Derby 1, Liverpool 2
[McEveley 67, Torres 12, Gerrard 90+1]
I am constantly confused by the team we call Liverpool. Maddeningly inconsistent, frustratingly schizophrenic, and seemingly no end in sight. The return fixture of a 6-0 thrashing back in August, and we get treated to this turd of a game. All the chances, all the possession, all the effort, and we need a right leg reflex from Steven Gerrard to secure three crucial points. Sure, it sounds ridiculous to call points crucial at this stage, but honestly: how many slip-ups do the big clubs make with just under half a season to play?
After watching this game, I'm convinced of three things:
1. Fernando Torres will be the Premiership Player of the Year
2. Xabi Alonso's health is the key to our midfield running smoothly
3. Rafa Benitez needs to go
1 and 2 might be obvious, but 3 is where the match review ends and the rambling begins.
Rafa Benitez is stopping this team going where they need to go. In his constant tinkering and rotation, he's not only alienating the key players at the club, but he's annoying the fans and his superiors by failing to get the quality and class out of an expensive, well-constructed squad.
Turning up for work every matchday, the players have no idea whether they'll get to do what they're there to do. Torres might sit out a trip to Birmingham, and then rest again if Fulham visits Anfield, and yet is it any wonder he can't get it done against Manchester United at home?
The big difference between us and the other members of the Big 4 is that nobody else fucking rotates. It's a fool's errand. They play the best team they have, time and time again, switching personnel only through injury or patently obvious fatigue. Rafa doesn't seem to let his players decide that, and with lineups changing almost daily, it's no wonder we're unable to string together a cohesive, smooth 90 minutes.
Taking all his woes and sob stories to the media didn't exactly help either. By not coming to the likes of Rick Parry and Gillett/Hicks when he began getting disgruntled, he set a precedent that he cannot be trusted to keep things within the hallowed halls of Anfield. That whole display of back-and-forth name-calling was laughable, and frankly, embarrassing. Rafa can't play the media game like Fergie and Arsene can.
I am CONVINCED that they're actively shopping for a new skipper, with the following hints:
1. After that recent "11th hour" meeting with management, they announced that Rick Parry's in charge of upcoming transfers, NOT Rafa.
2. His squad rotations and lineup tinkering has been less drastic in recent weeks.
By not giving Rafa what he ultimately wanted, and by his noticeable reduction in Napoleonic squad mixing-and-matching, surely I have to believe that Rafa's auditioning to keep his job longer than the end of the season.
He's not only been publicly censured and restricted in what he can do in the January transfer window, but he's stopped doing what he so vehemently imposed at the beginning of the season, in terms of day-to-day management.
I'm drunk, I'm tired, and I'm disheartened by our win today. Sure, it's 3 points, but they didn't really deserve it. Players were admonishing one another on the pitch, there was bickering after that Derby equalizer and near-miss from Giles Barnes at the death, and Rafa's meek gesturing and communication of tactics on the sideline demonstrated that all is obviously not well.
I put it firmly on Rafa's head. Show him the door by the end of January.
[Of course, it's not all doom and gloom. It's another win, and Arsenal's draw today keeps us in the hunt. 9 points back from Man U with a game in hand on Chelsea, Arse and Man U, so it could be worse. Still, if Rafa's going to go, get him gone now and we can still have a sniff of the Premiership come season's end.]