Liverpool’s problems lie with Rafa

Ok, let’s get the bitching out of the way first. No, no one’s questioning Rafa’s record in the Champions League with Liverpool. No, I’m not questioning his record with Valencia in Spain.

And no, I’m not questioning the fact that he has had a limited budget to work with but he’s made some great signings. And again, no, not challenging the notion that in one-off games, not only is Rafa one of the best tacticians in football management, he just might also have Mourinho’s number.

In fact, I’ll set out my stall right now and say that Rafa Benitez is a better, more stable manager than Gerard Houllier and has definitely taken Liverpool forward in the Premiership and in Europe during his time.

And yes, Liverpool will do better in the future because of the extra money they have now (which amounts to paying 20m for Torres and then financing it by selling Bellamy and Cisse for 10m+).

Can we NOT raise those points in the comments? Please? I’m NOT arguing over all this. Thank you.

Now getting back to the article and the point I’m actually trying to make – as with any manager, you have some good points and bad points. If Wenger’s a master at nurturing talent and if his teams play beautiful football, he’s also capable of being too rigid with his system and of not having a Plan B for his sides.

If Ferguson’s the master of attacking football, he can be faulted for falling out with his best players and for some tactical mistakes in crucial matches in the last decade or so.

What about Rafa Benitez? He is a master tactician, and his transfer strategy is good. But when it comes to the Premiership race, Liverpool, under Rafa, have been found lacking.

In a nutshell, Rafa’s tactics are to defend first, to keep a clean sheet and to come away with one or two goals. A defensive mentality and pushing to control the game in midfield can work in spades for you IF you match it with the right offensive / counter-attacking strategy.

However, Rafa’s teams are disorganised in attacking from open-play.

One example – I made a point to compare the way each of the top four teams chose to attack the opposing penalty area during the last season. Chelsea were direct (more than the rest atleast), United attacked in the most numbers and Arsenal dominated in controlling the box around the area.

All three teams had their forward 6 move in unison, the wingers and strikers making runs and space for themselves.

Liverpool? You’d have the two central midfielders sitting back, the wingers cutting in but not pushing forward and invariably one of the strikers waited outside the box. In short, Liverpool’s attacks had no fluidity, no rhythm, no concert. Where you’d see 4-6 Arsenal shirts attacking the opposition box as one, you’d see 3 Liverpool shirts running ahead without backup.

This has nothing to do with the players and everything to do with the manager.

I’m not saying that Liverpool can’t win the league with Rafa – in fact under him they have their best chance in a long long time.

But for Liverpool to win the Premiership, it’s not just the players that Liverpool needs. It’s a change in Rafa that must take place as well. His teams have to be more aggressive, more clinical.

Rafa himself has to change – it’s a challenge for him, and as much as I think that he’s done well, I’m sure he can do better.

Maybe next year, maybe not. But with him in charge of Liverpool I can only see the Premiership becoming better and better tactically.

Spurs vs Geordies vs Mancs - who are the most delusional fans?
Everton 2007/2008 Away Kit

65 Comments

  1. Sack the Juggler 10 July, 2007
  2. Sack the Juggler 10 July, 2007
  3. Rob 10 July, 2007
  4. McG 10 July, 2007
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  22. Liam O'Kelly 10 July, 2007
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  27. Mr Rubbish 10 July, 2007
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  34. Red Rich 10 July, 2007
  35. Flight 10 July, 2007
  36. Liam O'Kelly 10 July, 2007
  37. Puredale 11 July, 2007
  38. Hmm.. 11 July, 2007
  39. Rafa 11 July, 2007
  40. Jim 11 July, 2007
  41. KJF 11 July, 2007
  42. Absolutely Ridiculous Article! 11 July, 2007
  43. DaveyB 11 July, 2007
  44. Liverpool fan 11 July, 2007
  45. frank 11 July, 2007
  46. Liam O'Kelly 11 July, 2007
  47. Chris 11 July, 2007
  48. DiveSpotter 11 July, 2007
  49. frank 11 July, 2007
  50. Liam O'Kelly 11 July, 2007
  51. frank 11 July, 2007
  52. Liam O'Kelly 11 July, 2007
  53. Liam O'Kelly 11 July, 2007
  54. frank 11 July, 2007
  55. Liam O'Kelly 11 July, 2007
  56. Hmm.. 11 July, 2007
  57. Hmm.. 11 July, 2007
  58. frank 11 July, 2007
  59. Liam O'Kelly 11 July, 2007
  60. Hmm.. 11 July, 2007
  61. Jim 12 July, 2007
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  63. karl 12 July, 2007
  64. Taehr 15 July, 2007
  65. Tom 4 March, 2009