The misinformed many seem to have picked Rafael Benitez as a target in recent weeks. Whilst the manager is not blameless in our current slump in form the players themselves have got off far too lightly, from our £17 million summer signing Glen Johnson to our so-called ‘talismanic’ captain Steven Gerrard all need to take a look in the mirror.
The ‘Rafa has lost the players’ argument isn’t a valid one, at least not in top flight football. Anyone who earns millions a year and is treated to everything all at the expense of the club should be prepared to give everything on the pitch and in training. Regardless of the managers motivational skills a bunch of over-pampered millionaires who can’t be bothered to put in the effort for 90 minutes every week need to take a long hard look at themselves whilst their manager is out taking the blame.
This isn’t to say that the manager hasn’t made mistakes this season. Some tactics have been wrong, some formations have been negative. There is no plan B when things are going wrong. Whilst this can be in part put down to Benitez’s failure to act quick enough in the face of adversity the main problem here is that the sell-to-buy system in place ever since our current owners took over that has made the gap in quality between the starting eleven and the rest of the squad considerable. The quality of the managers substitutes is often questioned, but no one can argue that it’s going to be hard to make an impact with subs when most of the quality ones have had to be sold in order to improve the first team.
This isn’t a pro-Rafa rant, not by any means. Today’s defeat at Pompey will partly rest on his shoulders, a strange line-up and even stranger subs will be a fixture on many back pages in the morning. But when you go out and get your paper flip to the celebrity section, there might be a picture of our captain Steven Gerrard. Take a long look at him, maybe driving one of his £100,000 sports cars out of Melwood and think to yourself is it really right for him to go into a sulk in the middle of recent games just because the team isn’t playing well? Should a man paid nearly £200,000 a week really shake off his duties as a leader just because he’s not happy with the performance?
These are questions that can be asked of all the players and are questions that need to be asked to get our season back on track.