– Rafa’s reaction after the Wigan game on Monday showed that there is still some fire in his belly despite all the things that have gone on this season. He didn’t make excuses for his players and said exactly what he thought of the performance:
“We didn’t show attitude and we were behind and after that we were working very hard but working hard without game intelligence. It is hard to explain because we prepared for the game properly. We talked a lot about how to approach it. We knew how Wigan would play but there are too many things that we cannot understand. At such a crucial moment we should do much better than that so we have to analyse why it happened. You have to be really disappointed. You cannot be happy after a defeat in this way. It was difficult to explain.”
Benitez at least is aware that there are deficiencies in the side and that if they continue to put in performances like they did against Wigan; they have no hope of achieving a fourth place finish. He was particularly surprised by the performance because of what he said before the game about not repeating the sort of display that saw them lose to bottom side Portsmouth. That is why he was so perplexed as to why the performance was so poor and why he wanted the situation corrected as quickly as possible. He got an improved display against Lille but there is a lot more missing in the team than a lack of effort at the moment.
– Performance v Wigan – Despite a couple chances for Torres, the lack of efforts on target were a big concern considering the Latics had struggled at home and were flirting with relegation. Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said before the match that fourth place was Liverpool’s to lose and at the moment the Reds are certainly contriving to lose it. Benitez blamed the players after the match and although I think it was good he got angry, a large part of the blame for the performance must be down to Benitez’s own tactics. Having both Lucas and Mascherano playing as defensive midfielders against a less than threatening Wigan side is an incredibly negative tactic and it showed its flaws with the lack of shots on goal.
– Benitez’s loyalty to Emiliano Insua is very questionable. While it is admirable to be supportive of a young player playing his first year in the first team, it smacks of hypocrisy when he doesn’t show the same loyalty to others. Insua may well turn out to be a good player but it just seems completely inconsistent when Benitez has already said he cannot risk playing Aquilani, a 25 year old Italian international, because he cannot afford the 2 or 3 games necessary for the player to find his form in the crucial run-in to the end of the season. Even when Fabio Aurelio has been fit, he has favoured Insua and the faith seems to be misplaced even just by going by his display against Lille where he was skinned by Lille’s midfield on a number of occasions.
– Treatment of Babel – Benitez did a good thing by having a one to one talk with Babel, as his desire to play since has been clear to see. His form has also picked up and he may have felt that he could at last get a run of games in the team. Despite scoring against Unirea in the second leg of the Europa League though, he was left out for the Premier League match against Blackburn and it probably left him thinking what he has to do to get a regular starting place. He didn’t let his head drop though and he combined nicely with Torres against Lille in the first leg and will hope he can start against Portsmouth.