So I was there feeling good about myself over the considered approach I made to the Rafa situation, when I came across this set of points (thanks to Empire of the Kop for their video links) made by John Barnes. Now I loved Barnes as a player, didn’t think too much of him afterwards as a pundit, TV show host or a coach, but one thing you can say about the man is that he thinks about his football.
His thoughts on keeping the faith are said like a true fan of Liverpool and evidently someone who is not just caught up with the mood of the moment. It is definitely words to make you think on.
Then the brother goes onto make further sense by outlining Rafa’s budgetary controls and how that impacts on the players he can sign as well as reiterating the crucial contextual factor of the last season or so.
To polish things off for those who will never walk alone, Barnesie outlines why we have to take on board the style in which Rafa has to play and how that is so intertwined with the subsequent performances his side has displayed. These are well constructed views on the state at the moment and the bottom line is this, I agree with Barnesie that we have to give the brother until the end of the season to see what he has to say for himself.
The only issue I have with Barnesie’s argument is that it doesn’t take into account how Rafa is evidently failing in maximising the talent he currently has. Perhaps a new manager would be able to make the most of the resources he has, or at least unearth talent that would see the club playing it’s traditional attractive football attacking where possible, with natural width and sharp counter-attack. The fact that Wenger and O’Neill are able to put that together with Arsenal and Aston Villa respectively suggests it can be done. Rafa’s performances consistently since he’s arrived has not shown that capacity. I’d be intrigued to see what a more progressive coach could do with the resources we currently have, as well as how he would improve the side with even second level signings.
It’s not that I’m overly optimistic, it’s that I see the football Rafa produces and I believe we can play better than that. I believe we can play consistently winning effective football without resorting to defensive formations as we did against Portsmouth and Stoke. Also without relying on two players, but a genuine team. For example Villa have several key players across the side that are quality players – Friedel in goal, Ashley Young, Gabby Agbonlahor, James Milner. They have a strong defensive unit, but they can do the business up front. Liverpool with it’s current squad is better than Villa, but the table isn’t reflecting that. The resources are not an excuse. When we find the right coach to coax the best out of the players on a consistent basis, there’s no reason why the club cannot be even pushing the top two for honours. That doesn’t contradict my insistence that we give Rafa the chance at least til the end of the season. It is to state clearly I’ve already had reservations and would want to see what another guy could do, having given the incumbent sufficient time to suggest otherwise.