Like it or not, we are a club in crisis. To be grammatically correct, we are a club in crises (plural). With the exception of the academy, there is not one aspect of life at Liverpool FC that does not have the word ‘Crisis’ attached i.e. team confidence ‘CRISIS’, manager ‘CRISIS’, injury ‘CRISIS’, board room ‘CRISIS’, financial ‘CRISIS’, No. 17 bus ‘CRISIS’, well maybe that is going a bit too far as the no. 17 passes by Anfield but has not been embroiled in any crisis…..yet!
Last night’s exit at the hands of Reading summed up the crisis on our playing side perfectly. From the first to final whistles, there looked like being only one winner and sadly they were not wearing red. Reading, to their credit, were faster to the ball, showed more fight, strength and composure on the ball when required. Any neutral watching would have been hard pressed to identify which team were the Premier League side with Champions League qualification ambitions and which team were struggling in 21st place in the championship whose ambitions are limited to surviving in that division and appointing a new permanent manager! Where was the pride and passion from our players in wearing the red shirt of our beloved club?
The question of pride and passion applies to all not just the much maligned Ryan Babel. Stevie G has been conspicuous by his absence, mentally if not physically. I am not singling him out for criticism per say, as he has been carrying Liverpool for many years and rightly has earned legendary status, but he is not performing as our club captain should! When events on the field are not going our way, it is down to our captain to inspire and lead his team mates as he has done so many times in the past. The job of club captain is more than just calling heads or tails at the coin toss.
Countless words have been written about our boardroom and financial crises and they cannot be ignored but how much have these been used to deflect attention from Rafa’s own performance as manager. Please note that I have been one of our managers most fervent supporters and remain so, but to exclude him from any criticism would render this article pointless and remove any credibility it, or its author, hopes to retain. His record has been outstanding. He has had us consistently boxing above our weight over the last 5 seasons. He has had a bad 4-5 months but a good manager does not become a bad one in that short time frame. Calling for his head, in my view, is short sighted. However, even my patience is wearing thin.
The only noticeable absentee from our team last season is of course Xabi Alonso. Unfortunately, this saga has become a prime example of Benitez stubbornness but the loss of 1 player, who was a virtual passenger through 06-07 and 07-08 seasons lest we forget, should not have had such a detrimental effect on our squad and performances. The blame for his departure lies squarely at the manager’s door. Failure on signing an adequate replacement (jury is still out on Aquilani) is shared by both Rafa and those that control the purse strings at Anfield.
A lot of Benitez’s investment in numbers rather than value has been at youth level. With the club in the grips of another injury crisis, perhaps it is time to blood some of these players and give them game time. The Academy has become an incentive to the cream of European youth talent to choose Liverpool FC over the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona which indicates the improvements made in both facilities and personnell over recent years. But we cannot wait for much longer to see some fruits coming through to the first team.
At the final whistle last night, a crescendo of boos echoed around Anfield. While it was fully understanderable, I was extremely disappointed to hear it. I am hoping we have reached the bottom of this trough, but I am afraid worse is to come.