Where does Benitez go from here?
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….
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