking the manager.
Liverpool at this stage was 4 from 4 with victories over Manchester United and Everton already secured. We eventually fell away to finish 4 points off in second place.
Keep in mind that Hull City had 7 points at this stage too.
Three games into the 2007-08 season Manchester United were sitting in 17th position, just outside the relegation spots having drawn two games against Reading and Portsmouth and a derby defeat against city. They had 2 points on the board from 9. The next game saw a win over Spurs giving them 5 points from a possible 12. Dire times indeed for Manchester United, yet they returned to form and went on to take the title by two points over Chelsea.
Liverpool at this stage had three wins under its belt, including a 6-0 rout of Derby and wins over Villa and Sunderland. The only blemish on the copybook was a 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea. Chelsea scoring from a penalty that referee Rob Styles later apologised to Liverpool for awarding. 10 points out of 12 and we went on to finish in 4th, 11 points behind a rampant Manchester United side.
Admittedly a bad season for Liverpool where it lost 10 games to finish behind Manchester United by 21 points,
Liverpool had collated 4 points from the first 4 games. Manchester United had an unusually good start winning 4 from 4 giving them 12 points.
Manchester United started well with three wins and a draw from their opening four games giving them 10 points from a possible 12. But Chelsea was on its way to an amazing run of 15 wins from 16 games that left everybody for dust. Liverpool were unbeaten after 4 games but had only garnered 6 points from 12 due to three draws against Spurs, Manchester United and Sunderland. Chelsea put up a seemingly unassailable lead of 17 points but went on to take the league by 8 points from Manchester United with Liverpool only a point behind.
So, what’s my point?
The point is you can’t make any predictions based on the first four games. The league is played over 38 games and nine months. Anything can and does happen. With the addition of Manchester City and what looks like a competitive Tottenham side to the top echelon this could be the season where the champions lose 7 or 8 games as the competition is so tough at the top. So, no need to press the panic button just yet.
The fact is Liverpool consistently competes at the top level in the top league in the world, regularly appears in the latter stages of the UCL and has just come off their best ever EPL season, finishing only two points off the champions. Yes, the league title has eluded them but it’s easier said than done to win it. People need to get a grip and see that the league is not over if you don’t win 4 from 4 at the beginning of the season. Let the team and the manager play and prove themselves over nine months and then make the tough decisions.
This season's start is not ‘ridiculously poor’ as some would say. Two wins and two losses are better than one win and three draws in my opinion. Last year, as I mentioned, Manchester United took 7 points from their opening four games, only one more point than Liverpool now, as did Hull city.
It’s absurd to hear some of the same people who rejoiced at Rafa signing a new contract a few short months ago now calling for him to be sacked. Sacking your manager mid-season is suicide and you may as well give up or support Chelsea.
Maybe some people have lost the faith but for me, In Rafa I trust!