Not sure about his background - but anything slightly possitive in the meadia at the moment will do me.
The truth behind Benitez
By Norman Hubbard
November 12, 2009
He has won the Champions League, but only one of his last nine fixtures. He still appears adored by many on the Kop, but is derided by still more on messageboards and phone-ins. He is one of the most divisive figures in football. But how many of the criticisms commonly levelled at Rafa Benitez stand up to analysis?
1. Benitez practises a rotation policy
Once this was unarguable. The 2-0 win against Fulham in November 2007 was the first time in exactly 100 games that the Liverpool manager named an unchanged team. Now, however, the picture is very different. Jose Reina, Lucas Leiva and Dirk Kuyt have started every Premier League game this season. Emiliano Insua has only missed one. Glen Johnson and Jamie Carragher were ever-presents until injury and suspension respectively ended their runs in the team. And few question the places occupied by Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres in the manager's plans.
2. Benitez prioritises Europe over the Premier League
It was an allegation voiced by the former Liverpool midfielder Ronnie Whelan recently. It is another that had some truth initially. In the last 18 months, however, there can be little doubt that Benitez's views have changed and there is a recognition that his reputation depends in part upon winning the Premier League. The weakest side he has fielded this season, at Fulham, had far less to do with the proximity of the trip to Lyon than injuries and illness that ruled out Gerrard, Johnson, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Albert Riera, Fabio Aurelio, Alberto Aquilani and Martin Kelly.
3. He has signed a lot of players and too few have succeeded
That is definitely true. In total, 76 have arrived at Anfield during his five-and-a-half years at the helm. Of those, 38 - in this observer's estimation - were not initially signed as first team players. A few, such as Insua, have become regulars; others - Dani Pacheco, Krisztian Nemeth, Daniel Sanchez Ayala, Mikel San Jose, Peter Gulacsi - are sufficiently young that they may yet emulate the Argentine. Many more of those 38, however, have already left Anfield, often as anonymous as when they arrived (Godwin Antwi and Besian Idrizaj, for instance).
The other 38 include 19 members of the current first team squad. Of those who have come and gone, five - Xabi Alonso, Luis Garcia, Alvaro Arbeloa, Momo Sissoko and Peter Crouch - justify being called successes. A further four - Scott Carson, Robbie Fowler, Craig Bellamy and Jermaine Pennant - produced mixed returns. The remaining 10 - Antonio Nunez, Josemi, Fernando Morientes, Mauricio Pellegrino, Bolo Zenden, Jan Kromkamp, Mark Gonzalez, Gabriel Paletta, Sebastian Leto and Robbie Keane - can safely be said to have failed. However, Benitez is entitled to argue that he made profits on several and that only Keane and Morientes ranked as expensive additions.
4. He has spent a lot of money
In the wider scheme of things, that is certainly correct. A total of £229 million is certainly substantial. It is, however, less than Manchester City's outlay in the last three transfer windows and little more than Chelsea's expenditure in the first 13 months after Roman Abramovich's takeover. It also excludes the money raised by selling players: around £118 million, meaning that, in six summers, his average spend is under £20 million. Whatever George Gillett and Tom Hicks insist, Benitez made a £12 million profit in January while his summer dealings only cost £2 million after the proceeds of the sales. In assessing the biggest buys, there is invariably the question of where the line is drawn, but of the 10 costliest, two - Aquilani and Johnson - are too soon into their Anfield careers to assess; three - Keane, Ryan Babel and Andrea Dossena - have disappointed; and five - Torres, Mascherano, Alonso, Crouch and Kuyt - have flourished.
5. Liverpool haven't improved under Benitez
Benitez is entitled to argue that he started from a lower base than their three principal rivals. In Gerard Houllier's final season, 2003-04, Liverpool amassed 60 points (30 fewer than Arsenal, 19 less than Chelsea and putting them 15 behind Manchester United). In Benitez's first year, they took 58 (37 behind Chelsea, 25 less than Arsenal and leaving them 19 adrift of Manchester United). It supports the argument that he inherited a substandard squad overloaded with deadwood. Last season, Liverpool ended with 86 points. That indicates a considerable improvement. However, with 19 points from 12 games thus far this campaign, they are only on course for 60. Does that mean they have progressed and then regressed?
6. Benitez fails as a man-manager
Separately, Torres, Gerrard and Carragher have all said that they struggle to think of conversations with Benitez that weren't about football. It suggests he is only interested in footballers as players, rather than as people. Alonso's departure this year can certainly be attributed to Benitez's attitude during his attempts to sell his fellow Spaniard the previous summer. Yet if Benitez's methods do not make him the next Harry Redknapp, the moaners have generally been those who did not feature regularly and many of his players, past and present, have produced the best form of their careers under him. And they include, in Gerrard, Torres, Carragher, Alonso, Reina and Mascherano, the leading players at Anfield in that time.
7. His interference harms players
It was a complaint voiced by Pennant, who said he was frustrated by his manager's continual presence on the touchline, forever conveying orders. Benitez could respond that his attention to detail has been responsible for some of his tactical triumphs and that tinkering with his players' positions has had benefits. Under Houllier, Carragher was normally deployed at full-back and Gerrard was sometimes the deepest man in midfield. Converting both to new roles has been justified.
8. He is a poor judge of a striker
It is an argument that gathers weight every time Andriy Voronin is on the pitch and one that is used against Benitez whenever Crouch, Keane or Bellamy scores. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that the two Tottenham forwards made their exit in part because the success of the Gerrard-Torres axis limited their opportunities, a fate that might have befallen Michael Owen had Benitez opted to bring him back to Anfield. Bellamy's exit, which has been lamented rather more in the past two months than during the previous two years, helped finance the signing of Torres. While there have been striking failures, notably Morientes, Benitez moved for Torres when others appeared unsure of his quality.
9. His is a two-man team
Liverpool did beat Manchester United 14 months ago in a match that neither Gerrard nor Torres started, but they slumped more recently at Sunderland when both were absent. Players of the calibre of Carragher, Kuyt, Reina and Mascherano could dispute that oft-heard analysis. What may be truer to say is that when Liverpool's captain and top scorer are missing, there is a reliance on Yossi Benayoun for invention. And what is probable is that most teams, to some degree or another, are dependent upon their two premier attacking talents.
10. Benitez is a defensive manager
It is another one to irritate the Liverpool manager. His preference for two holding midfielders, which was apparent from his time in Spain, is well known and helps account for Gerrard's berth further forward. But whereas there was a time when Liverpool were far from prolific - they only mustered 57 league goals in the 2006-07 campaign, for instance - they outscored Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal to end up with 90 last year.
11. The team miss Xabi Alonso
Gerrard has admitted it and few would dispute it. But until Aquilani is available on a regular basis, it remains to be seen just how much Liverpool will miss the Basque playmaker in the long term.http://soccernet.espn.go.com/columns/story?id=697392&sec=england&root=england&cc=5739