I have never been an unabashed pro-Rafa fanatic but neither have I been in the other camp, attacking every decision he makes and slating him for bad results. It is very clear to me that many of the problems of Liverpool FC are a combination of factors, which do include managerial mistakes by Benitez but centre around the issues of American ownership. Certainly, mistakes have been made in signing and selling players over the last few seasons, but the net amount of what Rafa has had to spend in those years has also been remarkably low for a side purporting to challenge for the Premier League title.
Expectations were certainly heightened after last season’s second place, and he was always set for a fall this season if he didn’t improve on his runner up position. We can gone on all night about the mistakes of selling Xabi Alonso, the failed purchase of Gareth Barry, the lack of a replacement for Robbie Keane and they can be attributed to both the board and the manager. The media tends to hit Rafa over the head with these issues, and they are utilised to affect the reasoning for the demands of his dismissal. Of course, there is a big split among Reds fans about his future, but there is certainly no indication of that split in the media. It is a united against him and Rafa himself in an interview today with the Spanish media, talked about the British press
“I hope things get better and that Liverpool are competitive again. My critics in London say that I am not a good manager but they forget many details. Liverpool have averaged 69 points in the last 12 seasons. We made a huge mistake, as we won four titles at the start. That meant people were expecting more, expectations rose and this year things haven’t been good since the start. But in reality in the Premier League it’s assumed that at the start a coach needs time to adapt. (Manchester United manager Sir Alex) Ferguson took seven years to win the Premier League.”
For me, Rafa puts things in the right perspective here. When he arrived at the club, he transformed a failing team to win the Champions League, following up his success with the FA Cup the next season and another European final the season after that. Since then though he has failed to win a trophy and like he said, he has been a victim of his own success in the early years of his reign. It doesn’t mean though that Rafa should be immune to criticism because of these successes but it should allow him a bit more time to succeed.
One bad season does not make a bad manager, and I think it is an excellent point that Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t win a league title for seven years. The media does have a selective memory and although it can’t be blamed for criticising Rafa for this shockingly bad season, it can be blamed for rewriting history and forgetting to admit mitigating circumstances as well. Liverpool have never spent £300m in three summers to create a title winning squad like Chelsea did, they have never spent £30m on a central defender like Ferguson did with Rio Ferdinand, and they haven’t ever been able to spend over £40m on a new strike force like Harry Redknapp has over the past year an a half. The media tends to have a love-in with certain managers and a love-hate relationship with some others. Rafa is certainly in the latter category now and they have really been out to get him.
He either has to ride the storm and get on with rebuilding the team, or make his way to sunnier climbs so Liverpool can get on with the mammoth task of getting a squad capable of challenging for some trophies again.
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