Premiership sack-race claims it’s first victim- and it’s not Benitez!

November 24, 2009

I started writing this blog yesterday. Yesterday being the day when no Premiership manager had yet lost their job, and also being the day the SIXTEENTH Serie A boss got the bullet. Of course, today being a new day, Paul Hart has been told to clear his desk so my blog twists in focus. Nevertheless, I shall plow on.

In my humble opinion, the step towards giving managers the required time to do their jobs is to be applauded. Statistics tell us that clubs who back their managers are generally more successful. Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and David Moyes have all experienced rough patches in their club career. Indeed, legend has it Ferguson was an FA Cup defeat away from the boot as far back as 1990. Arsene Wenger survived a few calls for his head in the years after their Champions League Final defeat, and David Moyes suffered from a couple of relegation battles after Everton’s earlier spells in the dizzy heights of the league.

However, there comes a time when club chairmen simply have to say goodbye and goodnight. The sacking of Paul Hart was perhaps premature, coming only after a few months of his tenure. The same is not to be said of Rafa Benitez at Anfield.

I know, it may seem odd to many, and my understanding is the vast majority of Liverpool fans are firmly behind the bearded one. Indeed, the majority appear to blame the board for Liverpool’s current plight, which will not be aided by tonight’s Champions League result.

As a neutral though, I think the fans are wide of the mark. Yes, there are obviously board room issues, and Hicks and Gillette must have the same attraction to the Koppites as a turd on a stick. That being said, surely Benitez must take a share of the blame? After all, Benitez is the man who decides which players he wants to keep isn’t he? And he is the reason why Liverpool’s squad is now spread so thinly.

Benitez could have had a backroom team of Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, and they’d still have been able to tell him allowing Robbie Keane to leave last January was a mistake. Ultimately, I believe it was that decision which cost Liverpool the championship. Now I understand he may not have played every week, and undoubtedly Torres was the far superior of the two. But winning the Premiership takes a squad, and it is for that reason why I think Liverpool will finish outside the top 4 this year.

Liverpool are so short up front, and without Torres, they are pretty impotent, with only Ngog of any note. Compare that to their immediate competition from Eastlands and White Hart Lane. City have Adebayor, Robiniho, Carlos Tevez, Santa Cruz and Craig Bellamy. Spurs have Robbie Keane, Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe, and Roman Pavlyuchenko. And that’s only when you consider forwards, it’s much the same throughout the squads.

I don’t care what any Liverpool fan says to me, the blame for this lack of squad depth can only be laid at Benitez’s feet. It would appear to me that his priority is still the Champions League, despite Manchester United equalling the league title record last year. The fact he has got knocked out of that before Christmas may force the board’s hand in the next few days. Failing that, a Merseyside derby defeat may be enough to turn the tide of support against him.

Then again, it could be his FA Cup moment. Wonder if he’ll be calling Fergie for advice…

8 Responses to “Premiership sack-race claims it’s first victim- and it’s not Benitez!”

  1. Tony McLeish Says:


    Decent article mate but i think you are alittle wide off the Mark. This Liverpool team is virtually the same one which came very close last season, scored the most goals and had the fewest defeats. Obviously they are enduring a bad spell coupled with an injury list that a few weeks back totalled 15 players.
    Indeed we do suffer from a lack of depth especially in the striker department however both Spurs and City as you mentioned have considerably more financial resources at their disposal than Liverpool do. The issue with Robbie Keane for me is quite clear,he was only ever going to be a back up at liverpool with the system empoyed as Gerrard plays in his prefferred position and as such he had to go as he would not have wanted to stay as a sub.
    As a Liverpool fan for 35+ years i believe we have actually over achieved in recent seasons and the witchunt against Benitez is ridiculous. Premier league success is married with Financial strenght. The statistics will bear this out. I believe that since Benitez took charge he has a net spend of around 20 million a season.This was a club that was regularly languishing 20 points below Utd/chelsea. Therefor his starting point was years off the afforementioned two. Finishing in the top 4 would be reasonable success this season as there is greater competition for thes places. Ultimately untill Liverpool get the ownership issue sorted, a new stadium built and serious investment in the team it will always be a very tall order to win the league.

  2. Mike McKenna Says:


    Cheers for your comments fella.

    I think you make a reasonable point, but needless to say I don’t agree.

    I believe that Benitez has been able to sign about 70 players since he took over, and has spent a couple of hundred million quid. I think it’s a bit rich then to say he hasn’t had the funds.

    His man-management was the reason you lost Crouch, Pennant Alonso etc and also could see Mascherano and Babbel leave soon.

    As for last season, yes, you had a good year as you say. I’m not disputing the strength of your team mate, which when everybody is fit is pure class.

    However, the reason you couldn’t take the title was a lack of depth. I think that considering the amount of money Rafa has spent, that’s unforgiveable. How twom players are so vital to a team with the kind of backing your manager has had is a mystery to fans of other clubs.

    That said, the club needs a big shake up. You need a board that have the cash to match their ambitions, and as you rightly say, a new ground too.

    I just don’t believe Benitez is the man to take you through the other side.

    • Tony McLeish Says:


      As you quite rightly say Benitez has spent over 200 million recouping well over a hundred in return. The lack of depth i believe is down to the fact that he has to target mainly the 5-10 million players. And as such this amounts to taking a bit of a gamble. How many of those players he has bought were being courted by the likes of Utd/chelsea/Arsenal?
      Its the old adage of getting what you pay for. Admittedly there has been some shockers, however interestingly he seems to have made a profit on most of the players he has bought and then sold on.
      Getting rid of managers mid season rarely bears any fruit. Unfortunately football is not a level playing field and success should not be measured purely on winning trophies, or surely 16/17 managers would be getting sacked every year in the premier league.
      Spurs have spent 150 million in the last 16 months, does that mean Redknapp should be sacked for failure to win the league or make the top 4?
      Of course not. in order for Spurs to gatecrash the top 4 they have to outspent those teams above them. The same applies to Liverpool in the quest to win the title.

  3. Mike McKenna Says:


    I think the thing you have to ask though is just how long do you wait? Obviously, Harry Redknapp has only been at Spurs for 16 months which isn’t a long time, but you can’t compare that to Benitez. Isn’t 5 years enough?

    In my eyes, Benitez has had enough time to win the league. As it is, it will pass you by for another year, and now you’re out of the Champions League too.

    If you replace him in the summer, the new man will have no time to ‘bed in’, and then next season may be a period of transition too.

    However, with you being out of the title race and out of Europe, now is a perfect time to replace the manager, and bring in somebody like Martin O’Neill. He’d then have the rest of the season to get his feet under the table, then have a good crack at the league next year.

  4. Tony McLeish Says:


    The point is that 5 years or 10 years is not the issue. Liverpool or anyone for that matter do not have any right to win titles. Football is financially driven in this day and age and i guess my point is that as a liverpool fan we need to be realistic and admit that we are a top 4 side and no more. To win the title we must consistently outspend our rivals and that is simply not the case. Given the position liverpool where in prior to Benitez arriving all in all he has done a good job. I feel confident that if Benitez was given the opportunity to sign 3 or 4 20 million + players in the summer we would not be having this debate.
    However i do take your point.
    In terms of replacing the manager, its simply not viable as the new man would expect money to spend which liverpool under the current ownership simply do not have.
    Remember it took ferguson 7 seasons of consistant spending at Utd before the title was secured. No one would argue that he should have been dismissed a couple of years earlier although at that time the vast majority of Utd fans wanted precisely that.
    Going out of the champions league is disastrous only in financial terms. How many people really believed that Liverpool could win that trophy this season?
    As a fellow football fan where do you stand on this question i have faced a lot today:
    Would you rather your club had a good run in the champs league, say quarter/semi final or go out in the group stage but then win the Europa league?

    Keep up the good work


  5. Mike McKenna Says:


    You’re right, it did take Fergie 7 years. However, Wenger did it in three years, so it IS possible. If you remember back, Arsenal were worse off than Liverpool when Wenger came in, and he soon turned them around.

    Obviously, Liverpool have no divine right to win the title, but this is the club that gave us the saying ‘first is first, second is nothing’ after all. As an outsider, I think you’re crying out for a change.

    As for your 20 million pound players, I think in his time you’ve signed a few. Torres, Keane, Mascherano, Babbel and Kuyt all cost at least close to that, and then you had the likes of Alonso, Pennant and Crouch who weren’t exactly cheap. I just think that if Benitez was a better man-manager, you’d have a stronger squad.

    You’d still have Keane and Crouch as forwards, and the player you miss most is Alonso. Those three players alone would put you in a much stronger position.

    And going out of the Champions League is also disastrous for prestige. The top players want to play in the latter rounds of the Champions League, and a failure to do so this year may put some players off from signing for you.

    As to your question, as a Celtic fan I had the same dilemma. What was a better achievement for us: the UEFA final of 2003 or making the last 16? If I’m honest, I’d say the CL last 16 is far greater than the UEFA final, so there’s your answer my friend.

  6. Tony McLeish Says:


    We could go back and forth forever here. I agree we do need a change, however not the manager, yet.
    Dirk Kuyt cost 10 million and Babel 11.5 mill.
    Alonso was signed for 10.5 and sold for 30+ million.Crouch was bought for 7 and sold for 11 million.Its been often mooted of late that had liverpool kept hold of crouch, keane and Bellamy they would have been able to manage the loss of torres. Whilst this is undoubtedly true the facts are they all wanted regular football hence their leaving.

    I suppose we’ll have to wait to the end of the season when i may agree with you more!!

  7. Mike McKenna Says:


    Ready for a change yet? Out the Cup, out the CL and can’t even beat Wolves. Surely he must walk now?

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