30 Oct 2007

Bungling Benitez costs Liverpool

Rafael Benitez’s increasing propensity for making ill-advised footballing decisions surfaced again during Sunday’s draw with Arsenal.

As a man of fixed footballing ideas, who regularly espouses the positive virtues of regular rotation, I find it puzzling that Benitez completely contradicted himself with his team selection against Arsenal...
What was the point in playing Alonso and Torres, both of whom were recovering from injuries and were nowhere near match fit? Why couldn't Peter Crouch play instead of Torres? Why not Lucas Leiva or Momo Sissoko instead of Alonso? Playing barely fit players surely this flies in the face of Benitez’s philosophy of rotating to keep the players fit?!

Benitez’s decisions proved to be disastrous, with Alonso suffering the same injury again and Torres aggravating his muscle injury.

People talk about the benefits of hindsight but what about the benefits of foresight? Surely Benitez should have foreseen that using those two players – especially Torres – was risky? If he didn’t see it, then that is a problem in itself. If he *did* see it but decided to risk them anyway, then once again, his judgment must be called into question.

At a crucial time for the club, when every game is of the utmost importance, Benitez’s bungling has cost Liverpool the services of two important players for another month or more. By the time they both return, Liverpool’s faltering title challenge could conceivably be over. I appreciate that the Arsenal game was important, but what does it matter if Alonso and Torres miss another 3-5 games each –games which could be equally as crucial?

The fact that Liverpool did not win the game just adds insult to injury. Torres was an ineffective passenger for the first half, and it was blatantly clear that Peter Crouch should have played from the start. Predictably though, Benitez’s personal agenda got in the way of objective decision making once again. To his credit, Xabi Alonso played well, displaying the calming, organisational influence the team has lacked in his absence. He will be sorely missed again, and the sooner he is fully fit and playing regularly, the better.

After the game, Benitez actually admitted that he knew Torres was unfit *before* the game:

"He just was not fit. We talked beforehand and he said he was fine. Now we must wait again, he had been out for some time and we have been pushing to get him back, but he has not been right and he still is not right”.

If Benitez knew he was not fit, why did he still play Torres?! It is this kind of misguided decision making that is costing Liverpool valuable points this season. And what a slap in the face for Peter Crouch – All of Liverpool’s senior strikers start the game, but he is ignored at the expense of a blatantly unfit Fernando Torres.

Crouch came on and did very well, but this will probably make no impression on the Manager. Benitez obviously wants him gone, despite his public assertions to the contrary.
Benitez also stated:

“We had a plan to use the strikers wide and for Stevie to attack through the middle with two holding players behind”.

So, with two established wide players on the bench, Benitez decides to ignore them and play two strikers out of position on the wings instead?!

Is the ghost of Gerard Houllier in charge at Liverpool?! Perhaps not, but Like Houllier, Benitez is well on the way to becoming a ghost at Liverpool.


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