Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Steven Beacom: How Liverpool boss Rafa is letting Gerrard down

Steven Gerrard looked shattered after Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa on Monday. Not just mentally, but physically.

That’s what happens when you have been carrying a football club for as long as he has.

Eventually it takes its toll.

True, the brilliant Fernando Torres has helped him out in the last couple of years.

And Jamie Carragher is a man who can be relied upon.

But generally it all comes down to Stevie G. If he doesn’t play well, against even a half decent outfit, Liverpool find themselves up against it.

Liverpool’s opening weekend loss at Tottenham and that shocking result at home to Villa were perfect illustrations.

Gerrard has had a tough summer being involved in a court case, charged with affray.

Even though he was found not guilty, the stress on him throughout that period was enormous.

Desperate to get back playing football and hopeful of bringing the league title to Anfield for the first time since 1990, he was gutted when Xabi Alonso moved to Real Madrid for £30 million.

Alonso, after all, was the man who passed the ball to Gerrard time and time again allowing the England ace to weave his magic with Torres.

With Alonso gone, one of the most notable factors in Liverpool’s poor start to the season has been the service the captain has received. Or the lack of it.

Alonso’s replacement Alberto Aquilani is injured until October, so Lucas Leiva is in that role.

Sorry, but I genuinely can’t see Lucas ever being a quality Liverpool player.

Or the dreadfully frustrating Ryan Babel for that matter.

When he arrived at Anfield some described Babel as the “new John Barnes”. The only similarity is that they both like to rap!

Liverpool fans would prefer the Barnes of now to Babel and the Jamaican is the size of a house!

And that brings me on to Rafael Benitez. The Liverpool boss, clearly trying to give Lucas and Babel confidence, recently stated both would be big successes this season.

More hope of Sir Alex Ferguson and Benitez having a cosy dinner together.

Unlike some, I don’t believe Benitez should be sacked after losing two out of the first three games, but he really should become a lot more flexible.

Too often his stubborn streak hurts Liverpool, be it with his obsession for zonal marking at set pieces or preferring caution rather than adventure.

Telling the senior players, which obviously included Gerrard, to take more responsibility is all very well, but Benitez ought to look at himself too.

If Anfield funds are as limited for the manager as has been suggested, Lucas and Babel should be offloaded to bring in some cash for new signings. Throw in Andriy Voronin as well.

Liverpool need a new high class striker to work with Torres so that Gerrard can move back into central midfield and dominate like only he can.

The Reds finished second behind Manchester United last season and were supposed to win the title this time.

At this rate, with Spurs and Manchester City looking so strong, they’ll do well to finish in the top four.

Even the Kopites who worship at Rafa’s feet wouldn’t accept that.

He’d be out the door before you could say This is Anfield.

And you would have to think that Torres would follow him and where would that leave Steven Gerrard? Carrying the team on his own all over again.

Already he does just about everything, from taking corners, free-kicks and penalties. He probably puts out the bins at Anfield too.

If and when Rafa goes, he might as well become player-manager and be done with it.

After all, the last time Liverpool had one of those (Kenny Dalglish), they didn’t do too badly, did they?

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