A few months ago, before the current season started, it seemed you couldn’t pick up a newspaper, football magazine, or watch any interview with Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher or Rafa Benitez, and not be told that this is the season, this is when Liverpool finely end their long wait to add to their 18 league titles. Much of this was based on their strong performance last season, when they finished 2nd, only losing 2 games but drawing way to many. The Liverpool gang felt that this was progress rather than the height that the team could achieve.
We’re now about to enter December and Liverpool, laying in 7th position in the league, have just been dumped out of the Champions League in the group stage, with a game to play. Benitez now says the goal is to finish in the top 4 and qualify for next years Champions League. It didn’t take long for their season to implode and their goals to shift. League Champions before the season started – hoping for 4th place 3 months in.
Liverpool are currently in a run of form that is comparable with a relegation battling team and not a title chasing one. They’ve won 2 of their last 10 games, one against bitter rivals Manchester United, that can be contributed to derby fervour and not an upturn in form, and the other, a rather pathetic 1-0 win, against Debrecen, a performance which hardly suggested that they were worth more than their 3rd place finish. Finishing 3rd means a place in the Europa League, scant consolation for their failures.
The truth is, as many ex Liverpool players have said before, had Rafa been at United, Chelsea or Arsenal, or indeed at any other team, he would be out of a job right now. He’s bought terribly, always has an excuse for his failures, and is living off the legend of his debut season. However the financial troubles that Liverpool find themselves in means that they have no choice but to stick with Rafa. Firing their manager would be to expensive and losing out on Champions League money means that they are worse off then they already are. No, Liverpool have no choice but to pretend to the world that they are happy with Rafa.
So where to now? As Rafa has stated they have to try and finish 4th to get back into the Champions League next season. While a top 4 position has always been taken for granted by Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool, who have pretty much owned the Champions League positions over the years, this season is perhaps the worst time for Liverpool to go through bad times, with Man City, Spurs and Aston Villa all putting pressure on the big 4. Rafa has built a team that revolves around Torres and Gerrard and the team seems unable to cope without the star duo. The rest of the world knows this, even if Liverpool fans are blind to it, and with the two of them going through poor form and injury at the same time there has been no chance for Liverpool.
Liverpool fans object to the idea that their team is a two man team and point the accusation to United with Ronaldo, yet a Ronaldoless United are slugging it out with Chelsea and Arsenal at the top of the table, and qualified for the knock out stage of the Champions League with two games to spare. United are not as fluent as they were with Ronaldo, any team that losses the best player in the world would be, yet they have adapted their game to a life without him. Liverpool have no plan B. Without Gerrard and Torres they are leaderless and rudderless – and the fault their lies with their manager. Rafa and Liverpool have got what they deserve and how they respond will speak volumes about their character and the true worth of their manager.
Liverpools financial struggles means that they have to stick with Rafa but can they afford to drop any lower? How much more can their loyal fans stand? The blinkers will be off soon enough and the tide will turn. Chances are Rafa will jump before he is pushed – with excuses in hand.
pic from teamtalk.com