Surely it is time for Liverpool to part company with Rafa Benitez.
I don’t want to take anything away from Standard Liege’s performance at Anfield on Wednesday night. It was impressive, and they were strong in every area of the pitch. But Liverpool were a shadow of what they are capable of. They had no imagination, no creativity, no productivity; they were a team of individuals playing individual games.
And all of this must be down to their clueless manager.
It is not too far a stretch to suggest that Benitez is and has long been riding the good grace of a certain night in Istanbul. It has cushioned him from countless bad transfers, dreadful over-spending, poor return in domestic competitions, and a tendency towards negativity that is only matched by his tendency towards instability.
It is this latter part of Benitez’s footballing mind that should have ended his Anfield career long ago.
Rotation has its place, but Benitez abuses the tactic.
How many times have we seen him bench in-form players (think Djibril Cisse) while playing slumping players in their place (think Peter Crouch's desperately long goal drought)?
More times than I can count.
How many times has he shunted his best players into positions they are unsuited for (think Stevie G on the right)?
Constantly is the answer.
Even against Standard Liege, the winning goal came from a fortuitous link up between out-of-position Ryan Babel and out-of-position Dirk Kuyt. It makes one wonder whether that last gasp goal would have been needed at all if Rafa's men had been playing in their proper positions.
I’d be willing to bet that the answer is no. Liverpool would have won before extra time.
There are managers, like Arsene Wenger, who have a gift for playing men out of position, and thereby unlocking their true potential, but that is not what Rafa does.
It is not as though Rafa is trying to find the best place for his men, where they can perform to their utmost. Instead, he gets a tactical plan in his head—whether it is a smart idea or not—and then moves his men around to suit the tactics. And worse, the tactics are always changing for no apparent reason.
That is bad management.
It disintegrates team work, foregrounding individual effort. It destroys player morale. And it puts his team in a position where they are always playing catch up—as they had to do that night in Istanbul.
That night Rafa got lucky because of some brilliant play by Stevie G, and he’s been milking it ever since.
Now, I don’t necessarily want Liverpool to fix the problems they have any time soon, but I feel for Liverpool fans everywhere. You know the wrong man is managing your team.
But you can do something about it. Make sure those players of yours aren’t walking alone and start pressuring those Yanks to end the Rafalution.
You know that it’s the right thing to do, and you know that it has to be done.