I will be shocked if Lucas doesn’t start in midfield with Steven Gerrard reverting back to his support striker role against Benfica tonight, but Rafa Benitez yesterday decided to make a surprising statement about the forthcoming games for Liverpool:
“Everybody wants to see attacking football – even the manager! If we can keep progressing in the Europa League and finish well in the Premier League, it will be easy to talk about the future.”
Whether we can take anything from these comments is debatable but although he said them slightly in jest, aware of his own image as a manager known for his defensive tactics, he can’t fail to see the positive aspects of playing in such an attacking way. The encouraging displays against Portsmouth and Sunderland at home are the way most fans would like to see the team play every week, and although Rafa has stated his intention to play that way every after both matches, there is always a feeling with the Liverpool manager that although he says the right things, he shies away from being braver and keeps to his safety first approach in subsequent matches. It certainly has served Rafa well in the past in European competitions and may well be the right approach for the Benfica game when the Reds will be up against a side which is rampant in attack at home, but for me it smacks of a small club mentality if the same approach is used in away league matches.
Small clubs will tend to change their style away from home to prevent the opposition from playing rather than impose their own style on the opposition. You will see teams like Manchester United and Chelsea adapt their style (like Rafa does) in away European games because you are up against quality opposition, but you will rarely see this in the league. Manchester United’s recent 4-0 win at Bolton Wanderers is a prime example of this, as is Barcelona’s predilection in the league to use the same formation and tactics no matter who they play against or where they play them. The performance against Sunderland in the first half should be the benchmark for all subsequent performances – both home and away. Tactics, style and formation all worked perfectly for the first time in a long time and although you can’t expect such fluidity from the team every week, if the intent, application and attitude are there, performances will generally follow. Rafa however appears to be stubborn as always on such issues, and has stated his intention not to persist with Gerrard in central midfield..
Perhaps Rafa does not believe that this team is capable of such performances away from Anfield, and in the same comments he made about wanting to see attacking football, he stated:
“Liverpool is a massive club and there are lots of players thinking about coming here. That’s why it is important for the future that we perform now. The effort has been good but we need to keep pushing. We know we have not done well this season and that has had an impact on our confidence. But you cannot change what has happened in the past. The only thing we can do is keep moving forward and try our best until the end of the season – that is the message.”
He obviously feels he can get the effort out of this team to perform , but going by his comments, he feels that he will need other players in the summer after a season of disappointment so as to play the consistent high quality football needed to win the title.
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