Big losses to Spurs and Villa are not what Rafa Benitez had in mind when the season began. The pundits were pegging Liverpool to win the Premiership. The stuttering start has taken its toll and there are rumours that the Reds dressing room atmosphere is less salubrious nowadays.
Rafa had gotten into a well publicized spat before with Steven Gerrard who looked like a shadow of himself in the Spurs match but it is Ryan Babel who is getting the business end of the stick and was singled out for the team's pathetic display. It is hard to see Rafa alienating Gerrard, the team's talisman but Babel is particularly vulnerable having never cemented himself into the hearts of the fans with his underachieving performances.
Unlike fellow winger, Florent Malouda, who also joined the Premiership in 2007 and was drifting away at Chelsea till Guus Hiddink came along and resuscitated his career making him indispensable to the team, Babel seems to have lost his way.
He reportedly became emotional after Rafa's outburst and is now asking for an Ajax transfer that will reunite him with his old club where he first became a sensation. What seems to gall Babel is that he was given assurances by the Liverpool coach this season he would supplant Albert Riera but since the Spurs match all he has managed is 14 minutes off the bench.
"There have been a lot of things promised, but they haven't been followed up."
This is not the first unpleasant disclosure rocking the Reds, as Xabi Alonso also unloaded on his former boss. Alonso earned Rafa's displeasure when he chose to be with his pregnant wife when she gave birth to their son, spurning the team in their CL second leg match against Inter. In turn, Alonso felt betrayed when he became the bargaining chip to fund Gareth Barry's move to the Reds. It never materialized as Barry ended up in City but it proved to be the turning point for Alonso.
"Last summer when the club proposed I had to be sold to get funds to sign new players. It was difficult to accept that.
"I accept it as a professional but that moment probably changed my mind - and I thought, maybe, from that moment it was maybe time for a change."
If Rafa is not careful, all that largesse that he earned from the magical 2005 CL win will disappear. So far that and the fact that Rafa has inveigled himself into an indispensable position as the coach saving the club from the ignorance of its American owners has provided a bulwark against criticism.
This season could prove his undoing. I have wondered what possessed him to bring on Alberto Aquilani when the Roma midfielder underwent ankle surgery for a serious injury that has kept him out for more than six months. The Premiership is not good testing grounds for less than match fit players. As an Arsenal fan it is frustrating to see how many months have elapsed since Tomas Rosicky and Eduardo endured their injuries. The dressing room showdowns gives a glimpse into a team in some sort of disarray which could all be solved quickly if the Reds start winning matches with a degree of self assurance.