The end of season lap of honour must have provoked mixed feelings from the Anfield faithful. Currently they share the position jointly with their arch rivals Manchester United of being English football’s most successful club but in reality they are slipping further behind with every passing year. They are currently 21 points behind the leaders and in truth should be further behind. The inadequacies shown by Manchester City and Tottenham in chasing for the 4th Champions League position is worrying for those who maintain the belief that the Premiership is the best in the world.
It is now 20 years since Liverpool lifted the title and were regarded as the best team in the land. They haven’t really even competed for the title until last season and they have followed that up by falling further behind. The questions facing the club’s ownership, the manager’s control over the dressing room and even the form of their top players has been blamed on their sub-standard form this season.
The speculation surrounding Benitez is approaching fever pitch as the season reaches its climax. Rumours of a move to the Italian giants Juventus first appeared in January and we are now hearing of speculation about a return to Spain with Real Madrid. He has looked like a beaten man at various stages this season with no idea how to get the club out of crisis; certainly key injuries have not helped but his squad has been left exposed due to lack of quality. At the end of his 6th season in charge he must wonder if he can take the club any further; it shouldn’t take him too long to come to the conclusion that he can’t!
Liverpool look like a side that has run out of ideas and the senior players look like they need some fresh blood injected into the side, both on the playing and coaching side of things. The look on Gerrard’s face when Torres was taken off a couple of weeks ago was one of shock and utter disbelief. When they have played attacking, fluid football they have looked a decent side who could challenge for the title but Benitez’s instinct is always one of caution. For too long this season they have operated with 2 defensive midfield players at home which would be unthinkable at Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge. The ineffective use of Ryan Babel since his arrival at the club has come as a real disappointment to supporters who thought they had snatched one of the hot young talents in European Football.
At the start of the season speculation was that Liverpool would struggle due to the loss of Alonso to Real Madrid for £30 million. The acquisition of Aquilani did ease some of the fans but news of a fresh injury broke shortly afterwards which has curtailed his first season in English football. Alonso was the link man between defence and attack, something which Liverpool have really struggled to find since his departure. The fee to Madrid was too high in my opinion but losing such a key player would have hurt the top players at the club.
The best thing for both parties would be for Benitez to leave. It is said that whilst they may have struggled for success he has revolutionised the training facilities and infrastructure of the club which will stand Liverpool in good stead going forward. The key for the club is who replaces the American investors in terms of finances but whoever succeeds Benitez will need time, money and patience. Players must be sold and fans should face the prospect of losing one or two top players again this summer. It is not going to be an overnight success story for Liverpool but strengthening the squad and battling to regain Champions League status is a must for next season. My suggestion would be Martin O’Neill who would sort out the egos at the club and get a will to win installed in them that they have missed this season.