This is not much fun.
But that's always the way at the end of the day, isn't it, Clov?
It's the end of the day like any other day, isn't it, Clov?
Looks like it.
(Samuel Beckett, Endgame, 1957)
One has to wonder whether Rafa is having a good time coaching Liverpool these days. Its a bit hard to say when someone's emotional firmament is as sparse as Rafa's. But he seems to be going Gerard Houllier's way.
Rafa seems to be in the crosshairs again as he pulled Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun out of the Fulham game in another whimsical tactical switch.
One would think that the Man Utd win would be a big momentum builder and the two principal architects of that huge win would play though the Fulham match. It was illuminating to see Torres walking away with his eyes rolling as Babel took his place and Benayoun make way for Nathan Eccleston with a bewildered look as both clearly disagreed with Rafa's decisions. It was as if Rafa wanted to purge every memory of that Man Utd victory.
There is a case for Torres being protected as he is not a 100% fit but Benayoun whose creative presence is desperately needed cannot be explained.
One is reminded of the demise of Gerard Houllier in 2002-2003 whose tactical mistakes and inexplicable and unpopular substitutions hastened his exit. He also made a slew of transfer busts balanced out with some absolute gems.Yes, history does repeat itself.
Houllier like Rafa gave hope bought on with early success as Liverpool's manager leading them to the FA Cup, the League Cup, and the UEFA Cup in 2001 before spending most of the 2001-2002 season out with emergency heart surgery for a dissected aorta. In his absence, his assistant Phil Thompson took over as caretaker manager and under his guidance Liverpool achieved their best second place finish.
Patrick Barclay on those last days:
" Even Houllier's most ardent admirers would have to admit that his astute acquisitions - Didi Hamann, Sami Hyypia, Stephane Henchoz, John Arne Riise, Milan Baros and Gary McAllister come to mind - must be balanced against the likes of El Hadji Diouf, Salif Diao, Bruno Cheyrou and Bernard Diomede."
Rafa's record is equally schizophrenic. Jermain Pennant, Mark Gonzalez, Fernando Morientes, Craig Bellamy, Andrea Dossena proved duds. But then there is the sublime with Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina, Yossi Benayoun, and Javier Mascherano. He also persuaded Steven Gerrard to stay on and was responsible for Jamie Carragher's transformation to central defender. And we have yet to see Alberto Aquilani other than a pleasing cameo.
Even the current injury crisis has a whiff of Houllier missing Owen and Kewell after a defeat by Southampton.
" Can I just stress the fact that I wonder how Manchester United would cope without Van Nistelrooy, Scholes and Giggs or Arsenal without Henry, Bergkamp and Pires. This is what we have got. Five of the players who started against Everton were missing today, and the rest are not at the level we need because they are too young."
Has Rafa made a calculation that the Premiership is a lost cause and is now trying to salvage the CL campaign? Or has he mentally made an even bigger leap somewhere else? The first is a tactical move which could go horribly wrong but it still means that Rafa is committed. The other is when you look to replace him.
Maybe it is Kenny Dalglish and if one hazards a guess, Phil Thompson if he can be persuaded to return to Anfield. But Patrick Barclay ends with a warning "But the more money football craves the sillier it gets and even Liverpool, sad to say, have come to this."
Rafa should be given the benefit of the doubt.