Monday, November 26, 2007

Is Benitez going to be sacked?

Astonishingly, it seems that Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez could be on the verge of leaving the club. Benitez reacted petulantly last week when the club's American co-owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, postponed any decisions about expenditure in the January transfer window. It appears that Gillett and Hicks's tolerance threshold for insubordination is rather low, for they are now seeking to rid themselves of Benitez by the end of the season. Either that, or they are seeking to control Benitez with dismissal threats, which doesn't sound like a rosy way to proceed either.

Now, I've never been an unconditional fan of Benitez. I think he's an excellent manager for the European game, but he's never really sussed out how to win the Premiership. Even in his first season with Liverpool, Benitez made a succession of slightly odd team selections and tactical decisions, which restricted the team to only 5th place at season's end.

Benitez's greatest triumph, of course, was taking Liverpool to victory in the Champions' League that same year. But even there, in the final, he made an astonishing mis-judgement in selecting Harry Kewell to start the game, and by leaving Dietmar Hamann out of the team until the second half, AC Milan rampaged to a three-goal lead. Liverpool's come-back was remarkable, but hugely fortunate, and was driven more by Gerrard, Carragher and Hamann, than by Benitez.

Benitez's erratic decision-making has continued into a fourth season with Liverpool, and a stunningly inexplicable 'rotation policy' has again restricted the team to its current 5th-place in the Premiership table.

But should Benitez go? On balance, I don't think so. Whilst he's an odd fellow, he's also clearly got something about him as a manager, and I don't know who could replace him at the moment and be more effective. Nevertheless, I've felt for some time that Liverpool won't win the Premiership under Benitez, and it seems that I will be proven correct even earlier than I imagined...


Joseph Roberts said...

Gordon - very briefly, I think Rafa spat the dummy out big time last week. Did he have just cause? Possibly. Tonight's Liverpool Echo (Mon 26th Nov.) claims Rafa needed to agree a deal for AC Milan's Kakha Kaladze (we need backup for Agger - Sami is great, but also old and slow, rather like me in fact), but the deal has died because he couldn't promise anything - that was last week and led to his tantrum. Also, Mascherano is a tremendous player and will be a key player for us for many years - if we can sign him. We have a lot of competition there, but we are in pole position - if we have a financial commitment. Did Rafa explain all this in words of one syllable to the bosses? If he did, then I understand his mood. If not, WELL DO SO, RAFA, BEFORE GOING APESHIT!!! My guess is he did explain, and they didn't understand. As a result, we may lose our best manager since 1991.

Maybe Rafa won't win us the league - only 2 current managers of any English professional club have done so, but he's our best manager since Dalglish. And I believe we are getting ever closer to winning our first title since 1990.

But Rafa must understand that Gillett and Hicks, as businessmen, will prefer the Ferguson approach - spend the money you're given on key players - rather than the Mourinho approach - buy all the good players you can afford and hope for the best. Rafa follows the latter approach, but Gillett and Hicks don't have the Abramovich billions - the only approach available to Rafa is the Ferguson approach.

I back Rafa, but I can see where both sides are coming from. If the two sides can't come to an agreement, Liverpool Football Club, and fans like me and the vast majority who pay £36 each fortnight to watch multi-millionaires on the pitch who get more in a week than we earn in a year, will lose out.

Gordon McCabe said...

Indeed. Perhaps both sides will calm down, and see a little sense here.

Big Chip Dale said...

And there I was thinking I was the only person who reads Bryan's blog who takes an interest in Liverpool.

I agree with everything you say, except I do think Rafa can win the Premiership. He’s a very astute manager but, perhaps at times, too astute. He's led by theory more than the practicalities of winning. His rotation policy would be correct in an ideal world. Unfortunately, he can't rotate between players of equal quality. Though he's cut out much of the dead wood from the squad he inherited from GĂ©rard Houllier, the squad still isn't his own. Even some of the players he's brought in are of a lower quality than you get in other top teams. We have one quality striker where United have two or three. Switching Torres for Kuyt is never going to work. Perhaps Villa (long time target) with Torres would prove rotation in the same way zonal marking has proved the critics wrong and has given Liverpool the best record for defending set pieces. That's what I'm loving about watching Rafa develop a team. For the first time in my life, I've discovered how much football can be a thinking man's game.

Gordon McCabe said...

Some good points, Chip.

In fact, both Brit and Andrew Kenneally are Liverpool fans.

There's an excellent piece in The Sunday Times by Jonathan Northcroft. It seems that Rafa will not be allowed to decide how much a player is worth in transfer negotiations, or the timing of the transfer. By contract, this is Rick Parry's job. That sounds like a rather awkward arrangement; surely the manager should be calling the shots on this type of thing?

And if Benitez really is an astute manager, then why does he prevaricate over making substitutions? Last Wednesday's Porto game was a classic example: Benayoun and Voronin should have been taken off at half-time, yet they weren't substituted until there was only 20 minutes left.

Benitez, though, has done lots of very good things, so whilst I remain unconvinced about his Premiership-winning capability, I hope to be proven wrong.