The Rafa Benitez EnigmaBy: Rob | January 14th, 2010
So, Last night, as you can see above, Liverpool went crashing out of the FA Cup to boos and whistles after losing to Championship strugglers Reading. It was an absolutely appalling performance. Take nothing away from Reading – its a great day for them – but Liverpool lacked anything that suggests they are a good, let alone great, side.
Alot of fans will be calling for Benitez’s head. Certainly at most other clubs, he wouldn’t have lasted this long. The suggestion of course, is that Liverpool can not afford to sack him – he signed a big contract last year that would be a nightmare to pay off for a club that doesn’t have all that much money.
And of course if they did pay him off – they would have to bring in someone else who could fix things – which would be expensive. The new manager would want to bring in new bodies, get rid of some of the old.
The money issue will bring up more irritation from fans – with money so scarce, £20m was spent on Alberto Aquilani, who while talented, was injured and has hardly had a chance to do anything at Anfield this season.
The contract issue also brings up another thing, how good Liverpool looked last season. Rafa signed a new contract after an incredibly successful season. This time last year, they were top of the Premier League and whispering about the first league title at Anfield for about 1,000 years.
And to be honest – they blew it. They drew too many games, against sides they should have beat, and handed the title to Manchester United. Still with United and Liverpool now tied on all-time League Titles, this was supposed to be the year that the two fought it out to decide who was the best club in England. It was going to be so exciting.
But Liverpool have dropped faster than a Looney Tunes character falling from a cliff. Sami Hyppia left the club, Daniel Agger suffered a big injury and Cara seems to have lost it completely. The defensive that was absolutely watertight last year, has looked shakey and unispring this time.
Benitez big buy in defence was Glen Johnson, which is fine, except his defending is still questionable. He’s wonderful going forward, but when the team needs him to just hang back and make some vital tackles to keep someone out of the game, he looks out of his depth.
In times gone by, it would perhaps be easy for the Liverpool owners to write this season off as a bad one, and just have another go at it next year. The problem is, Liverpool can’t afford to not qualify for the Champions League, and while that place was practically a given in previous years, with Manchester City finding their somewhat expensive feet, and Spurs finally looking to fulfil some potential, 4th place is quite a way from guarenteed.
So they can’t afford to finish anywhere but 4th – but they can’t afford to sack Rafa and bring in another manager, as that would be just expensive. Its quite a headache for the owners – who are looking to get rid of the club if they get a decent bidder anyway.
You feel though, that something has to change at Liverpool if things are going to get better, and not worse. The ultimate worse case scenario would be to “do a Leeds”, and while things aren’t quite bad yet, its not a massive jump to imagine it getting that bad. Shocking considering just how good they looked last year.