15 Jul 2009

The alienation of Xabi Alonso by the demoralizer, Rafa Benitez...

Xabi Alonso seems certain to leave Liverpool for Real Madrid this summer, which comes as no surprise given his demoralizing treatment at the hands of Rafa Benitez over the last 2 years..

The latest in this summer's most predictable (and regrettable) transfer saga is that Alonso has allegedly told Benitez that he wants to leave Anfield. As much as I would hate for this to happen, I don’t blame him for wanting to leave at all - Benitez has done his best to demotivate Alonso over the last couple of years and he has clearly had enough.

Here are few examples of how Benitez has used his fabled man-management skills to alienate the Liverpool playmaker:

1. 2007-08 – In the first months of this season, Alonso had (inexplicably) been an early victim of Benitez's rotation policy, starting 4 games and warming the bench for 3, including being an unused sub in two Champions League encounters with Toulouse.

With Steven Gerrard out injured against Derby, Alonso seized his chance and proceeded to run the show as Liverpool battered the rams, with Alonso scoring 2 of the 6 goals that day.

Then disaster struck: Alonso was injured against Portsmouth on September 15th 2007 - a devastating blow for the Basque maestro, who was clearly high in confidence after his Derby heroics.

So Alonso was injured. It happens to most players at one time or another, so need for alarm. The fatal blow came 43 days later, when Benitez inexplicably rushed him back from injury and put him in the starting line up against Arsenal.

It was gamble by Benitez that spectacularly failed to pay off. Alonso aggravated the same injury he had suffered against Portsmouth and was forced off. Just for the sake of clarity, here is the proof that it *was* the same injury:

Portsmouth Injury Report: http://www.liverpoolfc.tv/news/archivedirs/news/2007/sep/20/N157043070920-0839.htm

Arsenal Injury Report: http://www.liverpoolfc.tv/news/archivedirs/news/2007/oct/29/N157487071029-1303.htm

Alonso was rushed back after just six weeks, which was a major mistake considering every player in world football who has had the same injury has taken much longer to recover. Examples: Wayne Rooney - 14 weeks. Steven Gerrard - 10 weeks. Daniel Agger – almost three months!

As a result of that catastrophic decision, Alonso missed a further 5 weeks of the season. When he returned from injury, he was in and out of the team, with precious little time to build up any rhythm or consistency.

2. February 2008: To add insult to injury, Benitez proceeded to publicly criticise Alonso, stating the following:

"Xabi needs to step it up. When you are not 100 per cent fit, you want to play every game because you need to play more games to build up your fitness…Xabi knows he needs to work harder if he wants to have a place in the team."

What possible benefit did Alonso gain from these needless comments? And if, as Benitez stated, Xabi knew he had to work harder' then why was it is necessary to say the same thing in public?

He had only been back in the first team for a month or so after his 11 week lay-off; of course it would take him time to find his momentum again. What he didn’t need was his Manager suggesting he was not putting in the appropriate effort.

3. Summer 2008 and the Gareth Barry fiasco. Benitez's ‘idea’ to replace Alonso with Barry was cretinous to say the least, and he pursued the player with barely concealed zeal and absolutely no respect or consideration for Alonso. This was all compounded by Steven Gerrard - his supposed 'team' mate, who rubbed salt in the wounds with his embarrassing public tapping-up of Barry.

What goes around comes around, however, and Benitez’s gross lack of loyalty towards Alonso last year is coming back to haunt the club at exactly the wrong time.

4. Failing to utilize Alonso properly and play to his strengths.

5. Shunting Alonso around to accommodate Gerrard.

6. Forcing Alonso to change his game from skilful, creative playmaker to defensive midfielder tasked with doing all the donkey-work for Gerrard.

7. Signing Javier Mascherano and Lucas, thus marginalizing Alonso’s role in the team and making the competition for midfield players too intense.

With all this in mind, is any wonder that Alonso wants to leave?

That Alonso was outstanding last season is a testament to his ability, dedication and professionalism; it has nothing to do with Benitez’s managerial skills.

It would be a tragedy to lose Alonso, as he is one of Benitez’s finest signings and is blessed with an essential skill that no other current Liverpool player possesses: the ability to intelligently dictate the pace of play.

Alonso is a quintessential Liverpool-type player, cut from the same cloth as the likes of Jan Molby and Ronnie Whelan – an exquisite passer of the ball and an asset to any team serious about challenging for honours

He is a joy to watch, and Liverpool should be pulling out the stops to keep him, but the truth is, Benitez actually wants to sell Alonso. He proved this last summer, and he proved it again in April 2009 with the these comments in response to interest from Juventus:

“If Juventus were asking for him at the right price – in football everybody has a price”.

This was after Benitez publicly claimed that he didn’t want to sell the player this summer. It’s clear though that his comments basically represented a form of subtle, public negotiation with Juventus, along the lines of “Come in with the right offer and he’s yours".

Replace Juventus with Real Madrid and nothing has really changed.

Having said that, after last season’s performances, I’m sure Benitez finally realises Alonso’s true value to the team and secretly hopes that he will stay.

It’s too late though – the damage has already been done. Sooner rather than later, Xabi Alonso is leaving Liverpool, and the responsibility for losing such an important players rest solely on the shoulders of Rafa Benitez.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Wonder why all the above comments were taken off. That was a very 'thoughful' article you had there. I'm sure you have the credentials to be the next Liverpool manager when Rafa is sacked for not winning the League after losing Alonso.

  6. This is my *opinion*. Deal with it.

    If you disagree, perhaps you'd care to argue against my view. If you can, of course.

    or you can continue leaving pointless 3 line comments that. Up to you :-)

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. If I remember it right, so many "pundits" said Rafa STUMBLED on the 4231 formation. It was a headache how to accommodate Stevie, Masch & Xabi. 2007-08 was not at all Xabi's year thus he was pushed aside.

    Everyone was a victim to the ROTATION policy then. (well, except for Stevie (was even subbed in some games), Carra, Pepe and Kuyt (infuriated most)) That season, Rafa rotated LFC out of the title contention. He played different players each time and made substitutions in the 75th minute. It was irritating.

    Everyone has to fight for a place and not unless you are Stevie or Carra -- you have to fight for a place. It's not a cause for demoralization.

    Not even playing out of position. It is not a cause for demoralization. Not public criticism as well. Rafa said everyone has to fight for their place. Nothing wrong with that.

    Not even for shunting Alonso for the CAPTAIN. Not a cause for demoralization.

    Up until Rafa stumbled on 4231. That was when everyone was happy.

    I guess it is the way Rafa tried to sell Xabi that hurt Xabi's feelings. I am not happy with "Barry to replace Xabi" and I don't know what Stevie is thinking when he kept suggesting it to Rafa. Barry can't run a show as good as Xabi in his best can.

    EVERYBODY has a price. We just have to pay some more for some people. If they want something so badly, then they have to pay for what we are trying to give up too. Alonso may mean our #19. And pricing him at 50M surely will make any CLUB cry OUTRAGEOUS and silly. But that is what we want. We are pricing him beyond their reach because WE ARE NOT SELLING HIM.

  9. My whole point was all the reasons for demoralization are not demoralizing at all except for the selling of Xabi to get Barry part.
    Just an opinion.

  10. Excellent article, i do really think that all liverpool fans must understand all of these facts that were mentioned above before taking a swipe at Xabi Alonso and making him the traitor.

    We all do know that Rafa is an outstanding tactitian and coach, but we've seen his mistakes as well.

  11. You wrote "What possible benefit did Alonso gain from these needless comments? "

    I would ask you the same. "What possible benefit did LFC gain from these needless comments?"

    The Club is bigger than any one player or person. If Alonso leaves, he leaves. I wish him well. The Club continues and we (as fans) should, in my view, continue to support the Club.

    Since Rafa stays, I support Rafa. I may not agree with everything he does, but he's the manager and I'm not. He knows more than I do about what's going on. I have to trust in the Club and the manager. I support Rafa because that to me is supporting the Club.

    Your article is an interesting read. But to me it fails on a number of points:-
    (a) You claim that Rafa shunted Alonso around and played him out of position. At the same time, you say that Alonso was outstanding the last session. Erm, this was presumably when he was played out of position by Rafa? Hmmm, doesn't that maybe suggest that Rafa was right?

    (b)You say that Rafa rushed Alonso back from injury, but how do you know that Alonso wasn't ready and didn't want to play?

    (c) You say that Rafa was wrong to make competition for the midfield role too intense. First, I think all fans will agree that signing Mascherano was a good thing. Second, that competition that you criticized resulted in the best season we've had for a long long time.

    (d) Most importantly, you criticize the decisions that were made by Rafa but offer no alternatives or solutions.

    Let's face facts. You and I are fans. Our knowledge of the inner workings of LFC is incomplete at best and is largely based on reports published by the media. Rafa's knowledge of the game is by far superior to ours. That's why he's the manager and we are not.

    In light of the above, makes more sense to trust in the manager that has without a doubt improved the team during his time in charge rather than criticize the manager. Remember, it's about supporting the team my friend. Support the team.

  12. 1. physios and players decide on when one returns to action, a manager will never send on a player who the physios say is likely to reinjure themself or if the player feels incapable.
    Furthermore, our physio staff have changed twice since that season, once this summer, maybe theres a clue there.

    2. Our squad was thin on cover last summer, barry was a versatile midfielder who could play as a left back. His attemted signing was intended to create competition between 3 players for 2 spots in the central midfield. and that standard in top flight teams.

    3. Agreed, the criticism was destructive, rafa has been very sketchy in the past at times.

    4. From point 4 down is highly inflammatory and somewhat ignorant in tone.

    competition and cover is what lucas and masch are. Actually, mascherano is a defensive mid, alonso sits in front and distributes to the wings and through the middle, his shooting has improved this season as well, hes actually more liberated of defensive duties when mascherano plays and lucas...yes is weak but he doesnt play over alonso in big games.

    Gerrard is one THE best dictators of the pace and best long passers of a ball in the game (amongst a plethora of other skills) Period. why waste time suggesting alonso is the only player who dictates pace, furthermore, how many players in a team do you want trying to dictate the pace, one or two will do it, did you want 10?

    5. Shunted around, you mean from the central midfield to the bench, surely not around the pitch because alonso has only played in the middle.
    when injured yes to the bench, when rested in smaller games, yes to the bench. hardly at any other time

    lets talk about someone who IS shunted around, maybe Gerrard, central mid, to right wing, back to central, now into the hole, same player who cant dictate pace, who results in alonso being "shunted" around...

    ive read your articles before, get real, stop trying to piss people off

  13. i havnt read any replies ye but your opinion is the same as mine,great blog

  14. now i read dereks post and i agree with him

  15. Rafa wanted to sell him last year. Xabi was hurt and had his best season at Anfield in 08/09.

    Now, Madrid is interested. He wants to play for Madrid. Rafa wants to keep him so he places a beyond-reach transfer fee for his exit. So it's now LFC's turn to be "hurt" but we move on. NO player is bigger than this club.

    Go forward for 19.

    Good luck to Xabi whereever he plays next season.

    Again, aside from the selling thing as valid demoralizing factor, the rest is simply putting too much on something that normally happens and should be taken as a challenge by every professional footballer.

    WE MOVE ON. (with or without XABI)

    Rafa tried to sell him and now, tries to keep him.
    Xabi wanted to stay and now, wants to go.

  16. You were doing fine until you got to number four, then you reverted from blogger to schoolkid. Benitez has treated Alonso very badly, and Xabi has shown his class by keeping his own counsel, responding to the support he gets from the Kop and putting his best season for us. He should have been footballer of the year, but to catch the eye of moronic footballers and even more moronic journalists you have to score goals or get kicked in the head clearing off the line, terry butcher style.

    You also did not mention the grief that Alonso got for wanting to go to the birth of his most recent child, which given how much a strong family life benefits a footballer, and how these sorts of petty managerialisms can fester in a player's mind, that was more riciduclousness from Rafa.

    However, Rafa alomst won us the title last year. He got the best season out of Alonso despite all of these points.

    Maybe Xabi needs a regular kick up the arse and maybe Rafa knows best.

  17. WHILYN - thanks for your comments. I agree that everyone has a price (except Torres I hope!), but Rafa does not need to admit such things in public. He should have said 'Alonso is not for sale at any price', even if his private feels were otherwise.

    Surely you can see how publicly admitting that yo're willing to sell can have an impact on a player's confidence?

    The same goes for his public criticism of Alonso, telling him he needs to 'step it up' etc. Xabi had only been off the treatment table for about a month and was probably working as hard as he could to get back into the swing of things, then Benitez comes along and basically says he's not working hard enough? How is this good man-management, Again, if Benitez had a problem with Alonso he should have dealt with it behind closed doors.

    And I disagree that Benitez is pricing Alonso highly because he doesn't want to sell; he just wants to get as much money as possible for the player. As such, you have to set the bar high because - in many cases - the ultimate sale price always falls a little short of the actual valuation.

  18. I really like Xabi Alonso as a player - at his best, there are few players in his position that I would change him for in our team.

    However, the story of Xabi's time here shows that apart from a very promising first season, Xabi's standards fell off dramatically in the following seasons. Maybe he felt comfortable in the team and thought that his place was guaranteed. For whatever the reasons were (including injuries), the standard of his play dropped from that debut season.

    I do not blame Rafa for trying to sell him last summer! In hindsight I would, looking at the season Xabi’s just had, but Rafa did not have the luxury of this hindsight last summer did he! Does everyone think that Xabi would have had as good as season last season if the Barrygate saga did not happen last season? He would have probably still felt comfortable in his position and not felt under threat. That whole saga gave him an unwitting kick up the backside he needed to perform at the top of his game as he did in 2008/09.

    As well as that, Rafa knew that the Champions League rules were changing and so he had to try and bring in English players.

    At the start of the summer 2008, after 2 seasons of indifferent performances, the difference between an in form Barry (as he was then) and an indifferent Xabi (performances in 2006/07 and 2007/08) would not be that great.

    As it stands now it looks like Xabi wants to go. We had not heard of Xabi before Rafa bought him so we’ll just have to trust the manager to go out and get someone better!

    I agree with the Club’s determination to get top whack for Xabi. Madrid have used the media to their benefit this summer, so we will have to use it to ours now – we know that as part of Perez’s campaign, he said he would spend £260m… and they’ve spent £180m… so that leaves £60m. If they won’t fork out £35m for Xabi (which they obviously have!) then they must be lying when they say they really want him and need him in their team…!

  19. Derek - Unlike Benitez, I don't have a responsibility to LFC to modulate what I say about the club in public. Public criticism of players - even if deserved - is never the way forward and has no real benefit.

    To address your points:

    a) Alonso *has* been shunted around to accomodate Gerrard. Alonso is NOT a defensive midfielder, but Benitez tried to turn him into one to allow Gerrard to play further up the field.

    This neutered Alonso's creative insincts - when he should have been spraying the ball around and dictating the player, he was wasting time tracking back and flying into tackles.

    When we signed Mascherano, Alonso should have been restored to a more progressive role, but what did we see instead? mascherano playing further forward than Alonso on a number of occasions!

    It was the same with Sissoko - he would play further forward than Alonso at times, which was ridiculous.

    b) Whether Alonso said he was ready or not is irrelevent - the indisputable fact is *he wasn't ready*, as evidenced by the fact that he got injured again in the same game.

    Furthermore, how can a player heal from a metatarsal injusry in 6 weeks?! Show me one player who has achieved this feat. Gerrard, Rooney etc took twice as long as that. With past experience of the injury, Benitez should have erred on the side of caution.

    Also, how do we know that Alonso wasn't rushed back before he was ready?

    c) Benitez did make competition too intense - at one point we had Mascherano, Alonso, Sissoko, Lucas and Gerrard all competing for two central midfield spots! This is ridiculous. Take Gerrard out of the equation because he is an automatic starter and you have 4 players competing for 1 spot.

    How is this fair competition?

    It had an adverse impact on Sissoko too, who ended up leaving.

    Competition is fine; unhealthy competition is not.

    Yes, we has a good season in 2008-2009, but let's not forget the title was LOST because of Benitez and his supposed tactical genius.

    The title was there for the taking last year - if only 3 of the 11 draws had were converted into wins the title would be Anfield right now and not Old Trafford.

  20. Why are comment removed by the administrator...i means u are fake...
    U guys hud respect benitez decision...he's the manager...Alonso had two poor seasons...rafa was right to wake him up by tring to get barry...
    U talk about rotation...at the end rafa came up with a formation that accomodates all...
    all credit to rafa..

    If benayoun could step up for gerrard during closing weeks of last season and gerrard wasnt missed...if alonso goes...liverpool becomes stronger...

    U guys shudn't also for get the long passes,crosses from glen johnson....

    We'll replace alonso adequately...rafa is the man...

  21. I'm with WHILYN on this one. The only demoralising act was the barry saga which I'm sure Rafa at the time thought was a good idea after a poor 18 months from Alonso. It was a kick up the backside that Alonso needed. Plus if you recall correctly even during the courting of Barry Rafa said he didn't want to sell Alonso. You don't have to believe everything you read in the papers. If you did you'd think liverpool were the an appalling team, who can't paly football nor win a game whilst spending Chelsea like sums of money.

    Did you know Rafa rotated the same as Wenger and ferguson in 07/08?

    Yes rafa stumbled on the 4231 just as the rest of the top teams stumbled on a similar 4231. Oh and he stumbled upon it after forgetting all about it from his days at Valencia when they played 4231.

    Playing him out of position to accomodated Gerrard? Even if this was the case (it is not) why wouldn't you? Gerrard is one of the best players in the world. You build the team around the best players, hence around Gerrard. Oh and was Alonso out of position, for gerrard's sake, when Gerrard was playing out on the wing for a season?

    This is in no way a dig at Alonso, he is a legend and potential great. Class personified. This is just a brief comment (there is plenty more) on the article and the boring lets listen to everything the media says and believe it.

    Glad you are on board the Liverpool supporter train.

  22. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  23. WHILYN has got it right. The original blog is just a little too ... "precious".

    Any PROFESSIONAL footballer should be able to deal with all the "sins" that our manager apparently committed (in your eyes. The only criticism that has any weight is the bizarre efforts to sell him last summer. Now he's spat his dummy - "payback" (how puerile.

    In the past 12 months he has got his career going again and has gone from being a fringe National player to a key playmaker. Rafa deserves a lot of the credit.

    [I don't know whether you've noticed but most players benefit significantly from working under Rafa (despite his "crazy" ideas) - eg Gerrard, Crouch, Kuyt, Alonso, Mascherano, even Torres - all playing at the peak of their careers. Coincidence?... errr, NO!)

    We are better off without him if that's how little he thinks of the club (and the fans that rallied to demonstrate our support for him. Take the money - and RUN, Rafa!!!

    I'll be reallysurprised if he maintains his form at Real under a different system, different manager and with different expectations of him.

    [Is the Bernabeu pitch really that much more verdent than Anfield? I think not...]

    Thanks Xabi, just don't let the door hit you on the way out!

  24. Hey Jaimie,

    I read your reply and do not agree with you.

    You seem to feel that everything that Rafa has done vis-a-vis Alonso is wrong. Rafa was wrong to play Alonso in the deep position to allow Gerrard to play up front. Rafa was wrong to buy Mascherano. Rafa was wrong to allow Alonso to play after his injury.

    Let's just look at what you are really saying:-
    (a) Don't play Stevie up front with Torres because that causes Alonso to be "shunted" out of position and curbs his natural instinct.

    Erm. Won't this also mean that our best (and most effective) forward line will be gone? Where does Gerrard (who is undoubtedly one of our main players) play in your plan? And what about Torres? In your opinion Alonso and Torres will form a strike partnership? What's your basis for this?

    (b) Don't buy Mascherano. Ok. So, you want the Club to give up arguably the best ball winner / destroyer / defensive midfielder we have? A player whom Barca (this year's Champ League winners) want? And your proposal is that we keep Sissoko so that Alonso has less competition. Now, Sissoko is a player that I've always like (just like Biscan was a player that I like). But Sissoko is no where as good as Mascherano. The fact that Momo is not really featuring these days says as much.

    (c) You say I don't have proof that Alonso was fit. That you are right. But I wasn't the one accusing Rafa of playing an unfit / unready player. You were the one making unfounded comments. At best, neither of us have proof one way of the other. In other words, your original article was hot air.

    In any event, let us assume you are right and Alonso needed more time to recover. To me, the man is a professional footballer. He gets paid to put his body on the line and to play. If the team needs him to play, he plays, fit or not, ready or not.

    Jaimie, I don't deny that you have every right to have an opinion. But I ask that you take a step back. Alonso is a great player. One of the best we have in my view. But the Club is bigger than the player. Your article suggests otherwise. Every comment seems to suggest that the player should come first (i.e. build the team around Alonso lest he be played out of position, don't buy other midfielders lest Alonso be forced to compete for his position).

    Finally, your strongest argument is that Rafa should not have tried to sell Alonso last year. Honestly, I don't agree. Alonso was great this season. But he wasn't the previous 2 seasons. His passing was off. He was slow. He was predictable. He lost possession. He gave away the ball in vital areas. In short. He was not pulling his weight. Rafa had every right. No...I take that back. Rafa not only had the right, Rafa had the obligation to try to sell Alonso and get a better player for the Club. Today, we can look back and say that it was the wrong thing to do. But this is only with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight.

    I don't blame Alonso for wanting to leave. I do feel however that he should be made of sterner stuff. At the same time, I do not blame Rafa for doing what he did (although with the benefit of hindsight, I would agree that it was probably not the right decision).

    I guess that in the final analysis, that is why I do not agree with your article. You critise and make allegations and cast blame. You however fail to see that these comments are being made with the benefit of hindsight and are quite simply unfair and unfounded.

  25. Jaimie, I think there's some double standards with your treatment of Xabi and Rafa here. If the player in question was Stevie Gerrard, would you hold the same opinion? If the manager in question was Martin O'Neill or SAF, would you hold the same opinion?

    1. I highly doubt Rafa would have rushed him back to injury unless the physios or Xabi himself wanted it. And how can you say definitely what goes on behind the scenes at Anfield?

    2. While I don't think Rafa should have made those comments, they were definitely not half as harsh as you make them out to be, and players should learn to deal with it.

    3. While Rafa was courting Barry and trying to sell Xabi, guess who were 100% behind Xabi? Liverpool fans. The same fans who backed Rafa when Hicks and Gillett were courting other managers. Xabi should realize that he won't be a traitor to Rafa when he leaves, he'll be a traitor to Liverpool FC.

    4. Failing to utilize Alonso properly??? How exactly? By making him the defensive playmaker, and thus making him the starting point of all our attacks thanks to his passing and spreading the ball? I'm sorry, you couldn't be more wrong in this case. You show no evidence for this remark either. I can't find a manager who would have done a better job with Alonso. Alonso's strengths are his touch and his passing. His weaknesses are his tacking and his lack of pace. Rafa has utilized this to the maximum effect by having someone make up for his weaknesses (Mascherano), and allowing him the freedom to maximize his strengths.

    5. "Shunting Alonso around to accommodate Gerrard."
    Again, you couldn't be more wrong. Alonso was always played in his favoured position AT THE EXPENSE OF Gerrard. Gerrard had to play right mid, with a combination of two of Masch, Sissoko & Alonso in the middle.
    And here's the real hypocrisy behind this statement of yours. When Gerrard (who had been shunted around to accomodate the not-so-versatile Alonso) said he didn't like playing right mid, you were on him, saying the player should put the team ahead of himself etc., but now when Xabi has been played in his position ever since he came to Liverpool, he should begrudge Rafa? Makes no sense.

    6. "Forcing Alonso to change his game from skilful, creative playmaker to defensive midfielder tasked with doing all the donkey-work for Gerrard."
    Again, that never happened. If Alonso was even capable of handling the duties of a defensive playmaker (including tackling etc), we would have no need for Hamann in the CL final, or for Sissoko, or Mascherano after that. Rafa has a perfect system with Mascherano doing all the dirty work, Alonso spreading the ball around, and Gerrard as a second striker. Now people may say, "Oh look, Liverpool are dull and cautious with 2 DMs", but no one realizes that this allows the fullbacks more freedom to run up and contribute.

    7. "Signing Javier Mascherano and Lucas, thus marginalizing Alonso’s role in the team and making the competition for midfield players too intense."
    How exactly? Lucas is mainly used as a sub, or to rotate in for someone when he/she has had one too many games, but he doesn't start. As for Mascherano, he isn't competing with Alonso, he and Alonso start together, so again, how does this make sense?

    Finally, I'd like to add, that no manager would have used Alonso as well as Rafa has. If Alonso is considered worth 30mil., its for 2 reasons - Rafa Benitez maximizing his potential and Real inflating the transfer market. If he goes right now, I trust Rafa to bring in an ideal replacement for him, there are other players as well who can both pass the ball and run forward and dribble (Something Xabi couldn't do). If he leaves, he will be considered a traitor by me, (I can't speak for other LFC fans) because I backed him 100% last year when Rafa wanted to bring Gareth Barry in.

  26. Just wanted to add my 2 cents in ion the blog. First off, lets make one thing clear, prior to moving to LFC Xabi was not that well known or coveted. Benitez brought him over and has helped him improve immensely during his time at LFC.

    Everyone was rotated during Rafa’s first season. So based on ur argument ALL the player remaining should be screaming to be transferred. Last I checked, Xabi was playing in a similar position for Spain that he plays under Rafa. I guess he should be screaming to get off the bloody team then.

    Its ok to have an opinion. The problem with urs Jaimie is that ur dislike for Rafa clearly skews ur opinion. So much so that u end up writing stuff that has very little foundation.

  27. Also, you make a point further on that the title was LOST because of Rafa Benitez. How, exactly? Doesn't the fact that we got close have anything to do with Rafa Benitez (2 wins out of 11 draws, not 3, btw)? The fact is that Man Utd got more points (3) than the previous season. That's all that matters in League football at the end of the day. So to say that they played worse than in 07-08 is not wrong, but you also have to acknowledge that they were better AT WINNING THE PREMIER LEAGUE in 2008-09. Confused? OK, the difference between Man U and LIverpool at the end of the day is that while Liverpool got 0-0s against the likes of Stoke (twice), Fulham, West Ham etc., Man U got 1-0s. 8 out of Man U's 11 wins during their run were 1-0s. The previous season they(Man U) might not have won all 11, but they would have won them more convincingly. Liverpool improved massively from the previous season, amassing 14 out of 18 points against the top four, and 10 points in general.

    Man Utd perfected the art of playing like shit but winning against the small teams, something Liverpool couldn't do. So while their gameplay wasn't as good as the previous year's, their ability to win was better. Rafa's tactical genius was also hindered by the fact that he could start Torres and Gerrard together only 13 times. If Man U had missed only Ronaldo as much as we missed either Torres or Gerrard, we would've had the title. For all of Fergie's "WORLD-CLASS" players, they were heavily reliant on Ronaldo. 1 wins in 3 games in 07-08 and 1 out of 5 in 08-09 without Ronaldo means something.

  28. Excellent points all round :-)

    I will respond to these comments in the next 12 hours.

  29. To address the crux of your argument: Benitez certainly has made mistakes regarding 'man-management', but if he has a flaw it is in being too ruthless, too clinical in his tactical decisions as well as rewarding extra effort in training (and those with a strong game mentality) with more match minutes.

    You can criticise this style of managing all you like, but the fact of the matter is, its architect enjoys a % win-rate for league and cup football as good as any of the Liverpool greats (surpassed only by Robert 'Bob' Paisley), and he has built a team from the ground up that is now the envy of Europe.

    This may not sound 'critical' enough from the man who prides himself on saying what no other LFC fan is thinking (just for the point, I imagine, of appearing 'different'), but it certainly is 'realistic'.

    For the stats, my friend, do not lie, and you, as a supposedly 'critical' fan, would do well to pay heed to them.

  30. @Derek - Gerrard playing up front has nothing to do with Alonso playing as a defensive mid. Before Rafa moved Gerrard forward (i.e. prior to Torres signing), Alonso was dumped in the defensive-mid position to allow Gerrard a freer role. This was wrong (in my view). A player with Alonso's skills should not being donkey work for Gerrard.

    And when Gerrard moved forward, Alonso should have been released from the defensive role, especially since we had Sissoko and later Mascherano. But this didn't happen; Alonso was still being neutered and played as a defensive mid, with Mascherano and Sissoko often playing higher up the field than him. How is this a good use of the Alonso's skills?

    Re Mascherano: why exactly did we need him? Under Houllier and Benitez, defence has not been the problem. Liverpool have regularly had one of the best defensive records over the last 10 years. Indeed, on a couple of occasions, we had the best defensive record in the league. Creativity and flair has been - and still is - a major issue. At the time Mascherano was bought, the money would have been better spent on buying the most creative wide player we could afford, not yet another defensive-minded player.

    We shouldn't go out and buy a defensive mid just because everyone else is doing it. And I didn't say we should keep Sissoko; I suggested that having 5 first team players competing for 2 midfield spots was unhealthy competition, which it is.

    The successful Liverpool teams of the past never needed two (essentially) holding midfielders or one terrier who just sat there and protected the back four. Why? The emphasis was always on attack rather than defence, whereas under Benitez, the gameplan is safety first. That may have appeared to be different for the last 3 months of last season, but an entire managerial reign is not defined by three months alone; the previous 4 years and 9 months were symbolised by Benitez's defensive-minded, cautious approach.

    Re Alonso's injury - the fact that he was injured on his first game back is strong evidence that he was unfit in the first place, is it not? Add to that the points I made about recovery times and it is obvious that Alonso did not have tiome to be fully fit.

    I disagree with your point about players playing at any cost; if you have this attitude then it just harms the team in the long term because unfit players just keep getting injured, depriving the team of their talents. Surely it is better to make sure your top players are 100% fit before playing them?

    And my article is not suggesting that Alonso is 'bigger than the club'. That is complete nonsense! I'm merely highlighting how Benitez's poor man-management has led to one of our top players being unhappy and wanting to leave.

    I think it's fair to say that if Alonso had been shown more respect then he would not even be thinking about leaving now.

    In any event, I'm pretty sure that if it was Steven Gerrard who had been treated in such a manner you'd have a very different view.

    And that's the problem - double standards. It's okay for Benitez to treat players like Alonso, Crouch, Finnan et al badly, but if it came to one of the fan favourites, such as Torres, Gerrard or Carragher, people would be up in arms.

    Alonso deserved to be treated a hell of a lot better. End of story.

  31. @Bikram - There are no double standards here. I treat everyone the same based on circumstances and conduct. If Gerrard had been treated in the same way as Alonso I would have defended him. If Ferguson are Martin O Neill had acted in the same manner I would slam them too. There is no evidence to suggest I would act otherwise. The fact is, Gerrard has never been treated in the same way as Alonso, or Crouch; or Keane; or any of the other players Benitez has treated badly.

    1. re Alonso's injury. Once again, it's not necessary to know what goes on in the treatment room. It is OBVIOUS that 6 weeks is not enough time to recover from a metatarsal injury! No footballer has EVER recovered that quickly. not even close. The fact that Alonso got injured again on his first game back proves (IMO) he was not ready, especially since he aggravated the same injury! I don't see how this point can be credibly argued against.

    2. Re public comments - it's not about players being able to deal with them. It's a matter of principle: nothing negative should be said about the club, players, management etc in public. it's unprofessional, graceless, counter-productive, and just invites negative media attention and undue pressure.

    Benitez has a history of fighting battles in public, with players, the board and the owners, and it just makes the club look bad.

    3. Alonso will be a traitor to LFC if he leaves? Completely disagree. How exactly? He has been a model professional since day one: humble, committed to the cause, dedicated to playing football the right way. And what has been his reward? Benitez taking the pi$$ in every way possible.

    Liverpool fans will understand if Alonso leaves. I know I will. Last summer's pursuit of Gareth Barry and Benitez's willingness to sell Alonso basically amounts to a public display of no confidence in the player. How is he supposed to prosper in such conditions?

    Re Alonso being shunted around/Gerrard's position etc - I've responded to these points endlessly in other articles and I don't have time to repeat myself again. I'll return to this post again when I have more time.

  32. @Bikram - Yes, the title was lost because of Benitez. Yes, we got close but that is the most galling thing: the title was there for the taking. Liverpool should have run away with title last season but because of Benitez's illogical team formations, defensive approach, safety-first attitude and unwillingness to take risks (especially against poor teams), valuable points were lost.

    11 draws in the league is not good enough. The previous season, it was 13 draws in the league (!), the most draws of any Liverpool team since the 70s! This is proof of Benitez's defensive approach. There are numerous examples of weird formations/players playing out of position/defensive substitutions over the last two years and I don't have time to list them all.

    The difference between Man U and Liverpool is approach: Man U always attack; they're always positive and direct, and are always willing to take risks to win games. They nurture and encourage flair and individuality. Liverpool are the opposite...except for the last 3 months of last season when a more attacking approach was employed.

    It doesn't matter if our record against the top clubs improved; at the end of the day it was all for nothing because we didn't win the league.

    The bottom line is if we'd beaten Stoke once and Hull once, we would've be champions on goal difference.

    This is why losing the league last season is so disappointing; we didn't just have a small chance to win, we had an amazingly big chance of winning and we blew it, and for me, the majority of the blame lies with Benitez.

  33. Jaimie- are you REALLY a fooball fan? I bet you have never played football in your life! Rafa brought Xabi to Anfield. We made him what he is today and yes rafa didnt have to be so vocal about poss selling him but if it got the best outta him - applaud RAFA!
    gerrard rates alonso massively, he regards him one of his top 5 opposing midfielders - even jus through training. Barry is a flop but remem rafa made our CENTRAL midfield the best in the prem. give him some credit you fool!
    you need to stop playin champs manager so much and get out a little. IN RAFA WE TRUST! KOPITE

  34. Jaime,

    RE- Alonso being moved because of Gerard, read your previous post. You wrote "Alonso *has* been shunted around to accommodate Gerrard. Alonso is NOT a defensive midfielder, but Benitez tried to turn him into one to allow Gerrard to play further up the field". Now you say that this has nothing to do with Gerrard playing upfront with Torres. Make up your mind.

    Before Torres, Gerrard was playing on the right and the Club was essentially using a 442 system. How you can say that Benitez had "shunted" Alonso out of position. Before Torres, Alonso was playing as a central midfielder not a defensive midfielder.

    You say that when Gerrard moved up, we should have released Alonso from his defensive duties because we had Mascherano and Momo. First, if I recall correctly, Momo was gone before we settled on this formation. Second, Mascherano plays further up field because his and pace is more suited to breaking up plays and winning the ball. Alonso is stronger at passing not ball winning. Hence it makes sense for him to sit a little further back. Third, if you actually watch the game, both players interchange roles throughout the game.

    You say that playing in the position Benitez plays him is not a good use of Alonso's skill.If that's true, why did Alonso just have his best season ever? Maybe because he is being played in a position that best suits his particular skill set and with players that compliment that skill set.

    Re- Mascherano. I cannot disagree more. You talk about releasing players from their defensive duties. Erm who do you think allows this? The DMs like Mascherano.

    You say that teams in the past never needed 2 DMs. That is true. But the modern game is very different from the older game. In the past, your defence was essentially 1 line of 4 players. This doesn't work anymore. Fullbacks are often deployed as attacking players overloading the wings. The "defensive" portion of the team is no longer a line of 4 players across the back. It is now a "square" of players (i.e. the 2 centre backs and 2 DMs) that sit in front of the goal. The reason is simple. If you've ever played the game, you will know that it is very very difficult to score from the wings. You can cross the ball, but to actually score from there is neigh impossible because of the distance and the fact that the angle causes the target area to become very small. Most goals are scored from the center, when the attacking player has the full face of the goal as the target area. Hence, teams now set up to protect the centre area as opposed to the wings. To do this, you need a good DM.

    Moving on, when did we have 5 players for 2 spots? We have Mascherano and Alonso as starters. We have Lucas as a reserve. Momo was long gone by the time we settled on the current formation. Who are the rest? Gerrard? He was not playing there.

    Re Alonso' injury - The fact that he got injured on his first game back proves nothing. You can get injured when you're fit as well can't you? Let's just agree that no one has enough information to know exactly whether Alonso was fit or not and whether his injury was due to his alleged lack of fitness. The point you made in your original article is speculative at best.

    Finally, about "respect". Would Alonso want to leave if Benitez didn't try to sell him last year? Maybe. We don't know. Alonso hasn't said anything. It is entirely possible that he would have wanted to leave for Real in any event. These players are professionals and adults. I believe that they are not so thin skinned. To say that it's down to Benitez and a lack of "respect" is speculative.

    My beef with your article is not with your conclusion that Alonso wants to leave because of a lack of "respect". It is with what I feel is unwarranted and unsupported criticism of Rafa's decisions.

  35. 1. Rafa's defensive approach.

    "11 draws in the league is not good enough. The previous season, it was 13 draws in the league (!), the most draws of any Liverpool team since the 70s! This is proof of Benitez's defensive approach."

    4-4 Arsenal game is a proof of defensive aproach?!!!! If you realy want to tell something about defensive/attacking approach you need to check goal opportunietes, shots on/off target/ woodworks - this kind of staff. Number of drows is useless.

    2, Always attack!

    "The difference between Man U and Liverpool is approach: Man U always attack; they're always positive and direct, and are always willing to take risks to win games."

    To be always positive and direct is a weakness not a virtue. Thats the main reason MU were outclassed by Barcelona while Chelsea would beat Barca confortably if not the referee.

    "The bottom line is if we'd beaten Stoke once and Hull once, we would've be champions on goal difference."

    Not true. We would have be champions on goal difference if we have the same results in other games. If we played this "adventurous" football we wouldnt have beaten MU twice, Chelsea. Lets say we've lost to MU once. It makes 6 point difference means we need to change three more drows to wins. 5 together. And goal difference wouldnt be that good, would it?

    The tactics should depend. Depend on players we have, injuries, opposition, situation in the table, next opponent. I dont want Liverpool to be "always ofensive and direct and always risk to win a game". It a court-yard football mentality I hate.

    3. Do we play Alonso as a defensive midfielder?

    "Alonso was still being neutered and played as a defensive mid, with Mascherano and Sissoko often playing higher up the field than him. How is this a good use of the Alonso's skills?"

    Very easy. Alonso has been playing as a deep lying playmaker not as a defensive midfielder.

    You presumed the deeper playing position the more defensive tasks for a player. You are wrong.

    Deep lying playmaker's job description is here:


    and here


    This job description exactly fits Alonso's skills. And describes Alonso's tasks during last season. What a coincidence...

    Have you watch Spain playing Conf Cup? They employe Alonso at the back and dont give him Mascherano-like player aside. He needs to do all the work himself. Where his skills are more appretiated?


  36. Jamie, ive got a good feeling it was the club docter/physio that gave the all clear for alonso to train/play again.so.

    i have to say i agree with derek and WHILYN, alltho you do make some good points, you just come across as a hater of rafa rather than a rational journo looking at both sides of the coin and writing/debating on a hot topic.

    i think its business, thats why alonso came, to get paid and win stuff. plus he liked the club and probably now loves it.

    RAFA surley didnt set out on purpous to demorilize him again and again and again, surly RAFA would have sold him to Juve when he had the chance.

    unless RAFA is a massive bully.? and wanted to ruin alonso's life by spending 11mil or so on him then demorilizing him for ever and ever muuhahahaha!

  37. Jaimie, your argument about Xabi not playing in his position, or being shunted around to accomodate anyone is wrong. You said that Sissoko, Masch and Hamann played in front of him at time. Why do you think that is? Not to go and fetch the ball, but to break up play so that Xabi would get the ball. I'm sorry, there is no argument in favour of your statement. If anyone has been accomodated, it has been Xabi. His main skill is passing the ball, and dictating play, as you already stated. And he has been allowed to do that because of the support of the defenisve midfielders. Like the guy above has also said, Xabi has been playing as a deep-lying playmaker, and because of his lack of skill in dribbling, or beating a man, or making surging runs forward, like our honourable captain, Stevie G, has to dictate play from the back.

    As for Benitez taking the piss every single time, that is such an exagerration, yes, he's made mistakes, like that comment, but Ferguson was much worse with the likes of Beckham etc.

    I will consider Xabi a traitor, and this is completely my opinion, because I supported him 100% when Benitez said there was a price on every player (remember, he never said explicitly that he wanted Xabi to leave). Also, next year is our best chance of winning the premier league, and Xabi should know that if he leaves, that heavily weakens us. Also, I'd really expect Xabi to leave for a better team than Real, which has a history of mistreating quality players that do not have a big name (read: Michael Owen). And I wonder how his abilities will be used by a team that has Kaka, Ronaldo and Robben in their midfield.

    As to your double standards regarding Stevie G, the argument that you made for Xabi - that he's been shunted around to accomodate others - if it holds for anyone, holds for Gerrard (and Kuyt). And you criticized Gerrard heavily for not playing on the right, calling him selfish. And Xabi, who is actually in position, feels he is not being respected, and asks for a transfer? What kind of justice is that? Gerrard's been played at right back, defensive mid, central mid, right mid, and attacking mid (where he's settled). Carra's been played all over the park as well, and still plays full-back when required.

  38. "The difference between Man U and Liverpool is approach: Man U always attack; they're always positive and direct, and are always willing to take risks to win games. They nurture and encourage flair and individuality. Liverpool are the opposite"

    Not what I saw last year. When Man U went on their run of 11 wins, they had EIGHT 1-0 wins. Their best player was Vidic (who was nestled safely in Torres's pocket, btw), and their attack depended heavily on Ronaldo (so much for Liverpool being a one-man team, look at Man U without Ronaldo). Anyway, it was harder to win the title last year than the year before. The fact is that Man U got 91 points last year, and 90 the year before. Since it is points, and not form, or goals, or possession that determines who wins, you can say that Man U were "better" last season than the season before. And this is taking into account the fact that Liverpool did the double on Man U, and despite that, they got 91 points.

    You may look at the fact that we were 4 points worse than Man U, but I look at the fact that we were 11 points better than the previous season.

    Anyway, I was doing an analysis of the team formations and players for all the games we drew, and two things seemed to stick out - the 4-4-2, and the absence of Torres.

    Because of Robbie Keane, we played with only 2 central mids, instead of the usual 3, and this upset the wonderful telepathic, often homosexual (and repressed), chemistry between Gerrard and Torres, and also did us no good on the wings because we didn't have 2 defensive mids, and thus the outside mids and fullbacks did not have as much freedom to go wide. Hence teams were able to park the bus, and we could not use the flanks effectively against them. The Torres one is self-explanatory.

    We only had weird formations in 3 games - Wigan, Newcastle & Portsmouth. We won all 3.

    As for the other ones:
    1. Aston Villa (0-0) - 4-3-2-1 (Lucas, Xabi, Masch, Kuyt, Keane, Torres (N'Gog))
    2. Stoke (0-0) - 4-4-2 (Kuyt, Gerrard, Alonso, Riera, Keane, Torres)
    3. Fulham (0-0) - 4-4-2 (Kuyt, Lucas, Masch, Riera, Keane, Torres)
    4. WHU (0-0) - 4-4-2 (Benayoun, Gerr, Alonso, Riera, Keane, Kuyt)
    5. Hull (2-2) - 4-2-3-1 (Benayoun, Alonso, Masch, Riera, Gerr, Kuyt)
    6. Arsenal (1-1) - 4-2-3-1 (Kuyt, Alonso, Lucas, Riera, Gerr, Keane)
    7. Stoke (0-0) 4-2-3-1 (Ben, Alonso, Masch, Riera, Gerr, Kuyt)
    8. Everton (1-1) 4-4-2 (Kuyt, Alonso, Gerr, Riera, Keane, Torres)
    9. Wigan (1-1) 4-2-3-1 (Ben, Masch, Lucas, Babel, Gerr, Torres)
    10. Man City (1-1) 4-2-3-1 (Kuyt, Masch, Lucas, Riera, Benny, Torres)
    11. Arsenal (4-4) 4-2-3-1 (Kuyt, Alonso, Masch, Riera, Benny, Torres)

    Out of the 11 draws, Torres was out in 5. In the six without him, Stoke and Fulham had 4-4-2 formations, Everton, Wigan, Man City and Arsenal were scored draws with mistakes made in the 83rd min v/s Wigan (Lucas penalty) and 88th v/s Everton (free-kick), and all four goals uncharacteristic mistakes by our defenders against Arsenal.

    In the other cases, it was the fact that we didn't have an out-and-out striker (Kuyt was up front, sometimes with Keane).

    The reason we were so successful towards the end of the season is that we stuck to the 4-2-3-1, our favoured formation. Oh, and Keane featured in 6 of those draws, his useless finishing contributing to the draws.

  39. @Author

    "11 draws in the league is not good enough. The previous season, it was 13 draws in the league (!), the most draws of any Liverpool team since the 70s! This is proof of Benitez's defensive approach."

    I'll give you another example of a defensive minded manager.

    His team draw 12 games one season. It was 2003/04 season. The side name is Arsenal, the manager name is Arsene Wenger.

    Would you dare call his 12 draws ' a proof of defensive approach"?

    Find better proofs or change your opinion.

  40. is liverpool a team relied on one player? don't think so. when keegan leaves and dalglish arrives, did anyone expect he could be a legend. think about that.

  41. Utter nonsense and speculation.

    Get Martin O'Neill in to fill the team with only English players and counter attacking tactics........ HAHA laughable.

    We had a counter attacking manager once, although he did wonders for the club, we got found out as a one trick pony.