Rafa Benitez Still Quite Capable of Breaking Dalglish's Anfield Hoodoo

illya mclellanSenior Analyst IDecember 2, 2009

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  Liverpool Manager Rafael Benitez looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on November 29, 2009 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

This season has seen Liverpool progress rapidly from being every pundits pick for the title, to a team that is now trying to stay in the top four to guarantee champions league representation next season.

It is almost nauseating the amount of coverage the so called "mistakes" of Rafa Benitez have gotten and the various solutions that have been suggested in hindsight has become almost as sickening.

It is, of course, ridiculous to look on a beleaguered manager and venture to suggest that you yourself or another manager could have succeeded where they have failed.

But the temptation to do so often grips the most eloquent sports writers on the planet because of the lure of presenting controversial copy and the added coverage it gets due to its inflammatory subject matter.

What has recently been forgotten is that Benitez is in the Liverpool job because he is essentially one of the best football managers on the planet. He has proved this in taking Liverpool back to the pinnacle of Europe. Restoring Anfield as a fortress in which they have regularly put the best teams in Europe to the sword.

Never mind the manner of the Champions League victory and the endless debate that goes with it, they were essentially at the time they won it the best team in Europe according to the barometer that fans and the media rate the best by.

This has all been forgotten in recent months as the knives have been drawn out faster than they were for Julius Caesar by his dear friend Brutus and his companions. Pundits who once sang the praises of the Spanish master tactician were all of a sudden seen calling for his head!

Pages and pages of vitriolic copy were written about his failure to accommodate for the loss of Xabi Alonso and the reliance he seems to have on his twin stars, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres and the various other mistakes that others would never have made in their various jobs hiding behind the safety of their keyboards, screens and editors.

I have also recently been guilty of this and to a certain extent I have realized that it is foolhardy to look upon the mistakes of others if you yourself have no notion of the day to day pressures that those in the midst of the cauldron of top level management face.

But it is also in some ways laughable for those who may have had distinguished careers in football and football management to rubbish one of their contemporaries because of difficulty and strife that has befallen them.

It is well known in football circles that Benitez certainly knows what he is doing, after all they were agonizingly close last season to prying the EPL trophy from Sir Alex Ferguson's vice like grip. Stuttering at crucial times cost the team and Benitez the chance to finally bring the title back to Anfield for the first time since Kenny Dalglish last did it for Liverpool in 1990. 

The league is certainly a different kettle of fish than it was back in the eighties though, as the advent of the new elite and the sheer amounts of money being spent has meant it has been increasingly difficult for teams that are not in the money spinning champions league positions to mount serious challenges for the title.

This point seems to be the one that Benitez and his Liverpool future will rely on in the coming months. As long as he is able to stay in touch with the leaders and make one of the top four places and preferably top three, he will keep his job and be back for another crack at the title next season.

If he does not keep them in the economically magical top four spots he may well have to bow out gracefully rather than hang on for dear life as others have before him.

Luck is a cruel mistress and can tear off your arm as she helps you out of the abyss, as Benitez well knows, for after riding a wave of good fortune several seasons ago to the Champions League trophy itself, it was his poor performance in Champions League fixtures that many people thought would lead to his demise as manager of one of the proudest clubs in European football history.

It remains to be seen in the coming weeks whether the crucial victory in the derby match will be the chrysalis for the rebirth of Liverpool this season as one of the sides that will be impossible to beat at home and a formidable opponent on any ground in England and Europe.

For that is what they once were for many years and it is the memory of Liverpool sides and the consummate ease with which they would play the top sides of Europe off the park that remains for those who follow them to this day.

They have in recent years seemed to have been driven more by moments of brilliance and desperation, than the pure footballing brilliance and skill that the teams of the past were able to rely on. It has no doubt been the promise of the return to the magnificence of old, in moments like the mauling of United at Old Trafford and the demolition of Real Madrid at Anfield, that spark the memory of what the Liverpool juggernaut once was.

Benitez has proven in the past he is quite capable of leading Liverpool back to their former glory and he has done more than any manager since Dalglish to restore the glory of this proud club.

He has another chance and has been given time by his employers, it will be with much hope and trepidation that Liverpool fans around the world will watch their gaffer try to turn the ship into the waves again, to find that blessed current of league success that has so eluded them for so long.