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Where does Benitez go from here?

Rafa Benitez

By Guest Writer Thomas Flower.

As the dust settles on another disappointing result for Rafa Benitez and his side, Liverpool’s slim chances of finishing fourth look all but over. A 0-0 stalemate at home to Fulham has left Manchester City and Spurs to battle it out for the final Champions League place while Liverpool fans are left to ponder where it all went wrong.

With Fernando Torres again missing Rafa Benitez and his side were left frustrated by a stubborn Fulham side and failed to make the all important breakthrough. All the Anfield faithful have to look forward to now is Liverpool’s Europa League semi-final against Athletico Madrid.  A competition which if the truth be told they should not be in. That is where Benitez’s problems really began. Failing to make it into the Champions League knock out phase placed extra pressure on the Reds to perform in the league and FA Cup and that is something that they have simply not done.

The decision to sell Xabi Alonso before the season begun left many Liverpool fans bemused and the arrival of Alberto Aquilani did little to quell their fears. The fact that Benitez himself has failed to play the big money signing in a large number of games since his arrival suggests that he himself is yet to be convinced by the Italian. Strange substitutions have been a major factor in Benitez’s reign at Anfield and just a few weeks ago at Birmingham, club captain Steven Gerrard was left scratching his head as Torres was brought off with half hour remaining in a game they had to win.

It is easy to criticize Benitez and forget how close to the title he took Liverpool last season. That is why he has come under such pressure this time around because Liverpool should have closed the gap on their rivals further but instead they have taken two steps back.

Failure to qualify for the Champions League will leave the club in a very dangerous situation. Top players like Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres want to be playing with and against the best players in the world and that will not happen without Champions League football. Players will not come to Anfield over other Premier League sides who can offer them the chance to play in the best club competition in football. If Torres has a good World Cup with Spain and someone comes knocking with a big offer, Liverpool’s prize asset could find himself a new home.

Yes, there have been off the field problems with the owners but that does not excuse the fact that performances on the pitch simply haven’t been consistent enough over the course of the season. Ultimately one man must take the blame for that and that is the manager. Benitez has had some good times at Liverpool but they are now firmly in the past and I don’t see any way for the Spaniard to remain at Anfield. While some fans are still behind the manager, the pressure from the media continues to grow and has clearly been taking its toll on Benitez in recent months.

Should Rafa go he will have no problems finding another job at a top European club and one day it would be great to see him have another crack at winning the Premier League. But for now he needs to leave Merseyside and let a new man come in and begin to rebuild a club that is currently a bit of a shambles. If the club could go out winning the Europa League it would be a fitting end to the Benitez era at Anfield. A trophy none the less but ultimately not the one the fans want or crave.

What do you think Rafa should do now? Step down or fight it out with Liverpool? Please leave your comments below….



  1. pete

    April 13, 2010 at 9:23 am

    So the new man would be whom?
    And he’d be better because?
    And he’d work within the current shambles better than Benitez because?
    And we’d be able to attract him with money/CL football/transfer budget and pay Benitez off?
    And we’d keep all the scouting set up/infrastructure Benitez has set up? (given it hadn’t produced any local talent for years before)
    Haven’t thought it through have you?
    The problem is the owners – lie after lie, deception after deception, destruction of a great tradition. And before them the problem was Parry and Moores – an absolute joke if ever there was one.
    Benitez has to be – for all his faults – one of the top managers in Europe. I for one don’t want some cheap option that has performed well for one season in the Premier Leauge, though I’m sure the muck raking press would revel in it.

  2. londonred4life

    April 13, 2010 at 9:27 am

    i for one think it is time benitez steps down, good euro manager not so good epl manager, he has spent alot of money and had long enough to build a good squad when you look at our subs bench compared to lets say the top six clubs it just looks week no wonder these so called smaller teams have no fear of us + his defensive style of play is just not on if you want to be challenging for honours.

  3. magnumopus

    April 13, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Amazing conclusion this article makes. As if another manager would find a different environment that does not currently exist at Liverpool yet could make a better club! With his mistakes admitted to Rafa is still one of the best managers in the world and should be supported for at least one more year to find out what was learned from this year.
    We should also hope that new owners with new money will improve the squad as well as build our new stadium.

  4. Balanced_View

    April 13, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Whilst the ultimate responsibility rests on the manager’s shoulders I suggest that those players who crossed the white line have too often underperformed….our captain being one of the biggest disappointments (but to look at his body language for a lot of this season you would think he was the one being let down by his team mates!).

    I think Benitez can deliver the goods if backed financially – but let’s not kid ourselves, if anyone thinks a different manager can run this club and win trophies by trying to get players on the cheap and uncovering bargains then think again – to be successful in the EPL you need big bucks, and unless we are talking about waiting for a youth system to come good over a 10 year period then don’t expect our position to be any better.

  5. Fab4

    April 13, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Liverpool fans make me laugh. Was it the owners who took off one of the best strikers in the world when you were drawing in a must in game? Even ur thug of a captain couldn’t understand that decision!

    Everyone related to Liverpool goes on about how the owners dont back Rafa, yet he’s spend s*it loads on poor players in recent years. Why would any owner back him, he’s got a cr*p record in the transfer market. He HAS been backed, but just spent the money badly.

    Liverpool fans need to wake up to the fact that its not all the owners fault. Yes they have created a bad working environment, but get on with it. Benitez has made enough mistakes to be at fault for the state Liverpool are in. Simple.

  6. Shivi G

    April 13, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Benitez is begging to be sacked. Just for the sake of the Compensation Money. That is his retirement plans settled. Than he will go and be welcomed in Real Madrid and definitely make it big there. He is a good manager no doubt, but this season, after signing that new contract last year, he is begging to be sacked. Strange signings, strange subs, strange tactics that’s why. He and his crew have it all thought up. We liverpool fans are being duped.

  7. Gogal

    April 13, 2010 at 10:06 am

    I don’t think that… its Rafa’s Fault that liverpool has not performed upto the mark this year..!! Yes, i agree with the fact that .. he took some wrong decisions that led to further breakdown.. but. the pressure was getting to every1 out there .. the Fans,the players, the entire squad.. so.. even benitez..!! We had a Good start at the season.. but.. all hell broke lose.. when.. liverpools top players Fernando torres and steven Gerrard started suffering from injuries.. they played a key role in the support and the striking system.. this led to continous losses.. !! They did ther best to catchup .. but… The squad had lost their confidence ..!! Uefa champions league knockout, carling cups last minute blunders took them by shock.. by the time they recovered they lost more ground..!! So .. its not Rafa’s fault.. its the circumstances that led to destruction..!! In the match against Sunderland.. It was a poor decision to take torres out of it… coz David NGOG has to perform in Torres’s Shadow.. which creates immense pressure on the latter.. thereby hes unable to perform his best..!! Takin torres out was indeed Poor.. but Rafa was jus being overprecautious as torres was not Physically 100% fit as he should be..!!
    at the end .. I would like to conclude.. that i still wanna see benitez in the next season..!! All they need is a fresh start..!! Best of luck Liverpool.. You’ll Never Walk Alone..!!

  8. daboy

    April 13, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Pete i agree whole heartedly and no top manager is going to want to takeover Liverpool with its ambitions and no money to back it up.

  9. rick

    April 13, 2010 at 10:31 am

    There’s one important point that my Fellows Kopites refuses to comprend: The Team for a genuine title’s challenge not necessarily it has to be buillt with eleven stars players. Look at our current side: We have already GERRARD, TORRES, PEPE REINA, CARRAGHER, DANIEL AGGER in the team. They are undoubtly four top players, with a nice reputation. The fact is that rest of team is crap. The Liverpool’s lack of good players in many sectors of the pitch is the main problem, the real problem. Look at our rivals: Man U has four star players (Rooney, Giggs, Berbatov, Ferdinand), but the rest of team is surrounded by good players (Carrick, Fletcher, Gibson, O’Shea) not outstanding players, especially in this season after departures from Ronaldo & Tevez. Strong teams are a perfect mixture of stars & good, genuine players. Which are our good players? Riera? Maxi? Insua? Leiva? Babel? N’gog? They are craps, and Rafa Benitez decided to spend the money of the Club (a great amount of money) for signing these useless players, no one decided for him.
    The list is uncountable: Morientes, Kromkamp, Pellegrino, Nunez, Keane, Josemi, Voronin.
    Are They good players with standards required for Liverpool FC???? I don’t think so, and You think so too, but Rafa bought any of these players and I don’t mention plenty of superb players, like Riise, Crouch, Bellamy, Who simply deserved better threatment by the manager.
    The team for a genuine challenge is built with a perfect mixture that complains star players & good players.
    Where are good players Rafa?
    Rafa always manipulates the fans, because it’s not possibile to built a winning team with 7,8 top star players and with a net spend of 80 millions of pounds.
    Apart from Man shitty & Real Madrid nobody can spend this sum.
    The time is running out for Rafa.
    I wish you all the best for the future Rafa, but the Club needs to change.
    Possibily Martin O’Neill is the right man for the Job.

  10. jesimps

    April 13, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I was deeply amazed when we signed Benitez, I thought we could’ve got someone better. I’ve been even further disappointed each year that he’s been here. I was gobsmacked last season that he managed to throw away the premiership title when we had it in the bag. I’m incredulous this season that he’s still in the job. Please god he won’t be here next season. Reminds me of the 50s with Don Welch and then Phil Taylor.

  11. Mike

    April 13, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Thomas Flower – you’re not over exaggerating are you? For example, 1980-81, Bob Paisley finished 5th. Funny that ain’t it. Rafa once finished 5th in La Liga. Next season, he won it.

    Funny substitutions eh? Well Torres was taken off as he was tired and his knee was an issue – as we now know. So that was wierd was it? Honestly, can you not come up with any other examples? Let me tell you, hindsight, does not mean you win games.

    Let me ask you this. You are the owners of a team that has progressed over the last 5 years to the point of finishing 2nd. Would you not invest in the squad to IMPROVE it – to make sure you finished champions next time round…….. or do you say the manager, no money unless you sell first? How is the latter policy going to get you 3 world class players at 20M each?

    Rafa has spent, he’s took us so far, but he does not have a magic wand. The team needs investment and a few years to see the benefits of the youth policy. Every manager has a bad season. We should allow Rafa time and investment to sort this out.

  12. Mike

    April 13, 2010 at 11:47 am

    And just to add, Martin O’Neill – don’t make me laugh. The guy uses exactly the same tactics as Gerard Houllier. Villa are not good to watch and what has he won?

  13. Phil Dickinson

    April 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    I must admit, I find it very very surprising that there are still fellow Liverpool fans defending Benitez and think he’s the right man for the job.

    We all know the owners have created an uncertain situation financially, we all realise that they have come to Liverpool on the brink of a world economic recession without a semblance of knowledge of how our game works….

    But Rafa has still been backed with a fat new contract and been left to get on with on the field matters. He has made a lot of mistakes. Even if the owners are partly responsible for Liverpool not being capable of making a title challenge this year (through lack of investment), for Liverpool not to finish in the top 4 with the resources and squad we have is criminal.

    Benitez has not got the best out of this squad, he’s let too many useful players go and his tactics have continued to stifle players.

    Even if Rafa had been better backed financially I don’t believe he would have won the title… he never will win us the title. His tactics are too negative, too rigidly based on the Valencia model which doesn’t always work in the Prem.

    I hate the American owners as much as the next Liverpool fan, but they have been used as the scapegoat for too long now. Benitez has to do better with what he has, or ship out.

  14. Robert

    April 13, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    In reply to Phil, the reason many Liverpool fans back Rafa is because they know that it is going to be very difficult to get somebody “better”.

    Of course there are two types of better: “better” in the premier league and “better” in the Champions league. Rafa has done as well or better than any other EPL side in the champions league. No other manager would have done better on his resources. His premier league performance has not been so good.

    The only manager in the world who could do equally well or “better” on both criteria is Mourinho. If we can’t get him then we should stick with Rafa.

    • Phil Dickinson

      April 13, 2010 at 3:33 pm

      Well, on the one hand, it’s all very well to say “there aren’t many out there that can do better”, but, in reality, we won’t know if someone can do better until they are given the opportunity to do so.

      And, as you say, it depends on what sense we mean “better”. If we are stuck with these owners for the foreseeable future, and the financial restrictions that that brings, surely we need someone who is more capable of keeping the squad we have happy and believing in itself.

      A lot of people talk about how average our squad is… I don’t buy that. Rafa could get a lot of more out of what he already has, and could have got more out of players he has already let go.

      In terms of setting out a team that is difficult to play against and, in particular, do well in Europe in 2 legged ties, there aren’t many “better” than Rafa. But what we need now is man management, closer day-to-day interaction with players… an environment where players feel more comfortable expressing themselves.

      In terms of those qualities, I think we can do better than Rafa. Much better.

  15. Allan

    April 22, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    I just think he’s done his best but it is time for him to go.

    Liverpool has a history of being too soft with under performing managers.

    It should only take three years maximum for a Manager to win the league. Look at all the top clubs in Europe. If their Manager cannot bring the title then bring the next manager in.

    Liverpool will require to do the same.

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