I Smell a Rat

I’ll admit it, Rafa has me utterly baffled and exasperated. I really don’t know what to think or even expect after tonight’s Carling Cup line-up.

The starting XI: Itandje, Finnan, Carra, Arbeloa, Aurielo, Benayoun, Lucas, Sissoko, Leto, Torres, Crouch.

The bench: Martin, Gerrard, Riise, Hobbs, Putterill.

I have my issues with starting Arbeloa ahead of Hobbs, but that can be rationalized by saying the Spainard could use the practice in the center should we need him to deputize for Hyypia. Then again, when is Hobbs going to play? When emergency dictates he must be forced into action without any experience?

But that’s not what really bothers me. What bothers me is Fernando Torres’ inclusion in the starting line-up. Why the fuck is he fit to start in the fucking Mickey Mouse League Cup but not fit for a starting place in a proper competition like the Fucking Premier League, three days earlier, where we actually need him?!

What the fuck is Rafa thinking? Bullshit excuses about defensive tactics aside, why would you sit El Nino against Birmingham only to risk him in the least important competition when you can play any number of youngsters in his place? Why is three points in the league (the admitted ‘bread and butter’ of the club) less important than the earliest round of a trophy no Liverpool fan would ever take over the other three?

God help me if Torres doesn’t start at Wigan this weekend.

Play your strongest XI in the Premier League, Rafa. Let’s worry about resting the talent when we’re a few points clear after the New Year. Feel free to sacrifice the Carling Cup — we don’t care. Win the league. That’s Liverpool fans actually care about.

Because LiveFooty/SopCast was being competely uncooperative, I didn’t get to watch but a few minutes of the action. Instead, I was forced to suffer with an audio commentary. While I only trust my own eyes, it did sound as if Torres was dangerous for most of the game. A HAT TRICK? Shocking, right? Why would we possibly want that pedigree starting Premier League games, playing week in and week out? Please, by all means, sit him for the all-important league and save him for crap cup competitions.

(I can only hope we’re treating to some bullshit excuse about how Torres doesn’t need to start because he scored all his goals in the second half)

And then, after complaining about Gerrard not being ‘fresh’ because of England duty (You’re not changing the international game. Get over it), Rafa brings the captain on for the last 15 minutes? And he leaves Torres on for the full 90? Why not pull him after his second goal?

What. the. fuck?

I can no longer defend Rafa and his rotation policy. I understood the initial rationale behind it, but he’s taken it much too far. It’s almost as if he’s deliberately picking the team just to flex his muscle and demonstrate his stubbornness. It’s approaching madness.

*clapping hands together and showing a clean set of palms*

I want nothing to do with this anymore. I’m out.

Just get the god-damned results in the league, Rafa. Please.

I don’t even want to talk about what will happen if you don’t…

As for the 4-1 win that takes Liverpool to the 4th round of the Carling Cup, I’m sure you can read about it here. I need to go put my head down.


17 Responses to “I Smell a Rat”

  1. 1 Georger September 25, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    im gonna tell myself the reason gerrard and riise were on the subs bench was that el zhar and insua played in todays reserves match ..

    the best thing that comes out of this is rafa possibly admitting torres has to start every game

  2. 2 FSURed September 25, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    Long-time reader; felt compelled to post after today.

    I’m equally as disgusted. 90 minutes for Torres in the most useless trophy competition in all of Europe, despite 4 points dropped on the last two weekends because WE COULDN’T SCORE A FREAKING GOAL. And I don’t want to hear any excuse either about how this lineup was in response to a strong Reading lineup. Reading is the type of team that should be trying for the Carling; it’s their best shot at silverware. This is the most complete Liverpool side in years, and now it seems like Rafa is trying to do everything in his power to muck it up.

    If there’s any bright spot to this game, at least Yossi seems like he could be an excellent replacement for Pennant if he continues to play as recklessly as he has lately.

  3. 3 Georger September 25, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    ‘It was a difficult game because Reading tried to play football ‘

    uh … huh

    well then barring a baseketballesque crossover of sports, torres should be playing every game

  4. 4 FSURed September 25, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    This was a gem too: “The understanding between [Torres] and Crouch was very good and I thought it was a fantastic team performance. ”

    Where, exactly, was this alleged understanding? I guess Crouch did a good job of “understanding” he needed to get out of the way while a class player showed him what a striker is supposed to look like. I remember Crouch doing nothing today, except congratulating other players and drawing fouls for jumping on defenders’ shoulders despite him being 7 inches taller than them. This is the angriest I’ve ever been after a win.

  5. 5 drew.catt September 25, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    Having just caught the same day delay on Setanta I can say this without any hesitation.

    Please Rafa, START TORRES IN EVERY MEANINGFUL MATCH WE HAVE THIS YEAR. If he’s physically capable of getting out of bed in the morning he can start for us. Understood. Great.

    Now, was I the only one worried every time Bikey swooped in to try and cripple Torres?

  6. 6 highlifer September 25, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    drew.catt I was worried the full 90. As much as we’re bashing Rafa now, think what we’d be doing if he’d gotten taken out. UGH.

  7. 7 nate September 25, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    I’m surprised Torres played, but I think today just shows that Benitez really does believe that Kuyt/Voronin were better suited to the Birmingham game, and that’s it. And it was a mistake, mostly because both underperformed, and Liverpool moves on.

    Hopefully today will have proven that Torres should play every game if possible, but given all the talk about Torres “exploiting space” and “using his speed” Benitez will probably continue being Benitez and rotate amongst all four, hopefully less as the season goes on and players hit a groove.

    I’ve not given up on rotation yet, because I know it’ll keep players fresh and there’s a clear reason for it, but I’ll agree that Benitez has gotten too cute at times, especially with the front line.

  8. 8 drew.catt September 25, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    I don’t even want to think about it highlifer.

    What I’ll say about the rotation policy is this. I’m still a supporter. I’ve spent too much time justifying it to myself and to a lot of other people to now go back on it.

    I think even when Rafa gets slated the most for it, the teams he puts out are more than capable of beating the opposition. You’re not going to be able to convince me that the team that started against Birmingham wasn’t entirely capable of beating them.

    We played poorly. It happens.

    That being said, I think Rafa needs to rotate around players, as opposed to dreaming up his lineup 2 days before. Reina, Carragher, Agger, Gerrard, Torres… every game. Then you rotate around those staples.

    So against teams that you expect to go out of their way to limit the space available to Torres you start Benayoun and Pennant to hold the ball, make some moves and draw defenders.

    You expect them to drop off, then you play Riise, Babel, and let Gerrard stride forward and draw out the defense with good, accurate shots to goal.

    Now I’m not Rafa, and I’m no football coach, but surely there’s some sense in not being totally reactionary all the time. Surely there’s some merit in forcing the opposition to react to us sometimes. Let them change their plans every once in a while.

    Meh, that’s my two cents about the whole thing. In the end, we have a coach that’ll do what he thinks is best for the team. If we think he’s mismanaging the team then we get someone else. Rafa hasn’t gone that far yet thankfully.

  9. 9 FSURed September 25, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    drew.catt, I think you said it perfectly. The one (and only) thing that bothers me about Rafa’s squad selections are that they are completely reactionary. While it’s a decision that has allowed us to progress against (supposedly) superior teams in Europe, it’s the same strategy that results in Torres not playing against Birmingham because their defense would be too tough for him. With all due respect to Rafa, it’s still Birmingham’s D, and Torres would have skinned them like he skinned Reading. Sometimes we just need to assert our will on the minnows — like we did against Derby — and not overthink it to the point that we convince ourselves that our world-class striker might not be able to break Birmingham’s defense.

  10. 10 ArkansasLFCSupporter September 26, 2007 at 12:58 am

    Does anyone else think sometimes Rafa just tries to “outsmart” the opposing managers and ends up overthinking things? I mean, I understand the rotation policy and the thinking behind it, but to me, it’s simple: Winning the Prem is goal #1, so play the best players in Prem games. I mean, instead of rotating players in a reactionary manner like some people have mentioned, set up the rotation around the idea of keeping Stevie G, Carra, Torres, etc. fresh and fit for (in order) Prem games, CL matches, FA Cup matches, and then use the Carling Cup ties to get experience for young guys and bench players who might have to play in the “big boy” matches should someone get injured. Sorry if this seems rambling and incoherent…I’m frustrated out of my mind after seeing us look horrible against the Blues with El Nino on the bench most of the time and then watching him thrash Reading today in a game that’s pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

  11. 11 The Booze Bus September 26, 2007 at 8:51 am

    If fit, never leave out of a Premier League Game:

    – Gerrard
    – Torres
    – Carragher
    – Finnan
    – Reina

    Other than that, rotate to your hearts content Rafa.

  12. 12 JT September 26, 2007 at 8:54 am

    I feel like it’s gotten to the point where Rafa keeps doing this just to show us that he’s in charge. No-one else understands the situation like he does, no-one can do what he is doing, etc. etc. etc.

    It’s fucking dumb, and I’m glad Torres essentially gave him the finger with last night’s performance. Normally, I’m not one who likes to see managers kow-tow excessively to public outcry, but this is one instance where it absolutely, positively has to be followed: PLAY TORRES.

    If Torres hadn’t played so well last night, that would have given Rafa more ammunition for his policy, so we must be thankful that it did not happen, at least.

    I agree with everyone here — if we keep seeing shitty lineups because of Rafa’s bullheadedness, and we keep dropping points in the one competition we should care about…. look out Rafa. The media will not be so kind, and it’s not entirely inconceivable to see him get squeezed out of his roost.

  13. 14 beingsven September 26, 2007 at 10:20 am

    Well said, everybody. I love to see such intelligent and passionate discourse after a less-than-intelligent post.

    And JT, maybe we could t-shirts made up: FREE THE ANFIELD 9!

    (because of his jersey number)

  14. 15 JT September 26, 2007 at 11:10 am

    YES! let’s totally do that. I’ll email you.

  15. 16 ArkansasLFCSupporter September 26, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    I would take one of those t-shirts!

  16. 17 Johninho September 27, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    Size XL, please. If I can get white lettering on red shirt instead of the other way around, that would be more… Liverpudlian.


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