RAFA’S LOS­ING THE PLOT

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

YOU may be­lieve that sav­aging Rafa Ben­itez has be­come an is­sue for the League against Cruel Sports, but some­times it is too easy to get th­ese things out of per­spec­tive. We are, af­ter all, talk­ing about some­one who will ben­e­fit by about £20 mil­lion if he should lose his job.

What is also in­creas­ingly ap­par­ent is that Ben­itez is beginning to sur­pass in fu­til­ity his pre­de­ces­sor Ger­ard Houl­lier. But what is most im­por­tant? The finer feel­ings of the man who came into the game with eyes wide open about its in­her­ent risks – let’s not for­get that he served his ap­pren­tice­ship at Real Madrid, where the life ex­pectancy and work­ing con­di­tions of coaches are ten­u­ous at best – or the in­creas­ing re­al­ity that the job he tack­led with some ini­tial bril­liance is quite re­lent­lessly slip­ping be­yond his grip?

Yes, Liver­pool beat Manch­ester United be­fore slid­ing to fresh de­feats, but two facts leap out here. Ben­itez, like Houl­lier be­fore him, has the knack of pulling out no­table vic­to­ries against United.

How­ever, and as also it was with Houl­lier, for ev­ery such tri­umph there are half-a-dozen per­for­mances which re­veal both a des­per­ate lack of de­vel­op­ing rhythm and a crit­i­cal short­age of play­ers for whom mere ad­e­quacy is the most ba­sic of start­ing points.

Ben­itez and Houl­lier have some­thing else in com­mon and it sep­a­rates them, quite strik­ingly, from the man­agers who cur­rently oc­cupy the first three po­si­tions in the Premier League.

Both fiends for ro­ta­tion in their time, they have dif­fi­cul­ties in grant­ing play­ers, who by their na­ture of their jobs are surely among the least se­cure mem­bers of the hu­man race, the kind of pub­lic ad­mi­ra­tion on which con­fi­dence nat­u­rally feeds. Houl­lier once said that Michael Owen, who had barely left his teens be­hind him, had to grow up and be a man for Liver­pool and for Eng­land.

Ben­itez may have had his own good rea­son to with­draw Fer­nando Tor­res from the mis­ad­ven­ture at Craven Cot­tage, but the look of be­fud­dle­ment on his young com­pa­triot’s face was elo­quent.

Ben­itez shuf­fles his ranks as though he is in charge of the shelf stack­ers at the lo­cal su­per­mar­ket.

The prob­lem at An­field is that the cul­ture of re­spect has been so dis­si­pated, both by the style of Ben­itez and the in­creas­ingly trans­par­ent fact that he has sim­ply failed to as­sem­ble enough play­ers of the re­quired qual­ity to form a se­ri­ously com­pet­i­tive squad. – Belfast Tele­graph

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