After week nine in the Premier League, Liverpool find themselves in the eight position. To make matters worse, all their contenders for the top four finish are above them in the table; Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Tottenham.
Their main rivals for the fourth position—Manchester City (according to me), if they won their game in hand can go five points clear of them. League leaders Manchester United, having played equal number of games as Liverpool are seven points clear of them.
Some may say it is too early to say anything, but clearly, all Liverpool will be fighting for this season in the league is for fourth position, or third at most.
Their Champions League campaign has not been great, oh sorry, good, either. Although they are not in the easiest group with Fiorentina and Lyon, Liverpool have been probably the worst “big” team in the Champions League.
An away loss to Cesare Prandelli’s Fiorentina side can be forgiven, but a home loss today to Lyon is unacceptable. Their only win in the group so far was against lowly Debrecen by a single goal in the majestic and ever supporting atmosphere of Anfield. While some may argue that Debrecen is an unknown team, it is also the same team where at their home both Lyon and Fiorentina scored four goals each.
Coming back to the Premier League. Liverpool have now lost four out of their nine matches. That is exactly double the number of losses they suffered in the entire campaign last season. Although one of their losses may be blamed on a fan, referee or the beach ball, that should be no excuse. Liverpool were lackluster all game and clearly did not deserve to win.
Among the other three losses, one has come against Chelsea—their rivals for their long coveted Premier League title. Another one was against top four challengers Tottenham Hotspurs. The third, an embarrassing loss at home was also against another top four challenger—Aston Villa.
Of the three “big” games Liverpool have played so far in the league they have lost all. Of the two “big” games Liverpool have played so far in the Champions League, they have lost both.
Some may say it is because of the injury problems to Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. Others may also add that the loss of Xabi Alonso and the injury to Alberto Aquilani is to blame.
There is also constant blame on Tom Hicks and George Gillet for their never-ending soap opera about the ownership of the club and their long-but-now-apparently-ended friendship.
Agreed. Although all these reasons are to blame for Liverpool’s problems, there is one main reason for Liverpool’s lack of winning games—Rafael Benitez. Forget the Rafalution. It’s enough now.
This is now Benitez’s sixth season is charge of Liverpool and except for a dramatic FA Cup victory over West Ham and an even more dramatic Champions League victory over AC Milan, Benitez has won nothing. Now I know that winning the Champions League is not “just,” but although Benitez did get his tactics right in the second half, the match was lost by Milan because of lack of concentration and over-confidence, not won by Liverpool.
In one of his many rows with Alex Ferguson, Benitez said he would win his first Premiership title in less time than Alex Ferguson. Ferguson won it in seven years, Benitez has one more to go. If it were up to me, Benitez would never get that chance, as he has to go.
What fascinates me about Benitez is his constant complaints about not getting enough money to spend on players. How come we do not see Arsene Wenger complaining about the same thing? Benitez has spent (net spending) £82.5 million after coming to Anfield while Arsene Wenger has spent (net spending) £3.4 million.
Yes, I know that all managers do not share same qualities about scouting and nurturing young talent, but after spending £79.1 million more than a team which is higher in the Premier League table than you are and is doing better in the Champions League, one should really know when to keep quiet.
Besides, Benitez has been at the Merseyside Reds for five years now. Isn't that enough time to build a squad after spending so much money all these years? Isn't that enough time to give a team it's identity and place your philosophy? After five years, are you still supposed to be complaining that two of your key players are missing? That's really no excuse.
Since arriving at the Kop, Benitez has signed around 45 players! Yes, 45! That's an average of nine per season. Really, no coach can complain about that.
Then, Benitez let Xabi Alonso leave for Real Madrid. Yes, Alonso did want to leave, but only because of Benitez's actions one summer before. Benitez made public his intention to sign Gareth Barry from Aston Villa and made it evident that he was going to use Alonso as bait. Surely, Benitez misses Alonso today.
As his replacement, he signed Alberto Aquilani from Roma, a player with great potential, but has spent more time on the doctor's treatment table than on the pitch.
Another place where Rafa seems to lack is in getting the best out of his players. Look at Peter Crouch for example. Harry Redknapp has worked very well with him at Portsmouth and Spurs and so have Fabio Capello and even Steve McClaren for England!
Another example is Mohammad Sissoko. He was doing incredibly well since his move to Juventus until his injury. Then there are players like Craig Bellamy, Robbie Keane, and Andriy Voronin who are great players who can play for other coaches and other teams, but not Rafael Benitez's Liverpool.
Seeing the work Benitez did at Valencia, there is no doubt he is a great coach. It cannot be that there is a communication problem at Liverpool because he is fluent in English. It may just be that Benitez's style does not suit the Premier League.
Whatever, the reason, the best for both parties involved is a divorce. Liverpool can attract any coach in the world, and there will be no problem for Benitez to get a new team.