The big word at Liverpool F.C so far this season has been ‘blame’. Every fan, pundit and journalist has their own opinion on who is to blame for Liverpool turning from title contenders to battling for a place in Europe’s elite competition. I’ve gave my own views a number of times on this site, some of you have agreed and some have called it rubbish, showing the true split created in Liverpool’s support toward the end of this year. In this piece I’m going to try and take no sides and only look at what’s gone wrong at our club.
Firstly let’s look towards the manager, Rafael Benitez. Throughout the season the pundits have been attacking the Liverpool manager based upon his decisions and man-management skills. Over recent weeks as form seemingly hasn’t picked up more and more fans have also decided to point the finger firmly in the direction of the Spaniard, who recently gave reassurances the Reds would finish within the top four positions in the league. One of the major talking points with regards to Benitez is the sale of Alonso in the summer. Whilst Alonso was determined to head for the Bernabeu in the summer many fans think the transfer could have been avoided long before the window even opened. Rafa originally tried to off-load the former Sociedad midfielder during the previous summer, with visions of bringing in on-form Gareth Barry from Aston Villa. I agreed with the move at the time, Alonso had two very poor season leading up to that summer, and Gareth Barry looked like an improvement. Of course Alonso went on to have his best season at the club before making the move to the Spanish capital, however, it’s worth noting that this was one of only two good seasons Alonso had at Anfield, with the rest being average at best. In conclusion Rafa could have handled the whole thing better, trying to flog Alonso to Juventus behind his back wasn’t a clever move, but it would have paid off had he been given adequate funds to sign Gareth Barry.
The managers tactics have also been brought into question, especially with regards to where and when he plays players. Some have said Kuyt isn’t a winger, he hasn’t got the pace and lacks a first touch. Those points I agree with, I also agree that he’s been off-form all season. However, last season showed he can play brilliantly on the wide right. Seemingly Dirk only plays well when the rest of the team are, which at the moment they are not. If we pick up a handful of wins in a row I’d more than expect to see Dirk playing better, but his ability on the right shouldn’t be question, it’s his best position. Whether he plays it well enough to feature week-in-week-out is a different question. Aurelio’s position has also been question, Rafa has played the Brazilian on the left-wing a number of times this season and he’s been accused of being too defensive. For me Aurelio is a more natural left winger than he is a left back, the problem is he’s injury prone and to be honest not all that good. Playing Lucas is the major concern to many fans and whilst he’s put in a few bad performances this season he’s put in a lot more good ones, in fact he’s improved considerably this season. Should Rafa be playing both Mascherano and Lucas? Maybe not, but now Aquilani is fit he may not have to.
Rafa’s ability in the transfer market has also been brought into question. Many have said he’s had too much to spend and has showed he can’t buy well below 20 million. I have to disagree, signings like Benayoun, Reina and Alonso have shown his ability to make things happen on low budgets and the signing of Fernando Torres for 20 million shows he’s more than capable of spending big money well. He has signed a number of high-price players who haven’t paid off. Most notably Robbie Keane and Ryan Babel. Whilst Keane seemingly was a mistake Babel was a risk that any manger would take, he was a young, promising player who had the potential to develop into a world-beater. Unfortunately the gamble didn’t pay off, but for me it was a risk worth taking. Dossena was a poor signing, as poor as they come for that price but whilst trying to be as unbias as possible I honestly feel Rafa has done well in the tranfer market, spending a net of only 83 million in his time at Liverpool and working on a shoestring under our current owners.
Finally for Rafa I’ll bring up his man-management skills. This is probably the biggest single question asked of the manager in recent weeks. Has he lost the players? Can he inspire them anymore? The only people who truly know the answer is the players themselves but looking at the way they are playing currently I’ll say they may have lost confidence in him. While the players have to take on some of the blame themselves the manager is there, in part, to motivate the team and it seriously looks like that isn’t happening at the moment. However, he’s proven he can do it in the past, half-time in Istanbul being a prime example. Maybe it is just down to the players, losing their heads after a bad run off games. However I am going to pin this one on the manager himself. If the players are down and out it’s the managers job to screw their heads back on and remind them what it means to put on a red shirt, there should be no ego’s and everyone should be considered equal out there on the pitch and Rafa needs to start drilling this home to get everyone working together.
I think everyone who supports Liverpool F.C has some feeling of resentment towards our American owners, it’s just a case of how much blame each fan puts on them. Since day one Hicks and Gillett have piled debt onto the club, which now stands at well over GBP300 million. The major argument is that ever since the owners have come into place Rafa has been forced to sell to buy, forcing him to let go of decent back-up players in order to improve his starting eleven. There’s clear evidence to back this up, the sale of Bellamy in order to fund the Torres deal is a prime example. Selling to buy does work in the short-term but over a prolonged period (Over three years in our case) it simply isn’t sustainable. The gap between the quality of our first team and our squad players is huge and that will only continue to grow if the sell-to-buy policy is continued.
Let’s also not forget Rafa had other targets in mind in the summer, with some of the names being thrown about including the two David’s of Valencia Silva and Villa. Rafa was told that he’d have more money than he did to spend, allowing him to consider some more attacking options to take the pressure off Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard. However this money was snatched away from him by the owners, leaving a big gap in our squad, which has cost us dearly this season. The knock on effect of a number of failed signings, including Gareth Barry and Danny Alves, due to a lack of funds will have also had an impact on the squad this season. Imagine what could have been if Rafa had been given any considerably funds in the last three years? A number of his major targets, including those already mentioned, have gone on to be some of the best in the world. For these reasons a large amount of blame must be placed on the owners. while our youth system is still developing we have to spend an adequate amount to keep the squad up to the standard needed. At the moment our league position is representative of where we are in terms of amount spent compared to other Premier League clubs, mid table. Can we really expect to win the league without the invest other clubs around us are getting?
However, constant blaming of the owners whenever we lose isn’t right either. A number of recent games have been down to poor decisions and a lack of motivation (as I’ve mentioned) coupled with a lack of effort on the players part, which I’ll move on to soon. Although the owners need to be accountable for the overall demise of the club as a whole each individual game has to be looked at on its own. Some games can be put down to the manager and players decisions off and on the pitch, as opposed to a lack of investment in the squad. As much as it hurts me to say it due to my hatred for the owners if a player or the manager makes a mistake which costs us the game you cannot lump it all on the owners and stick your head in the sand. Sad but true.
The players have to hold their hands up and admit they’ve been less than brilliant this season, although it seems like most of them wont. A number of our top performers this season have been off the pace, most notably captain Steven Gerrard, who has seen a drastic loss of form and seemingly a loss of his work ethic as his effort at times has been minimal. Far too many times this season the captain has put his head down and went quiet when we’re in trouble, it’s all well and good chipping in a goal every now and again but Stevie has to act like a captain when he’s not on form himself. If he’s not doing well with the ball at his feet at least he could try to inspire the others around him to do better. Jamie Carragher hasn’t been on form either at times, but he’s always seen rallying the troops even when he’s having an bad game. Gerrard could do with taking a page out of his book.
I’ve mentioned motivation is a part of the managers job, but the players have to motivate themselves as well. Liverpool supporters pay a fortune to the club to follow the Reds around the country week in, week out and the least the players could do is realise it’s those fans hard-earned cash that is paying their wages. It’s all well nd good saying the manager isn’t motivating you but when you’re earning more in a week than most will in a decade you can’t justify not putting in the effort for a game or two a week, it’s simply not on.
Here’s the order in which I’m allocating the blame:
1st: The Owners
In this league in the modern game you have to have the funding in order to be successful, that or have a fully developed youth team like Arsenal, something we cannot boast as of yet. Money is the vital ingredient and without it no manager will ever be successful at Liverpool Football Club. No matter who came in they wouldn’t get a scrap to spend at the club and would continue to fall behind the rest of the high-spending pack. That’s why I’m putting the owners at the top of the blame chart. They’ve weakened our squad by forcing us to sell to buy and have riddled the club with debt which has seriously effected our spending in the build up to this season.Tom Hicks and George Gillett either need to dig deep in the next few transfer windows or get out fast.
2nd: Rafa Benitez
Whilst the Spaniard has been given near-impossible working conditions by the owners over the last three years his decisions this season have cost us in a number of games. Some silly substitutions and weird changes to the formation have made us look disjointed all over the park with the players seemingly not knowing exactly what they should be doing. Rafa has to get on the players backs and show them what it means to play for Liverpool F.C, otherwise we’ll never get back on track. Despite his flaws I do believe Rafa is the man for the job. If he was sacked now we couldn’t attract another world-class manager, not with the restraints the owners place on the manager. No manager would succeed at our club while having to sell-to-buy.
3rd: The Players
I was reluctant to put the least blame on the players, as despite his faults I believe Rafa is trying harder. However, the players need to sort themselves out and fast. We’ve shown our mental strength as a team many a time, coming back from huge defecits and it’s time to show that passion again. While motivation may be the key they need to keep their heads up and keep trying because that’s the Liverpool Way.
I hope you enjoyed reading through my ramblings and I hope you thought it was a little less bias than a lot of my other stuff. Feel free to give your opinion in the comments section.