So, Liverpool “master tactician”, Rafa Benitez, believes it is easier to find success in the Champions League than the Premiership? I have a theory that backs up maybe why that is. Firstly, lets examine Liverpool under Benitez’s reign:
1 Champions League Win & 1 FA Cup win (major trophies excluding the European Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup).
Pretty good to be honest. In four years he has won (although rather fortunately) the Champions League and triumphed in the oldest domestic cup in the world. But we’re always being constantly told that ‘Liverpool would triumph in the league if he stopped his squad rotation policy’. I think that is utter garbage and fans who believe this need to open their eyes.
Liverpool’s squad isn’t as good as the other top teams in the Premiership. Aside from the two world class players that they have in Gerrard and Torres, they can not compete with the other three sides. This season they have drawn twice with Chelsea, lost to United and drawn with Arsenal. Combine this with a defeat away to Reading and home draws with Aston Villa and Wigan, it is no surprise to see them fighting for a Champions League place. However, will they need that 4th spot if they repeat their 2005 success?
The 2005 final was a freak and I doubt we’ll ever see a Milan side ever throw away a 3 goal lead again. Having said that it showed great character and determination to claw back three goals. But what about the other competitions? 5th in the Premiership and miles behind Chelsea and went out of the FA Cup to Burnley. Season after as European Champions they go out to Benfica but win the FA Cup. Lastly, the 2006/07 season, they finished light years behind United and went out in the third round to Arsenal – however they reached the European Cup final ahead of tired rivals Chelsea and United. This gets me to the theory…
Ferguson, Clough and Mourinho to name a few successful managers over the years used a certain type of mentality to fire up players. This was in the form of a siege mentality that everyone is against us and we need to rally together in order to overcome this. The difference between Ferguson’s United, Clough’s Forest or Mourinho’s Chelsea was that they were fighting for a lot more than Benitez’s Liverpool.
Looking at Liverpool against Inter Milan it was like a different team (and no not down to the squad rotation), a team that has nothing else to play for. Liverpool’s siege mentality isn’t reserved for those European nights. Benitez has stumbled upon this by having been eliminated from every other competition. The media then build him up as some master tactician that knows how to outwit European opposition. I guarantee, if Liverpool were lead leaders, they wouldn’t have beaten Inter Milan (who are league leaders for their domestic title) the other night. Liverpool deploy a defensive counter attack system, which yes can help to exploit attack minded teams in Europe. His two holding midfield policy does help to stifle space in attacking third for Liverpool’s opponents but at what attacking cost? Liverpool have succeeded in Europe due to the defensive tactics that Benitez adopts and also the fact that they have nothing else to play for so their players are fitter.
Now i’m not a bitter red as some Liverpool fans may think, why would I be bitter? I do think we sing a little too much about Liverpool at Old Trafford, which should only be reserved to when we play Liverpool. But I can’t help to see that the media play on this ‘European tactician tag’ with Benitez. It’s painting a false picture of how far away Liverpool are from competing for a number of honours. Liverpool are a top side, but world class? European Champions class? They shouldn’t be.
Running out of time? Or running out of luck?