Liverpool’s nightmare start to the 2009/10 Premier League season went from bad to worse at the weekend when they lost 3-1 to Fulham at Craven Cottage and had two players dismissed late on in the game.
Having now lost six of their last seven matches, only the brief delight of beating arch rivals Manchester United has given the team respite from heavy criticism.
This week does not look like getting any easier for the Reds as they travel to Lyon for a crucial Champions League clash in which they must hope for a draw at the very least. Lyon are always tough opponents but Liverpool’s task is made even more difficult with an injury list running into double figures. Unfortunately this list includes their two main attacking threats, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres being ‘doubtful’ for tonight’s match.
Benitez is Losing Support
Given recent results and the cut-throat nature of Premier League football, it comes as no surprise that manager Rafael Benitez was booed by fans at the weekend and is facing calls to be sacked by the nation’s blood-thirsty press.
As a Liverpool fan I think this issue has to be addressed from a more logical viewpoint and so have put together a list of ten reasons why Benitez should not be sacked.
- There is no other high calibre manager who is currently either out of work or, willing to leave his position at another club to replace Benitez and inherit the mess at Liverpool .
- Benitez was the mastermind behind the greatest comeback of all time in the 2005 Champions League final against AC Milan. Trailing 3-0 at half time, Liverpool were looking dead in the water. Benitez must have pulled out an inspirational team talk similar to that of Al Pacino in the film Any Given Sunday as the Reds eventually won the match on penalties after a thrilling second half comeback.
- Added to the triumph in 2005, Rafa’s track record is littered with successes both with Liverpool and with his previous club Valencia. The Reds won the FA Cup in 2006 and finished 2nd in the Premier League last season, just four points off the Champions Manchester United.
- One good thing about Rafa is that he does not seem to get on with the owners of the club Tom Hicks and George Gillett. This may seem like a reason to sack him rather than a reason to spare him but it is certainly my view that the American owners should be replaced and that it is their lack of funding to improve the squad which is to blame for this seasons performances, not Rafa’s tactics.
- Benitez has bought a lot of Spanish players during his time at Anfield. Many of whom claimed that Benitez was a huge factor in their decision to sign for the club, sometimes when other big clubs were also chasing them. A certain Fernando Torres illustrates this point very well. If Rafa is sacked then I fear many players may look elsewhere and there is a real risk that the squad would be seriously disrupted.
- It has been mooted in the press in recent weeks that Real Madrid are looking to lure Benitez to the Bernabeau to replace under fire coach Manuel Pellegrini. Now, as a matter of principal, do not go giving things to Real Madrid. They do not have the best track record for appointing the right manager but they have been linked to Rafa since his days as a coach there.
- This one is nice and short. It became clear last season that Rafa annoys Sir Alex Ferguson, surely he is worth keeping on just for this reason alone.
- On the strength of last season’s performances Benitez signed a new, long term deal with the Red’s. This would make it extremely expensive to sack him. Indeed there have been reports in recent weeks that it could cost the club up to £20 million to terminate his contract. Not ideal for a club in our financial situation.
- In my view, the reason why Liverpool are having such a difficult start to this season is due to the economic downturn coupled with huge amounts of foreign investment in top flight football around the world. In the Summer Liverpool were forced to accept a bid for Xabi Alonso from the cash rich Real Madrid. When Liverpool received the money it was used to pay off loans taken out by the owners of the club rather than being used to replace playing staff which had been lost, leaving the team short in many areas.
- And finally…He has got great facial hair.
All in all, I think I have put forward ten…well, nine good arguments why Liverpool should not sack Rafael Benitez. Having detailed all the arguments above, I remain concerned about tonight’s trip to Lyon and even next Monday’s match at home to Birmingham City. If Liverpool lose both of these matches, I fear we might also be losing a great manager.
By Nick Higgins