Over the past couple weeks, I’m really starting to think Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is actually a BigSoccer poster in disguise. You know, one of those crazy ones that suggest how MLS should expand to Richmond, or who posts crazy diatribes about mental confusion.
It seems fair to wonder at this point about his mental stabilities given how his January has gone. He famously launched what appeared to be an unprovoked verbal Scud missile attack on Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson on January 9, discussing everything from Ferguson’s views on fixtures to treatment of referees, etc.
Benitez did all this with his team at the top of the table of course, a fact he wanted to make sure was conveyed.
Since then, however, his side has played four times, and drawn four times. Once at Stoke, and twice at home against rivals Everton (once in the league and once in the FA Cup), then were pulled back for a 1-1 tie by Wigan this week.
In the process, Liverpool’s lead in the Premier League has disappeared, and they now actually sit third thanks to having a significantly worse goal differential than Chelsea.
There’s little time for the tailspin to continue if the club still wants to contend. Liverpool host Chelsea this Sunday at 11 a.m. eastern.
Benitez seemed to question Wigan’s tactics (which must have worked, they almost won the game) in the postgame; but you can find fault with Benitez himself for pulling captain Steven Gerrard out of that match late – especially since Liverpool were given a free kick moments later in prime Gerrard range, but even a free kick taker of Gerrard’s skill cannot score from the team seats beyond the touchline.
It’s to the point now where I really hope Benitez stays at Liverpool for the next 10 years. The last thing I want, as someone who roots for Manchester United, is for the Liverpool brass to knock Benitez to the curb and then go out and find somebody that knows what he’s doing (Mourinho, anyone?).
This Liverpool side has a good bit of talent, they have a midfield leader I can’t stand, and in a year when teams like Chelsea and Arsenal (and even United) have played at times like they have no desire at all to win the title – Liverpool should be on top.
And they were. But you get the feeling that Benitez is someone who no matter what lofty perch he might find his team in, he will do something to mess it up.
If Chelsea brush aside Liverpool on Sunday, my sense of it is you can brush aside Benitez’s boys from title contention this season.
I only wonder who Rafa will blame that on.
Rafa Benitez thinks about who he will go off on next. Arsene Wenger? Big Phil? Don Garber?