July 23, 2010 1 Comment
Our ex-manager came out with some thoughts on Benitez’s reign recently. Speaking about the changes he brought through, he said
“One, the pattern of getting a foreign coach was already accepted. Two, he had a Champions League-winning team. Three, the team were already in the Champions League. Four, we had built new facilities. And five, it was a different training routine, different attitude and mentality.
“I claim that we – Phil Thompson, Sammy Lee and the staff – definitely turned it round. The chairman, when I left, said ‘You put the club into the 21st century’.”
He added: “Twelve out of 14 in Istanbul were players I had signed or developed. I left Liverpool with a team and in the Champions League, but when you finish seventh with Torres and Gerrard…
“When I came into the changing room in Istanbul, some of the players said: ‘Boss, it’s your team’. After Rafa Benitez left this summer, one of the players sent me a message. He said, ‘Boss, he hasn’t beaten you’.”
Now I am very thankful to Houllier for what he did for Liverpool. We consistently played European football under him, won the UEFA Cup in one of the most dramatic finals ever, and finished a slightly distant second to Arsenal in the 2001-02 season, and 2 League Cups and an FA Cup to boot. But for him to come out and criticize Benitez the way he has, while simultaneously taking credit for the Champions League win is laughable, pathetic and quite shocking, to say the least. Or is it? Especially when this is the same man who put the entire blame for France’s failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup on one man’s shoulders (who, in turn, threatened to sue). Even Steven Gerrard had to come out in his autobiography and take away some credit for his success from Houllier, who apparently is the only reason Gerrard’s the player he is. Lets take a look at some of Houllier’s claims, then
1. The pattern of getting a foreign coach was already accepted
While this is true with Liverpool, there was already a trend in the Premier League to bring in foreign managers. Arsenal did it, Newcastle did it, Chelsea did it. And I can’t really think of any outstanding positives that Houllier being there brought for Benitez apart from Continental dietary standards and facilities.
However, would Benitez have not done that anyway? For a man so committed to overhauling an academy that has produced little over the years, you’d think bringing in dietary and fitness standards would be quite basic. Besides, I think Houllier leaving Benitez a piss-poor squad more than makes up any benefits that Houllier’s reign had on the “Rafalution”.
2. He had a Champions League winning team
Now I’ve heard some really idiotic myths that the media and casual football fans love to spout, but this one beats the lot. You’d think Benitez took over from the reigning European champions (He is now!, and Houllier is trying to get into the Fulham job. Any arguments for who’s more successful?)
Do you remember Liverpool’s performances in the 2003-04 Champions League? I don’t, because WE WEREN’T F**KIN IN IT! To even try and take any credit for the Champions League win shows how deluded Houllier has become. In 2002-03, we failed to get past the group stages, losing to Valencia twice (managed by ….? That’s right, Rafa Benitez) and failing to beat lowly Basel of Switzerland. In 2001-02, we did a lot better, losing in the quarters to Bayer Leverkusen. That’s the highest we reached under Houllier. We did better under Benitez in three out of the six seasons (and at least matched it in four out of six).
So I’m guessing Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia did absolutely fuck-all in Champions League that season (despite the fact that one of them scored in each of the knockout rounds, with Luis Garcia being the top scorer for Liverpool with five!). Or that moving Jamie Carragher to centre-back, and keeping him there was not a sign of managerial aptitude that Houllier hadn’t shown by playing Carragher in 8 different positions as manager. Or that playing with 2 deep midfielders for all the knockout games (except the final, where Gerrard, not Hamann or Biscan played as one of the deeper mids in the first half, and we all know what happened with that) did not help.
I’m guessing Houllier also wants to take credit for Liverpool reaching the Champions League final in 2007, beating a Barca side with Messi and Ronaldinho and Chelsea along the way. That final, of course, had only four Houllier-era players in it.
3. The team were already in the Champions League
And who exactly were Liverpool’s competitors? Without a doubt, Arsenal was the most dominant a team has ever been in the Premiership, and Chelsea had Abramovich’s money, but Man U were the poorest they had been in a while. Ronaldo had just been signed, and Wayne Rooney was still at Everton. One only has to look at the teams that finished just below Liverpool – Newcastle, Villa and Charlton – to see the quality of the league. It would have been a shambolic failure had Liverpool not failed to make it to the Champions League. Even last season’s points total was higher than that of Liverpool in 2003-04.
Its not like Houllier had to contend with greater spending by the likes of Man City, Spurs, Chelsea or Man United, did he?
4. We had built new facilities
Fantastic job, Gerard! Now where exactly are all those players that should’ve been coming out of the youth system.
5. It was a different training routine, different attitude and mentality
As I’ve already argued in point 1, it would’ve been different had Benitez come in himself and made changes (which he did, by the way). As for attitude and mentality, yes, Liverpool had made the step up to almost consistent Champions League football, and almost pushing the top teams, though not quite, but Benitez took Liverpool to the next level in all aspects.
I’ll let the readers have the final say, but here are the teams Benitez and Houllier left for their successors. No arguments about who left the better team.
Name Age Name Age
Jerzy Dudek 31 Steven Gerrard MBE 24
Stephane Henchoz 29 John Arne Riise 23
Steve Finnan 28 Anthony Le Tallec 19
Sami Hyypia 30 Chris Kirkland 23
Milan Baros 22 Jamie Carragher 26
Markus Babbel 31 Florent Sinama-Pongolle 19
Harry Kewell 25 Igor Biscan 26
El Hadji Diouf 23 Richie Partridge 23
Michael Owen 24 Gregory Vignal 23
Vladimir Smicer 31 Bruno Cheyrou 26
Danny Murphy 27 Patrice Luzi 24
Salif Diao 27 John Welsh 20
Dietmar Hamann 30 Neil Mellor 21
Darren Potter 19 Jon Otsemobor 21
Paul Harrison 19 Djibril Cisse 22
Name Age Name Age
Pepe Reina 27 Steven Gerrard MBE 30
Diego Cavilieri 27 Lucas Leiva 23
Glen Johnson 25 Maxi Rodriguez 29
Philipp Degen 27 Jay Spearing 21
Stephen Darby 21 Damien Plessis 22
Jamie Carragher 32 Albert Riera 28
Daniel Agger 25 Ryan Babel 23
Sotirios Kyrgiakos 30 Jonjo Shelvey 18
Martin Skrtel 25 Fernando Torres 26
Martin Kelly 20 David N’Gog 21
Daniel Ayala 19 Nathan Eccleston 19
Danny Wilson 18 Milan Jovanovic 29
Emiliano Insua 21 Daniel Pacheco 19
Alberto Aquilani 26 Javier Mascherano 26
Dirk Kuyt 30 Nabil El-Zhar 23
Note: I have included players who were bought by the previous manager, but who arrived after the successor came through (so Djibril Cisse who was bought by Houllier, and Shelvey, Danny Wilson and Milan Jovanovic who were bought by Benitez, and conversely, Benayoun’s transfer was negotiated before Benitez came). Also, Joe Cole has not been included because he was signed by Hodgson and Insua has not been exclu