Reading FA Cup loss should see Benitez get the Anfield chop
THE date and time of his execution is known to no man at this stage. Nonetheless, the sense that Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is a dead man walking was brutally underlined by his team’s latest shoddy performance – defeat to Reading is surely a loss too far for Benitez.
To look second best to Championship strugglers Reading for most of the 120 minutes of Wednesday night’s FA Cup replay, ought to have alarmed those in charge at Anfield. As much, in fact, as the sight of thousands of empty seats in the stadium. This might not have been the Premiership but to see large swathes of the Anfield seats unoccupied was a salutary warning that even Liverpool’s loyal followers are close to breaking point.
It wasn’t just that Liverpool were out-run and, quite often, out-thought by a lower league team. There were other, even more disturbing signs on display that the Liverpool ship is floundering.
There was not a semblance of the authority, control and flow to be expected from one of the supposed top sides. In particular, Liverpool’s final pass was simply atrocious.
There was not the slightest precision in Liverpool’s game. They looked what they have resembled all season; a collection of disparate elements, strangers brought together with no real plan for cohesion or team understanding.
If Benitez is not responsible for this shambles, we are entitled to ask who is? As has been the case so often this season, once Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard were removed by injury from the side, Liverpool looked like complete strangers.
Alberto Aquilani, a horrible £17 million waste of money by Benitez, seemed to lack fitness and, worse, desire. Dirk Kuyt ran, as he always does, but to little effect. Yossi Benayoun tried to create but lacked accuracy at crucial moments.
Peering at this utter shambles of a team, Benitez continued to direct from the touchline like some conductor who couldn’t hear the awful off-key sounds of his own orchestra. A team bereft for the most part of understanding and, even worse, commitment was overrun with embarrassing ease by the rank outsiders.
Where Benitez found some of these players is a mystery. What on earth persuaded him to squander so many millions on such ordinary perfor mers is the ultimate indictment of his management. When a team collapses in this alarming manner, you can but look at the man in charge.
Riddled with debt, riddled with discourse in the boardroom and with a squad riddled with failures, Liverpool Football Club is stumbling towards a nightmare.
You always need impeccable reasons to sack a manager, especially when such an act will cost your club millions of pounds to pay up his contract. But Liverpool have to act and do so urgently. Under Benitez, they are a club going nowhere. Players paid tens of thousands of pounds a week simply have to do better than this to justify their existence.
Likewise with the manager. Benitez has surely gone as far as he can at Anfield. A complete re-think and player clear-out is required. But selling Torres may be the only way to do it.