As Liverpool head to Lyon in an attempt to reignite their Champions League campaign the pressure is most certainly on one man – Rafa Benitez.
Liverpool’s opening to the 2009/10 campaign has been thoroughly disappointing. There is no denying this fact. The team have lost three more games in the opening third than they lost all of last season and have now lost six of the last seven in all competitions.
It is the worst run of form seen for the Anfield outfit for over fifty years and has left their title challenge looking slim.
Fans are looking for answers and so the witch hunt begins.
Some blame the American owners due to the ongoing off pitch disputes. A few are blaming the players but most are blaming the manager Benitez.
Since joining Liverpool the team have shown an incredible focus, charting a credible run of seasons in the Champions League and their best premiership season to date last year when they came closest to achieving their first Premier League title.
Most teams can and do go through a fall in form. Obviously Liverpool’s recent run has not been seen in the modern era, but does Rafa deserve to be given the boot for the dismal opening to the season?
The simple answer is no.
Anyone who could suggest such an event cannot consider themselves a loyal fan. English football has expected too much from managers at points and many give up on a manager at the smallest of errors.
For a Liverpool fan to request the sacking of Benitez is somewhat hypocritical. The team are indeed in crisis but were celebrated heroes when Rafa took them to new dizzy heights and Champions League finals.
Can fans therefore really celebrate and praise a manager to the magnitude that followed after European glory, and then scarper their loyalty at the first sign of disaster.
What some people seem to ignore, which pundits are not dismissing is that minus Xabi Alonso the Liverpool team is almost identical to last years composition.
There appears to be a lack of inner confidence on pitch and when Gerrard and Torres are both sidelined the team looks a shambles. Benitez is their manager and therefore should coax them out of the depressing situation. Yet what needs to be acknowledged is that it is the players who also need to take some accountability for the opening to the campaign. Some have already done just that, staunchly standing behind their manager and promoting his value.
Rafa has taken responsibility for the performances this season, and the victory against Man Utd gave a glimmer of hope before the collapse against Fulham. It was however a scene of what it could be as well as what it should be.
A victory against Lyon will do much to inspire some confidence in the players and fans. It has to be remembered that when Liverpool last found themselves in a similar position they thrashed Besiktas 8-0, a result which thrust them back to the forefront of European football.
The worry is that if a loss comes into fruition against the French team then it may be au revoir for the Spanish manager, in what could prove more detrimental than not to Liverpool’s top four expectations.
Rafa Benitez has before lifted Liverpool from near collapse and no doubt will do so again. It will depend a great deal on the continuing support he receives from his team and foot-balling pundits, as well as the people who profess to thinking about what is best for the club in the long term.