The unfortunate downside of modern technology means that any armchair fan can now comment on any team without actually seeing the game. As I type this, I’m listening to Radio 5 and Liverpool “fans” are calling for the head of Benitez. “The worst display I’ve ever seen from a Liverpool team” shouts one fan who obviously missed the F.A. Cup defeat to Barnsley and league defeats to Bradford, Barnsley and Watford too.
“We’d have won the League last season if it wasn’t for Benitez, sack him now” shouts another fan who seems to have forgotten Liverpool broke the record for the most points by a runner up in the Premiership last year. “We need a world class midfielder to replace Alonso, Rafa spend the money!!” So much for the reports Liverpool are skint eh? It reminds me of a time listening to a football phone in here in Sheffield, Wednesday had just lost, caller rings up. “Wednesday are rubbish, sack the manager.” “Have you been to the game?” asks the host. “No” comes the reply, “I’ve just seen the score on Sky Sports News”.
I’m stunned by the level of ire I’m hearing being aimed towards him, I never thought I’d get to a point where I’d be defending Rafa Benitez but seriously who really wants the manager sacked 3 games in to a season? Did I miss something or are Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa the worst teams the Premiership has ever seen? No, didn’t think so. Liverpool have lost to two very good teams. I know they only lost two games last season, but come on let’s be reasonable here. They’ve not lost to Scunthorpe and Norwich City have they?
It’s interesting to note that on the day of the Stoke City game last week, the rumours returned regarding Benitez’s position at Anfield and the fact he was contemplating walking away from the club. This is a story that will not go away and has dogged him since 2007. Someone keeps fanning the rumours and it certainly can’t have a stabilising effect on the team or the club.
Tonight Liverpool were poor, the first 20 minutes apart but Aston Villa were superb. They got a goal and never let Liverpool settle, typical of how Martin O’Neill likes to set his teams up away from home. They like to soak up pressure and attack on the break, using the pace they’ve got in the team. With Carragher and Skrtel still struggling with head injuries, Lucas showing a lack of invention. Mascherano oddly was then forced to push forward, leaving the back four exposed.
It played straight into Villa’s hands. Young and Agbonlahor looked someway back to the form that pushed Villa up the table last season. Reo-Coker was immense, chasing, harassing and fighting for every 50-50 ball. Friedel seemed unpassable. Villa deserved the win.
The thing with knee jerk reactions like this is that people simply go “Sack the manager” without considering who’d replace them. So sack Benitez, who do you replace him with? Would anyone come with the financial situation as seemingly dire as it is behind the scenes? Clearly there is no money to spend, the signing of Kyrgiakos smacks of bargain hunting, especially after all the speculation linking Liverpool with Hull’s Michael Turner.
Benitez hasn’t become a bad manager in 3 months and Liverpool haven’t become a bad team. They’re just trying to find some form with key personnel struggling with injuries, nothing more, nothing less. They need to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and concentrate on Saturdays match at Bolton.Liverpool could have stolen a win on the opening day, but should have been 3-0 down by half time. Stoke were ripped apart time and again.
I don’t think anyone is going to run away with the league this season and Liverpool’s key situation could be the lack of African players come January. Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City all have big players that will be going to Angola and that will be a tough month for those three teams, regardless of squad size and financial muscle. The Premiership is never won in August and the kneejerk fans need to remember that.