LFC Talk

Benitez: Can he survive another failed title attempt? by lfctalk
September 2, 2008, 16:11
Filed under: Opinion

A problem I have with Benitez is that he seems ludicrously stubborn, not as much as Houllier in certain respects but far moreso in others. I have no idea why he didn’t improve the wide areas of our attack this Summer and am amazed that he’s dropped the 4-2-3-1 formation that bought us such an upturn in success last term as well as the best football we’ve played under his leadership.

Another issue that I will raise about him is the lack of creativity in the side. It’s always been there since he took over and he has done absolutely nothing about it. I don’t think he understands the art of attacking at all, which is highlighted by the comments made by Babel about his training ‘methods’. The guy seems obsessed with defending and cautiousness. He has made our defense very good, but it’s not as if it was a problem beforehand. Our backline is very good, but at the moment it’s not as good as either Chelsea’s or United’s. How it matches up to Arsenal’s is debatable, but they (like the top two) possess an attack that looks far more dangerous than ours…which shouldn’t be the case after our outscoring them all last season.

Which leads me to question why he has broken up that excellent understanding that Torres and Gerrard had instantly devloped. Top-class players can strike an instant rapport, it’s one of the things that makes them top-class. Robbie Keane has struggled to build an understanding with Torres. I don’t know how much of a factor our lack of quality in support of the pair is, but I’m sure it contributes enough. Also, I think Torres looks slightly pissed off about being paired with the Irishman. His body language and facial expressions don’t look like a man pleased to be playing with Keane, and I suspect he was happier being the lone striker with support from Gerrard behind. And I don’t blame him – if it ain’t broke…

Having read an article in The Independent, featuring an interview with Wenger, last weekend, I can understand why he doesn’t want to go out and buy megabucks players. He wants to build a side from scratch and make winners out of relative nobodies. It’s an admirable ethos, but it’s unlikely to succeed in this climate of money = success. They play some scintilating football at times, but they do tend to try and walk the ball into the net. They also have a lot of petulance, which I suspect may be a by-product of being told you’re a worldbeater from a young age. They are clearly suffering from Wenger’s desire to not throw money at players and have got members of their squad looking with jealousy at the wages being bandied around at rival clubs. Which, again, is no surprise as desire for success is being replaced by a desire for as much financial gain as possible in players today.

As for whether there are managers out there that could do better in the current climate at our club, I’m not sure…I don’t think we could know until we see. I’m sure there are managers that would be less stroppy than Rafa, but whether that would equal success is certainly debatable. As for names, it would depend on who would be available next Summer. I am moving closer and closer to advocating that Benitez needs to go if he fails for a fifth time to be a genuine title contender. He’s had the money and the time to make this side his – only Gerrard, Carragher and Hyypia remain from his joining the club, and at least two of those have been our most consistent players in his time with us, although Mascherano, Reina and Torres fit into that bracket also. What that represents is the fact that Benitez has installed a world-class spine to our side, which is his best achievement of all in terms of squad development. Unfortunately, he has failed miserably to bring our wide areas to the same standard.

What worries me is that his Champions League success has clouded Premiership judgement. The guy clearly has a knack at succeeding in knockout football – we’re a very hard side to beat. Which is another testament to our defensive quality. But we are also a side that struggles to break sides down. When a team ‘parks the bus’, we lack the creative spark to get in behind them. While Xabi Alonso is capable of world-class assists, he’s sorely lacking in results in that department. His lack of end product, combined with the lack of wingers that provide opportunities for our strikers has seen, firstly, an over-reliance on Gerrard under Benitez. That burden has been stretched to Torres as well, but it shouldn’t be the case in a team with our ambitions and aspirations. Manchester United have Ronaldo, Scholes, Tevez, Rooney and now Berbatov who can all be deemed regular matchwinners. Although we are yet to see the Bulgarian do so in a United shirt. Chelsea are another side that spreads the responsibility and have Lampard, Drogba, Joe Cole, Ballack and Deco chipping in with matchwinning moments and performances. In terms of forwards we only have the aforementioned pair. And that is one of the main factors that sees us behind these sides. Ok, if we had the money maybe we could add top-class players to share this burden, but would Benitez be signing them or would he be obsessing over getting in defensively sound players for every position..?!

I don’t want Benitez to leave now, quite the opposite, I want him to be a success and take us to the title that we desperately crave. But wanting something and believing it is going to happen are two different things. I am proud of the way he has taken to the club’s ethos and traditions and tried to uphold them during his time with us, but I worry that these ideals are becoming dated and are factors that hold us back in this cut-throat business. I also doubt very much whether any manager could take us to the title when our rivals at the top have so much more money than we have and are pulling further and further away with every home game played and every megabucks promotion in the far east. But I also think that we could be closer than we are given that you can only have eleven players on the football pitch at any one time. Benitez has got a spine in our side that matches any team in the game, but the same old problem remains that our full-back and wing options fall a long way short of matching the very best…and that is a major factor in keeping us behind them.

All-in-all, I think that if we fail to get closer to the title this season then Benitez may well have to go. Perhaps that is based on frustration with the poor quality of our football so far this so far, or perhaps it’s a decision based on his inability to bring in the ‘finishing touch’ players that would take us to the next level…I’m not entirely sure. But it is difficult to see who could come in and do a better job with the Americans and Parry hampering us at every junction. The grass isn’t always greener and the only way we’d find out is by hopping the fence and having a stroll in the meadow. But it’d be a big risk finding out.


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