Liverpool FC is a
club in crisis
Comment by David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
They say that a fish rots from the head
down – and the fishy stench emanating from Anfield at
present is overpowering. Out of the Champions League. Out of
the FA Cup. Out of the Carling Cup. Their best two players
now out of action.
How much longer before Rafael Benitez is out of a job?
The likelihood is, not any time soon.
And that highlights the insurmountable problems faced by
Liverpool Football Club.
Not because I believe the time has come to change managers
For what it’s worth I still believe Benitez has the
managerial talent, acumen and most importantly appetite to
turn things around.
But alarmingly the custodians of Liverpool Football Club
lack the focus and the single-minded strength of purpose to
make such an onerous decision, even if the desire existed
for such a change.
Liverpool is pulling in several different directions – and
has been for years – that’s not a sign of a healthy football
The absentee landlords aren’t talking to each other, unless
it’s for a media soundbite to pretend they’re still best of
They employ a manager who knows they tried – and failed – to
replace him two years ago.
By way of apology – and a sop to the fans – he was handed a
five year contract, but they then ran out of money to
And they’ve just appointed a new Managing Director with an
admirable pedigree, who finds himself stuck in the middle of
the whole holy mess.
That lack of focus has now seeped onto the pitch.
Liverpool don’t, and haven’t looked, like a team with any
kind of sense of direction for weeks.
Not since the closing weeks of last season, in fact.
The Reds need leaders, on and off the pitch.
But everywhere you look are men fudging responsibility.
I exclude the admirable Jamie Carragher from that criticism.
Whatever you think of his performances this season, he
demanded responsibility on the pitch on Wednesday – and had
the balls to come out and apologise for the debacle
afterwards. But too many men are too happy to deflect
attention from their own misdemeanours.
“There were a lot of things out there I did not like” said
Happily he chose not to develop the theme.
Because if the 31,000 or so faithful – a worrying statistic
in itself – who turned up on the night had chosen to express
what they didn’t like, we’d still be listening now.
It wasn’t any match official’s fault that Liverpool went out
of the FA Cup on Wednesday, just as it wasn’t any referee’s
fault that Spurs, Aston Villa, Lyon, Fiorentina, Arsenal,
Chelsea, Portsmouth and Fulham (actually, I’ll give you that
last one) turned Liverpool over this season.
There are problems everywhere you look.
Emiliano Insua is a once promising youngster who desperately
needs a break and an injection of confidence.
Lucas doesn’t look like he will ever develop into the
polished playmaker his manager clearly believes he can
Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard have been over-relied
upon and over-played through injury, until they broke.
An alarming lack of creativity will never be addressed with
Dirk Kuyt and Fabio Aurelio in the wide positions.
While Alberto Aquilani, let’s be kind, looks like he needs
at least a settling in season to adjust to the unique
rigours of the Premier League.
Make no mistake, Liverpool is a club in the midst of a
“January is a poor quality market” wrote Hicks, in a poor
quality attempt to explain why the club wasn’t spending any
money in the transfer window.
But this is a poor quality Liverpool side, and if it doesn’t
qualify for next season’s Champions League the poverty of
Liverpool’s squad would become even more extreme.
Factor in another gruelling schedule for Liverpool’s most
influential performers – World Cup summers for Gerrard,
Torres, Johnson, Reina, Mascherano and Aquilani – and the
long-term outlook is as bleak as the short term prognosis.
The faithful fans, often mocked for the depth of their
loyalty, know it.
Don’t confuse loyalty for stupidity. The reaction of those
supporters on the final whistle on Wednesday showed that
their patience is running dry.
If you look hard there is scant consolation.
When all the balls fall into place, there is still a decent
side struggling to get out.
You don’t win at Villa Park, win at the home of your
neighbours and defeat the reigning champions – even if this
season’s Manchester United is a paler version than last –
without possessing some quality.
But the bar has been set very high at Anfield, and the lack
of consistency displayed all season has been appalling.
The only men who can change that are the 11 who cross the
white line – at Stoke City tomorrow and against Spurs on
Rarely have two fixtures carried such significance for
Liverpool in recent times.
Victory, and Rafa Benitez can breathe out – for now.
Even more misery and it really is time for him to look over
Torres out for six weeks
- Gerrard out for two
Under-pressure Liverpool manager Rafa
Benitez today suffered another setback after Fernando Torres
was ruled out for six weeks.
The Spanish striker - who lasted just 29 minutes of the
Reds' disastrous FA Cup third round replay defeat to Reading
last night - requires knee surgery after scans revealed torn
Steven Gerrard, who was also forced off with injury, will be
out for a fortnight with a hamstring strain while Yossi
Benayoun could face a month on the sidelines with a broken
A club spokesman said: "Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres
both underwent scans earlier today after coming off in the
FA Cup tie against Reading.
"Steven has a hamstring strain and will be out for a
fortnight, while Fernando has torn a cartilage in his right
knee. The injury will require surgery and he is expected to
be sidelined for six weeks.
"Yossi Benayoun also suffered a fractured rib in the game
and will be unavailable for between three and four weeks."
Belt up for
Liverpool must keep faith with Rafa
Benitez in the hope of winning the Europa League or
finishing fourth in the Premier League.
So say former Reds players John Aldridge and Jason McAteer
despite Liverpool's 2-1 defeat to Championship side Reading
in the FA Cup third round.
Wednesday's loss marked a new low for Benitez, whose side is
not only out of both domestic cup competitions but has
failed to qualify for the later stages of the Champions
League for the first time in six years and sits only seventh
in the Premier League.
However, McAteer doesn't believe that Benitez should
shoulder all of the blame for his team's failings.
"We seem to have become a bit fragile at Anfield," he told
Sky Sports News.
"People are blaming Rafa Benitez and a few of the signings
but the team hasn't really changed a lot from last season.
"Yes, [Alvaro] Arbeloa and [Xabi] Alonso have gone but
[Glen] Johnson's come in and [Alberto] Aquilani has been
injured but is starting to get into the team and they are
two quality players.
"I don't think you can blame Rafa Benitez totally; last
night's performance was very disappointing from the fact
there was a lack of passion shown but that comes from the
players, not the manager.
"He doesn't have the purse you might think he has. He
doesn't have the funds to go into the market and spend
£20m-30m-40m on a top-class international, finished player.
"He buys players that have shown a lot of potential but a
player then has to fulfil it and Lucas and [Ryan] Babel
haven't done it.
"If Rafa Benitez was to go, who is going to come in with the
budget restrictions? It is going to be very, very difficult
for a top-class manager, which is what Liverpool deserve, to
come in and do anything with the budget Liverpool have got."
Aldridge also pointed the finger of blame at the squad,
highlighting a lack of consistency and quality in the
performances of the players this season.
"Rafa's under immense pressure; I think every manager in
football is at the moment, such is the way that it's gone
over the years.
"At the end of the day once they go over that white line
it's up to the players; a number of the players have lost
form dramatically," he said. "That word self-belief is big
in football; you've got to believe in what you are doing and
have confidence and that's been totally void.
"Four or five times in the last few months Liverpool have
thought they've turned the corner only to be beaten down the
lines after a couple of games; there's no consistency
"Rafa says he is working his hardest, working his best with
the players but we've got to see some results. Maybe Rafa
has confidence within himself because the team has lost
confidence and belief. It's there for everyone to see on the
"We are not scoring as many goals as we should be and we are
conceding a lot more than we have been doing. There is
perhaps a lack of togetherness on the pitch if anything."
Despite those problems, Aldridge says Liverpool should stand
by the man who guided the club to the Champions League title
at the end of his first season in charge.
"All managers are under pressure," he said. "Rafa's got
confidence in his own ability, if he didn't I'm sure he'd
walk away for the situation to help the club.
"Hopefully he can turn the tide. I don't think to get rid of
Rafa now is the answer. I think he has got to do the best he
can with the team until May, hopefully we can secure fourth
place and who knows, win the Europa Cup.
"At this point in time it seems a long way away but that's
what we hope and strive for and let's hope Rafa can do
Jamie Carragher has apologised to
Liverpool fans after their embarrassing FA Cup exit at the
hands of Reading.
The club's vice-captain admits that the Reds' performance
against the Championship strugglers was "not acceptable".
They led 1-0 via an own goal but conceded a late penalty and
then an extra-time goal to crash out of the competition.
"It was a very bad night for Liverpool and we can't disguise
that - we had to do more against a side from a lower
league," Carragher told the Liverpool Echo.
"We have to apologise for the way we performed. We have to
give credit to Reading, hold our hands up. We all like to
win but when you don't, you have to be a good loser.
"We have to accept they deserved it. But, at the same time,
we have got to look at ourselves and the way we performed
was not acceptable.
"We've got a massive game coming up against Stoke now. It
will be very tough, as we played extra time and we have got
to show enormous character to come back.
"But that's what we have got to do. We have got to move on
but, at the same time, we have to say sorry to the fans who
came to Anfield and all those watching on TV."
Liverpool FC in chaos
both on and off the pitch
Comment by David Randles - Liverpool Echo
It seemed like business as usual for Rafa
Benitez last night. But this has been an unusual week.
The Liverpool manager remained composed and unflustered as
he answered some pressing questions about his team’s FA Cup
exit to Championship strugglers Reading.
“We have to improve defensively but we also have to take our
chances,” he said.
Of course, we’ve heard it before this season as Liverpool
have lurched from one problem to another.
At least the headlines might be dominated by events on the
The 2-1 defeat completed a couple of miserable days when,
not for the first time in recent years at Anfield, football
has taken a back seat.
In what should have been an uneventful build-up to the third
round replay it was off the field matters that caused the
club further embarrassment.
Following the postponement of Saturday’s league game with
Tottenham, it should have been a slow news week.
Instead, in the time it takes to send an e-mail, all hell
Liverpool’s decision not to hold a pre-match press
conference ahead of last night’s match seemed wiser with
each trans-Atlantic digital exchange.
That decision had been taken long before Tom Hicks Jnr
decided to log on to check his inbox in the early hours of
Coincidentally, it also prevented Benitez having to field
further questions about matters that really shouldn’t
Just like Yossi Benayoun’s injury time trip on Shane Long
for the penalty that forced the tie into extra-time, the
presence of last night’s game appeared on the fixture list
like a hangover that’s been lingering since New Year’s Day.
But even the fact Liverpool now have just the Europa League
and fourth place to play for bears little comparison to the
headache being addressed at Boardroom level as a result of
the now notorious message sent to a fan by Hicks Jnr.
The pen may be mightier than the sword but the e-mail has
produced a whole new ball game this week, and it was that on
which Hicks Jnr impaled himself in an act of professional
suicide that ranks alongside Gerald Ratner’s ‘total crap’
With a knee-jerk apology for what he described as a ‘knee
jerk reaction’ he said: “I have great respect for Liverpool
Football Club, especially the clubs supporters.”
It was a strange way of showing it.
Of course, we don’t know what, if any, provocation Hicks Jnr
was faced with before hitting the detonator marked ‘sent’ on
his short-lived Anfield director career.
Either way, someone in his now former position should know
better. But, then, this is the same Tom Hicks Jnr who
breezed into the Sandon surrounded by bodyguards and then
wondered why he wasn’t welcome.
His consequent resignation from the board of directors and
parent company Kop Holdings was roundly welcomed by
supporters on Monday.
More negative publicity surrounding the club wasn’t however.
In offering his 'sincerest apologies' Hicks Jnr is said to
be mortified by the whole sorry affair. Whether his feelings
bear comparison to the emotions of Liverpool fans every time
the club's dirty linen is washed in public is another
One thing is for sure though. While uncertainty reigns over
the club's future, Tom Jnr will get over it.
If any good has come from the latest episode at Anfield it’s
that it has forced those in the corridors of power to put
their heads above the parapet to try and alleviate the
First we heard Tom Hicks Snr pledging the club will spend
big in the summer and that the new stadium will be the ‘game
changer’ for Liverpool.
Charm offensive; PR exercise, call it what you want, but
while the noises coming from Hicks Snr will be treated with
justified suspicion, the words of managing director
Christian Purslow made for better reading.
According to Purslow, while the club has no intention of
selling key players such as Fernando Torres and Steven
Gerrard, Liverpool could have new investors within the next
The latter suggests that Hicks and Gillett's stranglehold on
the club could at worst be diluted and at best dissolved.
It is thought the co-owners are only interested in the first
option for now, with Purslow said to have been sounding out
a list of potential investors interested in taking an equity
stake in the club.
That could attract the kind of funds to substantiate Hicks
Snr’s ‘big summer window’ comments while appearing as a step
in the right direction for those willing the club’s owners
to follow Hicks Jnr through the exit door.
running out of answers
The Irish Independet/PA Sport
Former Liverpool midfielder Jason McAteer
admits the Reds can have no excuses for their latest
Manager Rafael Benitez's troubled campaign took another turn
for the worse as his side were bundled out of the FA Cup by
Championship strugglers Reading on Wednesday night. The
Royals did need a late penalty to level the third-round
replay at Anfield but went on to secure a deserved 2-1
victory with a Shane Long goal in extra time.
The result increases the pressure on Benitez with his side
already out of the Champions League and seventh in the
Barclays Premier League. McAteer told LFC TV: "Sometimes you
just can't defend that kind of performance. It was poor."
He added: "Liverpool just didn't really create anything and
to be fair the better team won on the night."
Liverpool were weakened by the absences of Steven Gerrard
and Fernando Torres for the majority of the game after the
key pair were both forced off with injury.
McAteer now has serious concerns for the team should their
talismanic captain and star striker face time out.
He said: "They are the two players who can create something
out of absolutely nothing, they can produce a bit of magic.
"You just look around the team and when those two are not
there, who is going to create that bit of magic? Where is
that bit of leadership and quality?"
He added: "They seem really vulnerable all the time. The
back four are very fragile.
"Teams are coming, and even when they're going 1-0 down,
they know they are going to get a chance to score and
possibly go on to win the game."
vows to fight on at Liverpool
BBC Sport Online
Under-pressure Liverpool boss Rafael
Benitez has vowed to fight on, despite seeing his side exit
the FA Cup at the hands of Championship outfit Reading.
The Reds squandered a one-goal lead to lose 2-1 after extra
time in their third-round replay with the Royals.
Liverpool are already out of the Champions League and are 12
points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea.
"Everybody has been talking about me but I'll keep working
hard with my team," Benitez told the club's website.
"From the beginning of the season we have been a little bit
frustrated but we have to carry on. When you are in the race
you need to keep going.
"We are not in the competition [FA Cup] any more. If the
critics are fair, then it's OK but it's been the same for
The defeat was Liverpool's 12th of the season and leaves
them facing the very real likelihood of finishing the
campaign without a trophy for the fourth successive season,
although they are still in contention in the Europa League.
The Reds produced another below-par performance and were
deservedly beaten by a committed Reading side.
An own goal from Ryan Bertrand had given Liverpool the lead
but an injury-time penalty from Gylfi Sigurdsson and an
extra-time header from Shane Long turned the game in
"It was difficult to take as we were in the 92nd minute and
winning the game. Everything then changed," added Benitez,
who was also hit by the news that striker Fernando Torres
and midfielder Steven Gerrard require scans on the
respective knee and hamstring injuries they suffered against
"We started the second half better with more control of the
game but after this we were making some mistakes and they
"We played a strong team and we tried to win the game.
Sometimes you don't play as well as you can and sometimes
the other team plays well."
But former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson, who was
co-commentating for BBC Radio 5 live at Wednesday's game,
was dismayed by the club's latest defeat.
"It can't go on for much longer," said Lawrenson.
"They are still in the Europa League and that will be one
argument but the bigger argument has been that there hasn't
been any improvement in performance.
"You can talk about the 2-0 win over Manchester United or
the first half against Arsenal but, in general, to say it
has been average is being generous.
"Five or six of those players are, quite frankly, not good
enough. Fourth place and Champions League qualification,
looks a million miles away."
flushed by Royals
Shane Long's extra-time goal gave Reading
a deserved 2-1 victory over Liverpool in their FA Cup
third-round replay at Anfield.
Gylfi Sigurdsson's injury-time penalty forced the game into
extra-time to cancel out Ryan Bertrand's unfortunate own
goal on the stroke of half-time.
Long came off the bench to win the penalty after being
kicked by Yossi Benayoun inside the box and Sigurdsson
coolly slotted the ball past Diego Cavalieri, sending the
reserve goalkeeper the wrong way from the spot.
Reading grabbed the winner 10 minutes into the first period
of extra-time when Brynjar Gunnarsson skipped past Benayoun
and nutmegged Emiliano Insua before sending a cross over for
Long to head home from six yards.
To make matters worse on a miserable night for Rafa Benitez
he saw star duo Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard forced
off with knocks.
The Royals were quick to make their presence felt with some
uncompromising tackling. Matthew Mills got away with a
warning for clattering into Torres, before Jem Karacan was
booked for flattening Gerrard in the first four minutes.
And although Liverpool had the majority of the early
possession, Cavalieri had to make a fine save from
Sigurdsson's free-kick, then a shot on the turn from Simon
Dirk Kuyt needed treatment following a fierce challenge by
Bertrand, before Reading should have taken the lead after 22
minutes when Church's cross was allowed to reach the far
post - where Grzegorz Rasiak missed the target from three
Liverpool's problems worsened after 29 minutes when Torres
went off, replaced by David Ngog. The Spanish international
had never really recovered from that early bodycheck from
Mills and headed straight down the tunnel with Liverpool
doctor, Mark Waller, for treatment seemingly to a knee
The home side, at best, were aimless, but did manage to put
together a 40th-minute move which almost bore fruit. Philipp
Degen's strong angled run to the edge of the box produced a
pass for Benayoun, who curled a shot narrowly wide.
Mills was booked for a foul on Benayoun before Liverpool
grabbed a fortunate lead when Gerrard's angled shot clipped
Bertrand and deceived Adam Federici at the near post.
Liverpool's troubles worsened when Gerrard failed to appear
after the break, Ryan Babel coming on to join Ngog up front.
The Liverpool skipper was believed to have suffered a
With both talismen off the pitch and injured, it was left to
Liverpool's supporting cast to get through this tie.
Degen was booked for diving by referee Phil Dowd, having
fallen in the box but without a hint of an appeal.
Liverpool's response to their adversity was surprisingly
positive, and they pinned Reading back, with the visitors
bringing on midfielder Brian Howard for Kalifa Cisse on the
Next on for Reading was Jimmy Kebe for Rasiak five minutes
later - and someone they were still ahead after 80 minutes
when McAnuff ran 60-yards right through Liverpool's defence
before sidefooting wide from 12 yards with only Cavalieri to
Reading continued to press for an equaliser, and Church sent
a free header over the bar from 10 yards with five minutes
But Reading got their reward when Benayoun was adjudged to
have clipped Long's heels, and Sigurdsson stepped up to fire
home the penalty which took the tie into extra-time.
Emiliano Insua's run created a chance for Babel to force
Federici into a low save, but it was still Reading looking
the more confident.
And they stunned the Kop by taking the lead after 100
minutes. Gunnarsson pushed the ball between Insua's legs on
the right and crossed for Long to head home from close
Liverpool tried to respond, but even when Benayoun was
clear, he could only manage a weak shot that Federici saved
with his legs.
The second period of extra-time saw Liverpool struggle
desperately to save themselves. But their nervous play was
riddled with mistakes and terrible passing.
Jamie Carragher, Babel and Ngog all had shots which failed
to trouble Federici, and Reading more than deserved their