Liverpool legend Alan Hansen was quoted this week as saying “Pepe Reina has been so good for Liverpool during these recent desperate times that he’s saved them from dropping into even more into trouble than they’re already in.” And I have to say I couldn’t agree more.
Last season was Liverpool’s best league campaign in terms of points gained, that said, they still failed to topple Manchester United who claimed their third league title in a row, once again leaving the Kop craving for their first domestic title in 20 years.
After a very poor start to the season another year of waiting could still be on the cards, as Liverpool lie seventh in the league 13 points behind league leaders Chelsea, victories look to be as rare as snowflakes in a desert these days, with the Kop having only won once in their last ten games.
For Rafa Benitez in his 5th season in charge, his Premier League dreams in tatters, knocked out of the Carling Cup, and a crucial make or break week in the Champions League coming up. Liverpool need an away win to Hungarian champions Debrecen, but if Fiorentina are victorious against already qualified Lyon it will put the Kop out. However, if Fiorentina lose to Lyon, Liverpool will only need to beat the Italians; a draw would see Liverpool needing to win by a three goal margin to finish level on points but above the Italians via head-to-head ruling.
Failure to reach the knock-out stages would cost the club around £20million, almost as much as the club being relegated to the Championship. It would also cost just as much to sack manager Benitez, having signed a new 4 year contract in May, the Liverpool board will be reluctant to sack the Spaniard no matter how bad results get.
Some may say Benitez has never had the financial power to compete with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United; he has done very well in spending £230million, but still has not managed to put together a squad capable enough of winning a Premier League title.
Former Liverpool manager Graham Souness wrote recently that “For all the money Benitez has spent you could say only Pepe Reina, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres are truly world class players.”
This season Liverpool look to have gone two steps forward only to go four steps back, and look nowhere near like challenging for the league title. The squad has had its fair share of injuries in recent weeks but really when you look at the money Benitez has spent he should have players in reserve who can step up to the plate.
It is without doubt that Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard are Liverpool’s best outfield players, while Pepe Reina guards the net. However, their back four has question marks written all over it Jamie Carragher has shown that he is past it in recent weeks, also the loss of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid has meant they are lacking substance in midfield, and with Alberto Aquliani yet to start a game his presence has yet to be replaced.
Without Fernando Torres Liverpool have to rely on average players like Ryan Babel, Andrei Voronin and David Ngog, players who will never be part of a title winning side. Those players are all classic examples of the manager refusing to admit he’s got it wrong, that is why he plays them week in week out, especially Voronin who makes the free transfer Liverpool secured him on look like a waste of money.
I thought at the start of this season Liverpool would win their first title in 20 years, but at the moment I couldn’t be further off the mark. They look like the ones to drop outside on the Top 4, and not Arsenal.
It’s a crucial week for Liverpool Football Club because by the end of Tuesday night, they could be all but out of the running for every trophy, apart from the FA Cup. Rafa Benitez is a Liverpool for the long haul, so it’s a case of que sera sera.