Friday, 8 January 2010

Who would want to be Rafael Benitez?

Which other football manager would want to step into Rafael Benitez's boots? The simple answer is that very few top level managers would wish to take over at Liverpool, after they've seen the conditions in which Rafa Benitez has had to work under at Liverpool Football Club.

Rafa has had to cope with severe financial difficulties during his time at the helm, affecting his ability to purchase the world class players neccesary to compete at the highest level, as Liverpool are expected to do season after season. His net spend, over the 5 years that he has been manager, is just over £80 million, which he has earned himself through the team doing exceptionally well in the Champions League, winning the competiton in 2005, and finishing as runners up in 2007, as well as reaching the semi finals in 2008. Rafa has been given very little money by the American owners, as debt clearing is a much higher priority then trophy collecting, to the cowboy owners. His net spend for the most recent summer transfer window was a mere £10,000. No manager should be expected to achieve anything with these astonishingly low levels of investment, yet Rafa has succeeded, despite the financial constraints imposed on him. Liverpool have won the Champions League (05), FA Cup (06), Super Cup (06) under his management, as well as reaching the Carling Cup Final (05), the Champions Legaue final (07) and finishing an impressive second place last season.

After achieving so much in the English game, with so little money,you'd expect the English media to applaud the Spaniard for his expert managerial skills. However, this couldn't be further from the truth as Sports Journalists across the country have been demanding his head. Here are the 5 main complaints being posed regarding Rafael Benitez, from both journalists, eager to label another club as "in crisis", and fair weather fans;

1. He is too stubborn
Well, would you prefer him to listen to the ever changing opinions of the British media and so called "supporters", which change like the wind, or would you rather he stick to his tried and tested methods that have proved successful at both Valencia and Liverpool? Stubborness is a quality all good leaders have, as they are convinced of their methods, and is vital for all top level managers to possess if they are to survive in the cut throat business of Premier League football.

2. He has spent too much money
This is simply not true, as i have shown above. Some ridiculous figures have been suggested by people in the media. Ex player, Ronnie Whealan, claimed that the side that beat Debrecen 1-0 at Anfield, in the Champions League (16th September 2009), cost an eye watering £250 million, when in reality it was around £50 million.

3. He is too defensive
The 4-2-3-1 formation that Liverpool play provides the perfect balance between attack and defence, with 6 defensive minded players providing solidity, and 4 attack minded players (possibly 5 if Alberto Aquilani plays in the defensive pair in front of the defenders). Last season, the Reds played this formation and stormed oppostion defences, winning many games by large margins, epsecially in the second half of the season. People often criticise Rafa for not starting with two strikers, however, last season, when Torres played up front by himself for the majority of the season, Liverpool scored the most goals in the League with 77, proving that Rafa Benitez is by no means a defence minded manager.

4. He doesn't blood enough youngsters
Jay Spearing, Damien Plessis, Nathan Eccleston, Daniel Ayala, Daniel Pacheco, Stephen Darby and Martin Kelly have all tasted first team action this season. Also, Emilianio Insua has become the first choice left back at the tender age of 20. Arsene Wenger gets lauded because of his youth policy, however Rafa's work in revamping the academy, and improving the number of youngsters experiencing first team football, is conveniently ignored by his critics.

5. He plays players out of position
Very rarely does Rafa play a player out of position for a sustained period of time. Dirk Kuyt came to the club as a striker, however Rafa has converted him into a hard working right sided midfield player, who scores goals, with 15 recorded in the 2008/09 season. The British media are always trying to criticise Benitez, slaughtering him for playing Robbie Keane for 20 minutes at Villa Park last season. However, they conveniently forget that their precious Harry Redknapp has played Keane on the left 3 or 4 times since he returned to White Hart Lane. I don't have a problem with Harry Redknapp, i just can't stand the hyprocrisy.

All this pressure from the media would affect any manager, and it has took its toll on Rafa, causing him to be short, and sometimes sarcastic with the media. Personally, i fully understand his shortness with the media, as they are often a disgrace in their unbalanced reporting after any unconvincing performance or bad result.

Finally, a major problem that has plauged Rafa this season is injuries. At least 14 players have either missed games or lacked fitness at some point this season. This has caused poor results, and a drop in confidence, meaning that when the injured players finally regained full fitness, they were returning to a team desperately low on confidence. Injuries have been a major contributing factor to our horrible run of results earlier this season, and cannot be ignored when judging the season's performance.


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