27 May 2009

Forget the Rafalution: This summer needs to be about evolution.

With Rafa’s 5th season at Anfield at a close, the summer ahead looks to be a crucial one in the eyes of many of our fans. So many times I’ve seen ‘Rafa’s Revolution’ splattered across the pages of the press, but this summer needs to be about evolution over revolution.

The departure of Sami Hyypia is more than just a farewell to a legend; he is the last signing of the Houllier era to leave the club.

In 5 years our team has been completely transformed; this is Benitez’ team and this season we’ve played like a Benitez team: Plenty of goals; a resolute defence; the best goal difference in England; a record points total and an undefeated Anfield record.

We’ve certainly had a successful year – the lack of silverware is disappointing but I don’t hear many reds complaining because we’re rightly proud of our season.

So with the future in mind, the topic of transfers is unavoidable. Obviously, a lot of people get carried away in a Football Manager fantasy world, but after 5 years of Rafa signings we should know how the manager works by now.

He will already have his mind made up and his priority targets identified in order of preference. All eyes should be on the American owners, they’ve come in and caused a lot of controversy but they have Rafa to thank for delivering on the pitch and once again improving Liverpool for the 5th consecutive season and effectively taking them out of the firing line from the fans.

After the progress we’ve made in the last few years we find ourselves in the fortunate position of not needing to overhaul our squad, something that’s regularly been required over the last 20 years!

After gaining 86 points - and with no key players set to leave - Rafa needs to enhance the squad with players who’ll get us that extra 5 points that would surely secure the title. That means two or three big additions, and youth players aside, I don’t expect Rafa to sign any more than that.

We’ve been given a pretty clear indication of how Liverpool will play next season – the 4231 formation will be key no doubt. Like most others, I expect a right back, a versatile forward who can play on the left and as we’re all aware we could be looking at Barry or Alonso in the centre.

The real proof of the Benitez squad will be in the blooding of young talent and the first steps of our Red evolution.

Rafa has had 5 years to work on the academy and a lot of money has been spent. Next season, with most of our budget being spent on key players, I expect to see younger players being given more of a chance.

Emiliano Insua looks to be very promising; Jay Spearing, David Ngog, Kristian Nemeth and Stephen Darby have found themselves high up the pecking order, so hopefully Rafa will have the confidence to use them, saving on money that’s usually spent on squad players.

The Academy has been under intense scrutiny lately - Piet Hamberg left this season and was quickly replaced. There have also been rumours of Kenny Dalglish coming back in an Academy role, which suggests Rafa isn’t at all happy with the academy.

At the moment though, we don’t need stars, we need squad players. After 5 years, the fans are expecting players to start coming through. Rafa knows the side more than anyone so I trust his judgment and don’t expect him to put people in who aren’t ready.

The key to Liverpool’s title ambitions next season will the depth of our squad. If we can put players in who have the confidence of the manager and, crucially, the supporters, then hopefully we will see a few more steps toward greatness, leading to greater squad ability, character and, finally, success.


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  1. 100% agree. It seems many who don't analyse the situation properly, don't realise that year on year he has had to buy a lot of stop-gap players - one's who have gotten us into the position we are in now through five years of progression. Our strongest XI is capable of beating any team in the country (as has been proven by our record against the rest of the big four).To add those 2 or 3 top class players who are able to take us that bit further is going to be vital.

    I'm looking forward to a few of the kids trying to establish themselves too. Looking at Rafa's youth signings, Pacheco and Nemeth looked like they could one day make the step-up when given the chance in pre-season. As for Insua, I reckon he's being primed for the left-back place long term. He's a class act who looks very composed on the ball. N'Gog looks lke he has got a future too. He's got to improve physically I feel, but his first touch and techniqu seem good and he clearl has an eye for goal.

  2. more squad players???

    are you on crack?

  3. I think what he means about 'squad players' is that we need players that can step up when called on. Our starting XI is strong enough to compete with any team, but there are times when we need other players of a higher calibre to come off the bench and/or fill in for injured players, to either match or better the level of their predecessors.

    I have to say I can see Babel leaving in the summer. Not just because he has had a poor season, but because of the attitude he took earlier on when attempting to engineer a move to Ajax. As we saw with Riise and Sissoko, Benitez does not tolerate temper-tantrums, and certainly cant stand those who sulk and subsequently lose form. I feel Babel had a right to complain earlier on in the season, but every time he's been played in the latter half has had some diabolical performances. This for me smacks of mental fragility, a weakness ultimately I think Benitez forsees.

    As for the rest, I hope we can get rid of Voronin, Degen, Pennant, Plessis, Itandje, El Zhar and some other youngsters. We need to trim the squad and the wage bill, and cast out the dead wood so that new players and youngsters can be brought in. I think we need another right winger and another right full back most desperately, but also another centre-forward to cover for Torres should he get injured again.