Liverpool are obviously in the title race – this early in the season it would be foolish to suggest otherwise – but the way their old problems have resurfaced this season is an indication that one or two things still need to be fixed by the magical hands of Rafa Benitez.
The problems – conservatism and lack of confidence – are related. If a coach is geared towards defending first by default, then no matter how many attacking players you have, they will play to cover their asses first and score goals later. I’d like to see Rafa come out one Friday and say that their aim for the weekend match is to score more goals than the other team.
Not ‘concede less’ but ‘score more goals’. There’s a fundamental difference in approach, and while it’s not ‘bad’, it’s not going get you 90 points in the Premier League (it got them 82 though, so he is doing something right – not enough right, but something).
If a team plays conservatively and they still don’t win, morale obviously takes a hit – however, it’s not ‘just the players’, the manager has a role to play as well. To compare, Fergie talked about his ‘shock’ after the Carling Cup loss for United’s third-string, but in reality he was to blame for that loss perhaps more than the the players on the pitch.
You blame the players if they don’t do what they are told. You blame the manager if he can’t tell his players to do the right thing. At this point, Rafa is as much to blame as the players.
But if you look at it another way, there’s nothing to complain about, is there? Liverpool are in the title hunt, Arsenal are due a slump sooner or later and by the time Christmas comes this title race could as close as we’ve seen for a long time.
Time for the Reds to kick things up a gear and push forward for more goals – after all, they finally have the players this season to do it.