Listening to football managers bicker, you’d think that you were in a school playground rather than in a professional sports setting.
Yes, football evokes strong emotions, but no where is it said that it must also bring out the worst in managers and players.
Today Bolton Wanderers, led by the effable Kevin Nolan, visit Anfield to take on a Liverpool side with an interesting, albeit unfamiliar, ranking context.
Bolton are two points clear of Liverpool in 3rd place, with Arsenal a point further back in 5th and Portsmouth another point back in 6th. These teams are the front runners for the 2 Champions League spots, and while both Liverpool and Arsenal are favourites to play in the Champions League next year, Bolton and Portsmouth will think that they have a real shot.
Of course, to make such dreams come true they also have to get points from games like today – Liverpool have turned Anfield into a stronghold that has not been seriously tested this season (Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United are still to visit this season).
Will Bolton get a point (or 3) from Anfield? It’s bloody unlikely, even if they were able to skin Liverpool at The Reebok. Benitez will have his team pumped and ready to fight, and the moaning and bitching about Bolton’s tactics will have the players motivated even more (not to mention that it would have caught the ref’s eye AND would have made Bolton a bit self-aware).
Managers in hard times tend to moan (Ferguson did it, Wenger does it, Benitez is doing it too). But quite often this is just a tactic to motivate their players and to play the media. Playing the media won’t help Benitez when Liverpool still end up 3rd after promising so much last year, although 3rd place is still over-achieving considering the team they have.