Monday 11 December 2017

Rafa's sales pitch a load of Istanbul


RAFA Benitez has perfected the patter of a dodgy second-hand car salesman. During the current crisis he keeps telling any Liverpool follower still listening to be cool, and to ignore the lack of progress, even when the car keeps stalling.

The choking noises and the spluttering and the smoke billowing from under the bonnet -- all that will sort itself out. The destination might just take a little longer.

After each frustrating and puzzling breakdown, Mr Benitez pulls that fatherly face of his and promises all that's needed is one result to turn a corner. There, there. I mean there's no point panicking; where's that going to get you.

One win and we'll motor on, says Mr Benitez calmly, the smell of burning oil and tubes now acrid. Then, true to this word, along come Spurs like obliging roadkill and not exactly having the constitution of the Ox they roll across and wait for the bang. And Mr Benitez steps forth and announces that the dark days have passed and we can now see the light of our destination on the horizon. That's the light that he and only the most prescient of Liverpool followers could see -- sorry, sense -- was there all along.

And then we drive down to Wolves during the week and encounter a 0-0 draw, which is akin to a few wheels flying off and the plastic Jesus dropping from the dashboard.

To look on this as a bleak sign of the car's roadworthiness is too obvious. No, it's simply another test of faith, like when you start doubting God's plan after a natural disaster wipes out a significant portion of the world population. Typical of their grim outlook, the media was less than positive. Reports from Molineux cited a visiting team "bereft of ideas" and guilty of a "dismal" display. No one mentioned that it was the Yanks' fault. Or the injuries. And all those bloody ex-Liverpool players having a go.

And then Steven Gerrard starts talking the same language as Mr Benitez. Only now it isn't even a win that equates to turning a corner. It is drawing with Wolves! Not beating to Wolves! Drawing with Wolves. Mr Gerrard tells us that not losing to Wolves is a sign that the corner has been turned.

Why do we keep swallowing this garbage? Is it because we are inherently gullible or because we had one good ride in Istanbul in Mr Benitez's first year and got so damn giddy over that that we cannot tell a green light from a red? Was this first great ride in Istanbul not something of a fluke, pleasant and all as the sensation was? Surely unless we were all smoking peyote we knew that Liverpool were not the best team in Europe in 2005.

We felt they could kick on from there, only they haven't. In the domestic league, the teams of Benitez have been impotent and witless and found out. Through that more honest prism they sometimes achieve a mechanical efficiency but they will never reach any higher or hold the line for long. They have become increasingly unwatchable.

Last season's title challenge crumbled because of a lack of confidence by management in trusting the team to play football, and a preoccupation with ultra-cautious formations. It was an opportunity lost.

In terms of knowing a good footballer from a bad or average one, Benitez has shown time and time again that he is third-rate. Liverpool will never win a league under Benitez. No way, Jose. If you're happy with that, keep on supporting him.

Sunday Independent

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