There is no denying that the loss against Arsenal last night was frustrating for the majority of us. Many of us had expected that we would win this game because, at long last, we had players coming back from injuries and Rafa had almost his best players at his disposal. It was also a great opportunity to close the gap at the top, especially when the other contenders for the top four faltered in one way or another.
Well, personally it had slipped my mind that players who are back from an injury would be rusty, as what we saw in Torres who would have easily scored that one clear opportunity he had in the first half. Torres' display last night was clearly an indication of rustiness because we all know what he is capable of. The same goes for Aquilani who came in in the second half, and asking him to salvage us the game was in a way asking a bit too much.
Our first-half performance was a good indication of our team being back to its best form. If our finishings were better or if Torres were fully-fit, I am sure our display in the first-half itself would have assured us a win. My major complaint last night was Benayoun having to play on the right because if we had Reira fit, he would have provided us with more crosses. Benayoun, as we saw, had to always cut in as I am sure his left foot for crosses would have been as good as to Aurelio's right-foot.
Motivational wise, Arsenal had a good cause to go all out since a win for them would have taken them 3 points off the Mancs with a game in hand, which they managed. I am not saying that we didn't have that motivation but clearly what happened in the second half was something we were not prepared for.
After all the onslaughts we put unto Arsenal, to see the ball deflecting that a many times before Johnson's own goal was devastating in a way. Although it would have been difficult to read it in the players, I am sure they would have thought "WTF! With all the effort of having an almost full squad that played some decent football, after only 5 mins in the second half this happens. Did we deserve this?" This after having a call for a clear-cut penalty denied by the ref. Then 8 minutes laters, Arshavin who hardly had a game, scored from the only half-chance that he got. It would not have been easy for the players to be so composed after that. Hence we saw a wee bit of desperation afterwards when the balls were most of the time quickly knocked forward in hopes it would fall to our forwards. The rest is history. Playing against Arsenal is of course never easy, and that is an understatement.
I have been called a Rafalogist by some quarters and again I would like to state again that I am against those who thinks by removing Rafa out now, all our problems will be solved. They call me Rafalogist and I call them Anti-Rafa Brigade. I would like to think that some amongst the Anti-Rafa Brigade are just frustrated while some fail to see what Rafa has done for us since taking over. They would rather listen to SlySport and the likes of Souness (don't you love Rafa's response to both Souness and Klinsmann?) and Redknapp jr. Well, there is no point in repeating what I have been thinking so far because it has been stated many times over.
What really mindboggles me is some of these fans are actually happy when we falter because it proves their argument. They do not want to listen to the facts that for a team to succeed nowadays, it needs strong backing of funds, not only for buying players but also for paying high wages to make them happy enough to warm the bench.
What we have suspected a long time ago was mentioned by Rafa Benitez himself that the priority this year was to take care of the debt situation in LFC. That means Rafa needed and will need to sell to buy and to sell to increase the players wages when we offer them new contracts. That means Rafa would need to sell to service the debts. And I will not be surprised if Mascha is sold in the summer (extend his contract before that so that we get a better price for him when Barcelona come knocking) because we need to pay our debts. Debts which was not there before the American Jokers took over. And when Rafa sells, making a profit in the process, he will only receive a paltry sum for the players. Just like in the case of Alonso.
Well, here we have a manager who just signed a new five-year contract knowing the situation beforehand and agreed with the owners. So, even if Rafa did not sign the extension, some other manager would have done the same and that manager would have been facing the same kind of problems Rafa is facing in relation to funds for players. So, how different would things be then? But what is important in this aspect is we do not become another Leeds United. And we should be backing the team and the manager to ensure we qualify for the CL next season. Clearly this added pressure on the team is not needed at this moment.
Some might argue Rafa's tactics and approaches to games are wrong, hence we are not performing (forget about the injuries we have had because some of these fans do not want to hear that). Last season Rafa showed what the team is capable of and his tactics, if they were wrong, wouldn't have taken us so close to the title. Some fans argue the players he has brought to the club are not good enough. Well, we know the sort of players he wanted but could not get them due to either lack of funds or Parry's blunders. But look at the line-up we have at the moment and count how many players are good enough to be playing for their international teams. If Rafa is blind to talent, then you need to also accuse the international managers to be blind too.
In a nutshell, if we were to give Michael Schumacher a Proton Saga he will also falter. Then we ask for the head of Schumacher because he failed to deliver and ask Jensen Button to drive the car. And it will go on and on. Bad analogy, I know, because clearly these drivers will never ever be able to improve the Proton Saga into a Ferrari, but in the case of Liverpool, Rafa will be able to at least take us close to the finishing line ahead. Something he almost did last season, against all the odds facing us in the face. And I believe, given enough time and patience, he will eventually find the balance he is seeking and deliver us the Holy Grail.