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Benitez Is Right To Rotate Lineup

Despite former Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock’s furious claims to the contrary last season and more whining this week, Rafa Benitez has every right to rotate his squad for a game against a relegation-threatened team.

This issue has come up in recent days because Liverpool will make the trip to St. Andrew’s and play 18th place Birmingham City tomorrow. The Reds are in the middle of their Champions League semifinal tie against Chelsea, and they’ll need to be as close to full-strength as possible heading into next Wednesday’s second leg at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool has to score there, something that has literally been impossible under Benitez’s tenure, to advance to their third CL final in four years.

Mathematically, Liverpool needs three points in their final three Premiership games to clinch 4th spot and the last Champions League berth that comes with it. Realistically, though, they already have a stranglehold on it and could probably not even earn another point for the rest of the season and still be ok.

Benitez sent out a second-string lineup at Craven Cottage and still managed to dominate a desperate Fulham team, coming out of West London with a 2-0 victory. The term “second-string” is relative, though, because Liverpool’s backups are still good enough to start for the majority of teams in the league.

This is part of the reason I don’t want to hear guys like Neil Warnock and more recently, Steve Bruce, slam Benitez for resting his stars. It’s not just Warnock and Bruce either; Benitez has had his share of critics in the media for what he’s going to do.

“It undermines the competition and integrity of the game”, they’ll say, or “It gives other teams unfair advantages”. You know what I’m talking about, the typical moaning and groaning from people with a vested interest while trying to make it sound like they have the game’s best intentions at heart.

Let me tell you something right now. That’s rubbish. It just is. It’s BS of the highest order.

Rafa Benitez doesn’t owe anyone other than Liverpool FC anything. It’s that simple. As the manager of that club, he is responsible for their best interests, whatever they may be. He is entitled to do whatever he needs to do, as long as it’s legal, obviously, to make sure that those goals are met. He doesn’t owe Steve Bruce or Neil Warnock anything. He doesn’t owe the Premier League and sentiment anything.

Benitez can play whoever he wants against Birmingham. There is strong talk that the only regular player Benitez will put out there is Jamie Carragher, and even that is no guarantee as far as from what I can tell. It seems like a fair bet that Gerrard, Torres, Alonso, Reina, Babel, Riise, Kuyt, and Mascherano all won’t play, or at least won’t start. Relatively inexperienced players like Charles Itanjie, Emiliano Insua, and Damien Plessis could all get a run-out.

You know what? Good for them. Liverpool has to come up with the goods next Wednesday, and it makes no sense for Benitez to risk his best players in a meaningless game, at least from Liverpool’s point of view. Birmingham needs points and will come out playing a physical, in-your-face style, and Benitez  can’t afford for any of his players to get injured.

To his credit, Bolton boss Gary Megson has come out and said that he doesn’t care who Benitez plays against Birmingham. Bolton is in the thick of the relegation fight, and it would be understandable if Megson lashed out and urged Benitez to pick his strongest team.

Instead, he believes that “Rafa Benitez has to do what is best for Liverpool and we all have to do what is best for our own teams…The fact Liverpool can rest players and still put out that kind of side just shows the size of the squad and quality they have got.”

I applaud Megson for saying this, and he’s got it right. He also told Sky Sports News that “Rafa’s team and his selection is nothing to do with me or indeed anybody else other than Rafa and Liverpool”.

Spot-on, Mr. Megson. Spot on.

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  1. d

    June 17, 2010 at 2:17 am

    i love laura twietmeyer….espescially when she is wearin blue jeans

  2. d

    November 2, 2009 at 11:51 am

    joan ghetto stomped him

  3. thff

    January 23, 2009 at 1:58 am

    there is nuthin finer than joan stompin in her tims and tight ass blue jeans

  4. jd

    May 13, 2008 at 9:19 am

    she kicked him in the head till her shoes were all bloody then kicked him again for ruining her shoes

  5. Ivan

    April 26, 2008 at 1:00 am

    Michael. I respectfully disagree. i think you make my point by saying the spine exists however you look at their “wingers” and full backs and they are nowhere near the quality you need. If you look at the Arsenal team you can tell that the quality exists but the depth is lacking…they outplay teams perhaps that is down to their style of play however i have yet to be convinced by a liverpool performance against the top teams.

    Problem full backs don’t attack finnan is finished and aurelio once again is injured. Compared with Arsenal who have Clichy and Sagna. But they do have depth in Carragher/Arbeloa who can play RB and Riise who can play LB. Centre positions they have Skrtel, Agger and Hyppia. That is enough depth.

    Look at the midfield.. i’m a massive fan of Lucas , you have gerrard, lucas, alonso and mascherano perhaps one more midfielder could be an area of improvement. However the central midfield isn’t essentially their problem depth or quality wise.

    You move onto their wingers or wide midfielders:

    You bring up Babel, i’ve followed him for about four years now, i have never thought he was capable of being world class still do not however i do believe he can be apart of a title winning team. If he is your first team winger next season then i don’t think you can win a title.

    Kuyt, Babel (who will improve), Pennant, Benayoun are all squad footballers at this moment of time, they aren’t of the quality in comparison to the other top teams in the PL.

  6. jd

    April 26, 2008 at 12:49 am

    she had blood all over her boots

  7. george

    April 26, 2008 at 12:38 am

    joanie had on blue jeans when she stomped this dude at the club

  8. Django

    April 25, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Jesus Alex give it a rest. We get it, Wenger is God, all your young players are phenomenal, blah blah blah.

  9. Michael

    April 25, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    I disagree, Ivan, I think the quality of the starting XI exists but the squad depth doesn’t exist. Gerrard, Carragher, and Torres, the spine of the team, are all world class, and Mascherano and Babel are stars in the making. Liverpool doesn’t have much talent on the bench though, aside from Crouch..

    And you could be right about Megson, I didn’t hear him say that or read it anywhere. Judging by his tone and what he said recently though, I can’t imagine that only a week ago he wanted Rafa to play his best team. If he did, I stand corrected.

  10. Ivan

    April 25, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Didn’t Megson come out a week earlier to tell rafa not to rest players against fulham…i’m pretty sure he did…so his as bad as the rest of them since they won and he got himself out of a hole that week..

    Rafa doesn’t need to go now. “If you ask most liverpool fans” they will tell you they support rafa benetiz..most likely this will change in a season. Think about how poor the squad was under Houlieer and the changes necessary in rafa’s reign. Sure his made some mistakes along the way but tell me a manager that hasn’t. The problem with liverpool is that they are still a season away from challenging, the squad depth exists but squad quality doesn’t.

  11. Alex Hleb

    April 25, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    i know i know i just talked about arsenal but the same should apply to liverpool if there isnt anything left to play for in the league this season.

    of course keeping a consistent starting 11 is needed to keep the chemistry in the team, and the manager should pick the best player he has for each position when there is something to play for.
    but the manager also faces the issue of upholding the morale in the team and that means giving other players a chance to play. with the depth that liverpool has, benitez is right for rotating. there are many personalities within that team and managing them is a top priority to keep the morale high. look at chelsea who doesnt seem to rotate as much. watching them makes it seem like there are alot of morale issues-things we dont see come out publicly. with the rumors of scuffles with the players and manager and players like drogba wanting to leave, maybe benitez would do a better job than grant because of his belief in rotation.
    with arsenal, wenger’s policy for youth is very understandable. he has an excuse of not rotating his squad because the young players know that they still have to earn the spot, so the morale is self maintaining. if arsenal went out and signed experienced players in their mid to late 20s, this wouldnt be the case. they would all believe they should be the ones in the starting 11 and the chemistry in the team would be rather bleek.

  12. Alex Hleb

    April 25, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    but anyway, i think the young players should have a chance to play. i wouldnt be surprised to see traore, denilson, nordtveit, barazite, and fabianski to play our remaining games. the youngsters need to get match experience from somewhere. the fans should be happy to support whichever 11 is on the field because you live and die for the crest on the kit, not the name on the back.

  13. Alex Hleb

    April 25, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    so um, how long has it been?


    18 YEARS.!!!!!!!


  14. Django

    April 25, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    I’m not sure I agree that Liverpool could never win the League under Benitez–I think he’s a quality manager with, at times, misplaced priorities. Early in the season he talked about the importance of bringing the Premier League trophy to Anfield, but his team choices didn’t reflect that. I think any fan would say that at this point we want to win whatever we can, but too often “whatever we can” is limited to one competition, and in recent times it hasn’t been the Premier League. I think for Liverpool to truly be able to make a run at the title, team choices throughout the season need to reflect a 100% commitment. Altering rotation in mid-January when you’re 9 points back is no commitment–it’s more of an empty, “see how hard we’re trying” gesture that ends up, unfortunately, with Liverpool having the option to be complacent with fourth in league at this stage in the season. Shitty choice, but a choice nonetheless in attempting to salvage another failed run at the elusive league trophy.

  15. Dave M

    April 25, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    I think the reference comes from today’s Daily Mirror – Carvalho’s comment that the title race is like the Tour de France – they put in an image of Ferguson, Grant, Wenger, and Benitez’s faces photoshopped onto cyclists. “Not a sprint” obviously being derogatory towards sprinters.

  16. Michael

    April 25, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Hmm, not sure where you’re getting that from, I would think they’re more of a contender for the Polka Dot jersey but far away from the overall podium.

    They’re kind of like Laurent Jalabert or Michael Rasmussen a few years ago.

    Sprint specialists like Tom Boonen and Robbie McEwen are like this year’s Man City. They come flying out of the gate and can’t keep it up for the duration.

    Yes, I do watch the Tour in the summer.

  17. slipereypete

    April 25, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Liverpool are essentially a sprint specialist in the Tour De France.

  18. Michael

    April 25, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    It’s a fair point, and one that is a reason why I believe Benitez needs to go in the summer. Ask most Liverpool fans what they want, and it’s a Premier League title, not a CL, seeing as they’ve been successful in that tournament in recent years. Benitez will never win the domestic league with Liverpool, and he’s accomplished all he can with them.

    I disagree with you though about Liverpool being considered a big club. You can’t tell me that a team that just won the CL three seasons ago and could make their third appearance in the final in four years isn’t a big club. I do think, however, that you’re right about those European accomplishments being a little watered down because they’re out of contention in the league by January or February and that allows them to concentrate on the CL.

  19. Dave M

    April 25, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Liverpool always seem to find themselves in this situation… so far outside of contention in the Premier League that they can sacrifice points there to rest players for the CL. In my opinion, this diminishes what would otherwise be laudable accomplishments in the Champions League. It’s very similar to AC Milan last year – finished 4th in Serie A and won the CL by doing the same thing (resting players in league matches).

    I am intrigued by proposals that league team sheets must be unchanged from CL team sheets except by 2-3 players. Otherwise, teams that are challenging for both domestic and european honors (as they all should be) are disadvantaged.

    …but you are absolutely correct – under the current rules, Rafa can and should rest players in the meaningless Birmingham City match ahead of the very important Chelsea CL match.

    That’s why Liverpool should not be considered a big club unless and until they make a legit challenge on both fronts. They are a one trick pony.

  20. slipereypete

    April 25, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I agree that it should be viewed as a disappointment rather than a luxury, but you have people enabling that mindset by saying “good for them” when it comes to rotation.

  21. Django

    April 25, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Wah wah Pete. The league is so unfair that Liverpool can rotate–yet they’re out of contention and have no shot to win a title. As a Liverpool fan, I don’t view that as a luxury, rather, a disappointment.

  22. slipereypete

    April 25, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Rafa can take an indulgence true “Top Clubs” are not afforded. What a sham Liverpool are.

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