Liverpool: Camera-shy or simply shoddy(!) this season?

Sunday, 24 January 2010 ·

This season has been a major surprise for Liverpool supporters (but not to the management according to a recent interview with Benitez) who expected their much-loved team to continue the form of the second-half of last season and really challenge for the title.  The loss of Alonso, such an integral component to last season's challenge, was keenly felt and was a cause for some worry for most Liverpool supporters but the club assured fans that the purchase of Alberto Aquilani would improve the attacking play to such an extent that Alonso would not be missed.  Although he was injured for the first half of the season, Benitez felt confident that the side could cope until his new recruit was ready to fill in the creative hole left with the departure of Alonso.
Unfortunately, this season has not been a particularly happy one for the club and its
supporters with the first real long spell of poor form that Liverpool have had under Benitez.  But looking at the stats some interesting FACTS emerge.  Liverpool still being considered one of the top teams in the country, the club receive a considerable amount of TV coverage and it is here that the most interesting stats emerge.  From a total of 20 games in front of the TV cameras this season, Liverpool's win percentage is 40% as opposed to a win percentage from 12 games played with no TV coverage of 50%.  In the league, the stats change remarkeably with a 43|% win ratio in front of the cameras and a staggering 62.5% with no glare of the watching armchair critics.  Comparing these stats to home and away form and once again the stats change with home form with no live coverage being 75% from 5 games to 36% win percentage from 11 games.  Liverpool's away form in front of the cameras increases to a 44% win rate from 9 games as opposed to a 28% win rate from 7 games with no live coverage. 
But these stats do not take into account the horrendous injury list that Benitez has had to cope with coupled with the loss of form of too many players who have always been solid or reliable in the past.  One argument against this is that the squad should be able to cope (take Man Utd's win against Wolfbsurg with effectively their reserve side facing the Germans and coming out 3-1 winners) but in a time of need, squad players have failed to justify their salaries with only the youngsters given their chance in the absence of so many first team players who can hold their heads up high in a season of too many lows for England's most successful club. 
Another huge problem is that of expectation.  Liverpool fans are used to winning but the last nineteen years seem to have been forgotten by its very knowledgeable fans.  The inception of the Premier League has seen Liverpool fall of the pace and a poor manager choice (one who made too many drastic changes to an arguably ailing club after Dalglish left) really started the downward spiral of the once-dominant Liverpool.  A brief resurgance under Evans was followed by cup success under Houllier but there was never any challenge for the title under the Frenchman: the main cause of the problem being an inability to beat some of the lowlier teams.  Under Benitex however, Liverpool's Premiership points tally has improved season upon season culminating in last season's thrilling title chase and best-ever points haul in the Premiership.  With this fantastic season, Liverpool fans were rightly expectant that their side should challenge for the title but this season should really show the fans the reality of the situation the club is in.  Financially unable to compete with the other top five or six clubs and with a squad that needed improving upon instead of replacing integral parts, the reality is that Liverpool's team is slightly worse than last year but this is also because the style of play will change with the loss of Alonso (essentially a holding midfielder with a fantastic range of passing) to a more creative and forward thinking player in Aquilani.  A major change like this cannot expect to happen overnight and it is only now that  some sense of solidity is showing in the League performances.  This season can be written off by Liverpool fans as a major blip but calls for the head of Benitez are not justified.   Comparisons to previous managers, notably Houllier and Souness, are grossly misjudged as both of these managers had two poor seasons before being shown the door.  Benitez has had a poor first half of the season and after 22 games, is only 1 point of fourth spot.  For any team other than Liverpool this would not be considered a bad season.  Maybe it is time for expectation to be managed in line with reality for fans and the media.


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